Best Of Bologna: Rich Ragu

Want to hear all about the best food in Bologna? This week’s blog will take you through a whole list of recommended local, authentic restaurants you MUST visit if ever in the Northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, as well as a guide to some of  Bologna’s specialty dishes and best kept secrets.

All of you who read my blog on a regular basis will know the extent of my love for hearty, rustic Italian food. With Bologna being Italy’s Food Capital, literally known as ‘La Grassa’ (AKA The Fat One), I just knew this trip would not fail to disappoint and live up to all my culinary expectations but, of course, I had to check out the best restaurants just to be sure. It is here, in the heart of Northern Italy that such World renowned dishes such as Ragu (Bolognese) sauce first originated.

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My entire long weekend consisted of a frenzy of cheesy pasta, slow cooked and lovingly prepared ragu, carafes of local lambrusco wine, wonderful birthday cheers (last year in my 20’s I will just quickly skip past this point) and, how could I not mention, one amazingly romantic moment that just so happened to involve an engagement ring!

Just to point out, hearty Italian feasts for my birthday and elegant Italian dinners for the engagement were two VERY separate occasions! Two individually perfect nights, which came as an incredible surprise and have a real place in my heart.

So, there’s a common misconception that the all time ‘Spaghetti Bolognese’ originates from Bologna – this is in fact incorrect; although this belief is widely accepted as being true, it is actually a Ragu (very similar to Bolognese in style and taste) which originates from Bologna and is an unquestionable MUST to be ordered in every restaurant, for every meal, at every opportunity. Always!

So, without further delay, on to my top restaurant recommendations for the must-stop visits in Bologna to get your fill of bold reds, freshly made pastas, meaty sauces and mountains of Parmesan; introducing #EatOutMoore’s top finds for local Italian dishes prepared with love. Our first stop is to, Sfoglia Rina.

I do my own research when it comes to restaurants but must admit, as with many, I do use TripAdvisor to steer me in the right direction and, having found this place on the popular app, can confirm this chic, bordering on modern find was a real crowd-pleaser and the queues stretching outside sure was a tell-tale sign of a popular favourite for local diners.

To the front of the venue, the establishment also doubles up as a fresh pasta shop so you can ‘take-away’ and utilise this place as your local pasta shop and have your pick of the wonderful array of perfectly made pasta.

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Upon arrival, we were handed our menus, whilst lining up to be seated, and politely advised that there would be an estimated twenty minute wait for our table; not bad in a bustling restaurant, operating in full flow, right in the middle of lunch service. However, the incredible smells of home-cooked food and the fantastic energy spilling out from the dining room made the time pass very quickly.

 

The noise of the restaurant was frenetic; filled with the loud, over the top conversations, laughter and storytelling you’d dream of from a genuine Italian bistro. I was in love and could not wait to be ushered in by our waitress to contribute further to the exhilarating ambiance of the dining room. The fact you could hear, smell and see the dishes being prepared in the open-style kitchen only added to the performance of what was to come and served to add to my growing anticipation.

The careful curation of the menu is always a good indication for the foodie experience to follow; Ragu (standard!), Risotto, Gnocchi, Ravioli  – it was soon time to order. Each table was provided a mini notepad & pencil to note your order that was then collected by staff & whipped straight through to the kitchen. A cute touch.

 

Sticking to the local favourite (the one that is closest to my heart ) I went with the Ragu; the slow cooked, wonderfully rich, beef-based Italian sauce made with tomatoes and herbs for added flavour and depth and simmered until perfectly tender.

So here it is – Sfoglia Rina’s very own Ragu;

With a sprinkling of Parmesan. I was in heaven.

The next dish I tried, which was ordered by my fiance (still need to get used to that!), was the stuffed Tortellini which was yet again, cooked to absolutely ‘al dente’ perfection. With a side of cauliflower, served with a cold cheese sauce, (as photographed in the image above), this meal had just about the right balance of classically cheesy with the goods of the bite and crunch of the tasty veg.

The food of Bologna generally consists of fresh egg-based pasta dishes such as Tortellini (classic example pictured below), Tagliatelle (‘Just Like Mama Used To Make’), Mortadella, often served with ragu, and Ravioli of which Bologna is also renowned for in terms of its most popular and renowned dishes.

The Italians sure know how to cook and lived up to all my hopes and expectations – to the point where I think I might actually tie the knot in this country predominantly for the love, care and satisfaction of the food fact alone… It’s true. I do… 

Okay – one more close up to showcase the beauty of the pasta and how the sauce gently coats each mouthful. I’m getting hungry just writing this and re-living the memories. 

If dining rooms and restaurants aren’t your thing then fear not, I have this base covered for you!

A common starter and street snack recommended in some of the more authentic venues/ side street terraces is the ‘Crescentine Fritte’; a fried Italian, puffed bread accompanied by cured meat and fresh cheese. Basically a local style Charcuterie board which, along with a slug of Chianti Classico, is super delicious!

To end off my go to dishes, if you have room to spare, no trip to Italy would be complete without sampling the Gelato or home-made lasagna which, just for you, I made sure to put to the test. Evidence of which you can find below.

 

Whilst we’re on this topic of exploring my go to dishes in Northern Italy, I have got to shout out about a couple ‘must-go’ places for experiencing Italian home-made lasagna and delicious pasta dishes within a couple of cities close by to Bologna; 1) Modena (another Emilia-Romagna region within Northern Italy) and 2) Verona, Northern Italy’s Veneto region – famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

I found Modena fascinating as a city; blessed with the shining sunshine & blue skies, this place is very unspoiled with not a single tourist in sight (well, apart from my partner & I)… Classing Modena as another hidden gem of Italy, I’d highly recommend this city for a day trip to get lost in the streets and soak up the Italian atmosphere.

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Quickly touching on our first lunch stop which is summarised perfectly in the lasagna image above, Ristorante Da Danilo is a fine local Italian we just happened to stumble across one relaxing Sunday in the midst of March.

Again, one to add to your lunch list if ever in this region; fantastic service and yet another restaurant experience which was absolutely heaving with locals, which added to my fixation on the high quality of local Italian food this place had to offer.

 

Finally – not to divert too much from my ‘Best Of Bologna’ post but here’s a quick restaurant call out for stopping over in Verona (which is a likely destination if you’re travelling around this part of the world; Bologna to Modena to Verona is a very popular trip). Hidden down the beautifully rustic streets of Verona lies Ristorante La Vecia Mescola, a fantastically romantic & cosy dinner spot which I’d highly recommend if you’re hungry!

Great service & extremely tasty food; Amarone risotto with Veronese fondue for two was spot on.

The best risotto I’ve ever had.

To round up my unforgettable Italian trip, I stand by Italy being my number one destination to date; a true inspiration for the entire world of food and after visiting various Italian regions, I have got to say Bologna in particular is without a doubt my new fave and strongly holds it’s status as Italy’s Food Capital.

Enjoy!

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