Oh how I miss Bologna. Last month I took a quick one-night trip to my old stopping grounds. Bologna was my first city in Italy. Although I had spent a few months in Florence during my initial move to Italy, Bologna was the place where I truly lived, ate and breathed my first authentic Italian experiences. It’s where I landed my first job, made many of my closest friends, and where I discovered some the best food in the world. Okay so I’m a *little bit* biased, but seriously they don’t call this city ‘la grassa’ (the fat one) for nothin’!
Normally a trip to Bologna would require a traditional Bolognese lunch in one of Bologna’s historical trattorias (if you’re interested in that, check out my top restaurants in Bologna) – a meal consisting of tagliere, lasagna, tortellini, tagliatelle con ragù and so on. However for this trip I decided to skip the traditional stuff; in part because I was so stuffed from all the holiday festivities and panettone, but also because I really wanted to taste something new from Bologna.
Don’t get me wrong – the traditional stuff has its place. If you only have a few days to spend in Bologna, you should definitely eat there first. However if you’re a vegetarian/vegan/organic food purist or just in the mood for something fun and different, here are two places you really ought to try.
Slow food. Fresh food. FUN food!
Warning: if you don’t like fixed menus, this place isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you’re open to eating whatever is on the menu that day (= fresh food) then give it a whirl.
It works like this: you can choose between a fish, meat or vegetable menu and also decide if you want primo, secondo or both. All meals include a starter, dessert, wine and coffee. Prices range from 10-30 euro depending on the menu you choose.
The place is decorated oddly, in a good way. Funky materials and colors. Bicycles hang upside down on the wall, acting as lamps. Pieces of plastic tubes snake around the restaurant, which appears to have previously been a warehouse. It’s fun and modern – not your grandma’s kitchen, although I did see some grandmas eating in there. ;)
Our starter was a savory but light cauliflower pureè with homemade croutons for a crunch. Quality olive oil (the kind that’s a little bit spicy and tickles the back of your throat) drizzled on top.
We thought we were keeping it light and stuck to the first courses, but we were honestly both so full at the end I don’t think we could have eaten any more anyways. The boyfriend chose the fish menu that came with rice, baby shrimp, and a creamy pumpkin puree. There was even a hint of curry – surprising for an Italian restaurant. I chose the vegetable menu – fresh mini lasagna pasta with the rigged edges in a smooth and flavorsome eggplant sauce. Absolutely in heaven. I never thought a sauce made of pure vegetables could be so creamy. It stuck to the fresh egg pasta perfectly.
We shared the dessert: tiramisu (always a win in my book). It wasn’t just your average tiramisu though – the base had a sticky consistency – caramel holding together the ladyfingers. SOOOO good. :D
All in all the bill came out a little more than 10 euro/person which included wine, starter, first course, dessert and coffee. I couldn’t help but wonder how the prices could be so cheap for this kind of food? Who knows but we left full and happy. :)
Some advice: book ahead of time, especially for dinner and at weekends. Lunch menu prices are cheaper than dinner.
E’ Cucina Leopardi
via G. Leopardi, 4 – Bologna
tel. (+39) 051.2750069
Osteria al Rovescio
I’ve been to Osteria al Rovescio twice and both times I was thoroughly impressed. The service is attentive and the food is always fresh and creative. They take pride in their 0 kilometer ingredients. Almost everything – right down to the sugar they serve with your coffee – is eco-friendly and organic.
There’s also a good mix between omnivore and vegetarian dishes, so you never have to worry about someone not being able to find something on the menu. In fact the menu is so appetizing and unique that I had a difficult time choosing something to eat. That’s where the vegetarian sampler plate comes into play: 7 to 8 different dishes you can sample on one plate. Winning.
The thing that impressed me the most however was the endless creativity. Italy – especially in a meat loving city like Bologna – is not always the best at pleasing vegetarians. I have a few vegetarian friends who often struggle to find something on the menu that’s not salad or plain grilled vegetables. However at Osteria al Rovescio this simply is not the case. In fact the vegetarian options were far more appealing to me than the meat dishes!
Some examples of things they serve: a chestnut flour crepe with seasonal vegetables, drizzled in a creamy homemade cauliflower sauce, lasagna with cabbage and a gorgonzola and leek puree, homemade wheat ravioli stuffed with ricotta and sage in a parmesan cream sauce, vegetable cauliflower couscous (no couscous present), chickpea flatbread with gorgonzola and cardoon, Jerusalem artichoke stuffed beignets….
It’s a full-on revolutionary food experience.
By the way, I have never tried their pizza however I can say that their homemade bread was to die for so I can only imagine what their pizza is like. Most of the people in the restaurant ordered pizza so I take that as a good sign.
Some tips: it’s a small, intimate place, good for groups of no more than 6. Call ahead to make a reservation. Prices are more on the expensive side and the dishes are small so if you’re really hungry opt for a pizza or be prepared to order multiple dishes. Basically you’re going for quality not quantity!
Osteria al Rovescio
Via Pietralata, 75 – Bologna
tel. (+39) 051.523545
Have you eaten any Slow + Fun food in Italy? I definitely have to say that I’m happy to see places like these pop up in Bologna. As much as I love traditional Italian food and believe that it is some of the best in the world, I love seeing a ltitle bit of innovation in the restaurant industry and I think Italy needs a little bit more of it.