Few cities in the world are able to arouse the passion for taste and excellence in food and wine as much as Bologna: it seems to be almost a natural character(istic), which brings everything that lurks in the shadow of the Two Towers to drape itself in an aura flavoured of mortadella and Parmigiano, bubbling broth and full bodied ragù, delicious crescente and crescentine and intensly aromatic meats, mushrooms and fresh truffles and lively fish that comes from the nearby Adriatic (but also from the Valli di Comacchio). It’s difficult, if you move with caution, to fish badly in this authentic ocean of delight, yet the tourist traps (and at times bolognesi traps) are always ready, so it’s better to have a little handbook at your side: here are some suggestions.
There is no doubt that the heart of Bolognese flavour is in the area known as “Quadrilatero”, the maze of narrow streets and alleys, surrounded by medieval buildings, where some of the most popular historical shops of the city and goodies for genuine connoisseurs are hidden. Starting with the Antica Salsamenteria Tamburini, where for over a century it has been crowded with everything and anything that can make a glutton happy, from meats to fresh pasta, from cheese to a wide range of ready meals with meat and fish, to wines and desserts, with the chance to taste on the spot in the adjacent and more casual bistro or wine bar: its windows are a feast for the eyes even before the palate.
If we take a closer look, three small shops come to mind, each with their own speciality: at Melega, for example, the experts in boiled meats and cheeses, you will find a wide variety of mustards and chutneys as well as otherwise untraceable canned goods, authentic Merano sausage by Simoni, the true artisan mortadella by Pasquini & Brusiani and amazing cheeses, while at Vecchia Malaga run by the Chiari brothers, the protagonist, next to the salame rosa, the pink salame (a rare Bolognese salame made with bacon whose origins date back to the 14th century), “Sua maestà il Nero” “His Majesty the Black”, grana cappato produced exclusively in the Chiari family dairy. Over one hundred years of history also rest on the shoulders of Paolo Atti & Figli, which on one side has a well-stocked deli where you can still buy sweets in bulk, fishing them from large glass jars as in days gone by and on the other side an award-winning bakery where you find the home of the traditional Ferrarese “cross”, classic crescente with olive oil and ciccioli (focaccia with a type of pork scratchings), stuffed ravioli, mostarda bolognese , a variety of fruit chutney and, at Christmas, the must have certosino, sweetly opulent and substantial, the best around.
Even fresh fish is widely represented: the small Pescheria del Pavaglione where, in addition to obtaining the best Mediterranean seafood, you can also find true Calabrian flavours and, if you’re feeling a bit peckish, you can also try delicious raw seafood on-site, perhaps some tartare with fruit, fresh oysters or creamed cod fish with black bread, all washed down with a small but well chosen selection of wine for an aperitivo that is the coolest in town.
Mentions must also be given to the drogheria da Gilberto, a triumph of wines, spirits and high quality chocolate, a sector in which the Enoteca Italiana wine cellar, on the corner of via Marsala and via Malcontenti, also excels and to Café Bazar in via Guerazzi. A small jump and you come to via Galliera and the Drogheria della Pioggia: if there’s something you cannot find here, then it probably doesn’t exist: rare and usually unobtainable canned items, chocolates and sweets in bulk that bring back the nostalgia of the past, Scottish Shortbread (ideal with tea), wines , spirits and spices but also truly unique products for the home. The smell that emanates from the shop is sometimes a little strong, all depending on which bag of spices is open at that precise moment.
For coffee my absolute favorite is Terzi, a small coffee bar and shop in via Oberdan: surrounded by the elegant frame of light, polished wood you can enjoy the beauty of Ethiopian wild coffee or relish Blue Mountain Jamaica, without feeling embarrassed (as often happens elsewhere) if you “dare” drink your coffee macchiato (with milk).
Bread, if you want to go a bit further out, you must get at Forno Calzolari on via delle Fragole (Strawberry Street): it is the Bolognese branch of the bakery in Monghidoro, a small town on the Apennines known for being the home of Gianni Morandi. Here Matteo Calzolari, a brilliant young baker produces bread with stone-ground flour, baked in the oven as it once was, rediscovers ancient grains, enhances the use of spelt (Farro) and forest walnuts and makes cakes, biscuits, crackers and focacce (you can also find him on Saturdays at the al Mercato della Terra di Slow Food (The Land of Slow Food Market) in via Azzogardino). Excellent meat is also to be found outside the city walls: at the Macelleria Zivieri di Monzuno, with its Piedmont Fassona beef (Consorzio La Granda, Slow Food Presidium) and its Cinta Senese and Mora Romagna meats raised in the wild: ultimately selected local game meat has also been on offer. In the same sector Mongiorgi in Savigno should be mentioned (in the same area are the excellent Salumeria Mazzini and the local bakery), famous for its monumental Florentine steaks, and Passini in Porretta Terme.
And good ice cream? We may not be in Sicily, but there is an enormous choice: La Torinese, which has been in the geographical center of Bologna for over one hundred years, the Gelatauro, Stefino Bio, Cremeria San Francesco, Cremeria Mascarella, Galliera 49, La Macelleria, Crema di Latte and on the edge of town, Cremeria Scirocco, the kingdom of the ice cream-scientist Andrea Bandiera. This sweet experience comes to an end at Cadriano by Gino Fabbri, the best pastry chef in Italy, not that the city lacks good pastries, but against Gino, with all the love in the World, there is no competition.
Traduzione a cura di Pingu’s English School – Via Laura Bassi 8 tel. 051397014 www.pingusenglish.it/bologna
Gabriele Orsi, 39 + 1 anni, falso magro e falso grasso, laureato in Storia indirizzo Contemporaneo, maschio, eterosessuale, barbuto, giornalista professionista dal 59 a.C., si occupa di enogastronomia e turismo da almeno dieci anni (scrivendo, a tavola se ne occupava anche prima). Da quattro anni collabora con Mondo del Gusto seguendo l’edizione locale di Bologna.