Most people flock to Venice, Rome or Florence, but when I was looking for an Italian city where I could spend most of my days eating, Bologna became the city of choice.
Bologna is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, which makes it (arguably) the food center of Italy. The Emilia-Romagna region is a haven for famous Italian specialties like cured meats and cheeses. Here are the 5 things that you need to try in Bologna.
- Bolognese is usually slowly cooked to make a complex, tomatoey, meat sauce. It is traditionally eaten with Tagliatelle (a flat and long pasta), because it wraps all the tasty ragu around it to make the perfect bite. People in Bologna don’t eat Bolognese with spaghetti because spaghetti is from the south of Italy, plus it doesn’t do a great job of holding the sauce.
- Fat Cat Tip: It is hard to say which place has the best Bolognese in Bologna because that simply doesn’t exist. Every restaurant and family has their own recipe, so try as many as possible when you’re there. My personal favorite plate of Tagliatelle alla bolognese was at a small place called Caminetto D’Oro.
- This type of pasta is very typical of the region and as the story goes, it was shaped like a navel of a beautiful woman. This is a popular pasta shape in Bologna and can be bought in many stores around the city.
- Fat Cat Tip: Visit Paolo Atti & Figli for some fresh pasta and to feast your eyes on the other local specialities. Tortellini is the smaller version of Tortelloni and they are usually stuffed with cheese or meat and served in a warm and tasty meat broth.
3. Prosciutto di Parma
- Produced in the Emilia-Romagna region, Prosciutto di Parma is a must-eat on your visit to Bologna. The best way to enjoy it is having a plate of the amazing cuts of cured meats that the region is known for including Mortadella. The city of Bologna is known for Mortadella (you might know it as Baloney), but don’t be mistaken, Mortadella is a very high quality cured meat so make sure to go to Salumeria Simoni in the city center for a taste and enjoy it with a nice glass of red wine.
4. Parmigiano Reggiano
- I went on an amazing food tour with Italian Days, which I would highly recommend doing while in Bologna because I learned so much about the importance of using the best quality cheese when cooking, specifically the use of Parmigiano Reggiano. It makes all the difference in the final outcome of a dish.
- Fat Cat Tip: Alessandro, our very passionate tour guide, taught us how to tell if you are buying real Parmigiano. First-grade Parmigiano should have “Parmgiano Reggiano” written on the side of the wheel. If it has dotted scores going horizontally on the wheel, then it is second-grade. Both are fantastic to try, but there is a notable difference between the two.
5. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
- Nicknamed “Black Gold,” the balsamic vinegar of Modena is worth savoring and stocking up on. I visited a family-owned farmhouse that produces the finest balsamic vinegar in Modena. The liquid is aged for a minimum of 12 years in barrels, similar to the barrels used in the wine-making process.
- Fat Cat Tip: I have a bottle that I’ve been slowly picking away at in my fridge. It’s good on top of gelato, fresh ricotta, or sampling by itself. (I could eat it by the spoonful!)
Quality is key to the food in Bologna. All the food is fresh and the people take great pride in their heritage and food tradition. After getting to know a few locals and spending some time in the city, I left a part of my heart there.The city’s warm ambiance comes from the sun reflecting off of the orange buildings creating a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere— perfect for walking around and getting lost in.
Fat Cat Eats for 20something