As a kid, I reckon my favourite meal has always been Spaghetti Bolognese. My mom initially made a veggie laden version with large chunks of green bell peppers, which was absolutely horrific as a vegetable hating child. But eventually my sister made one which was wonderful in its simplicity. It’s quite simple really, just properly cooked spaghetti, drowned in an unctuous meat and tomato sauce i.e. Ragu. A peasant’s dish for sure, but I love it all the same.
Bologna. I had to come here for sure, to taste the origins of my favourite dish, and to live and eat as a Bolognese. After two flights, I finally made it, and of course, I had to immediately delve into the food.
We had our first meal at All’Osteria Bottega, which is a traditional, unassuming family restaurant which is off the centre of Bologna. A convivial setting and favoured by locals. This is definitely a great way to start off our gastronomic adventure in Emilia Romagna, the heartland of Italian cuisine.
Since we’re in Emilia Romagna, one must definitely have the ham.
As much as Prosciutto di Parma is absolutely delicious, I reckon Culattelo di Zibello is at a different level. This particular ham is made from the back leg of a pig, and aged for a ridiculously long time in an old humid cave. At the restaurant, we had one that had been aged for 36 months, and was just beautiful to gaze at. The flavour was deeply robust, and seem to have an immense, porkiness about it. The texture was relatively soft although a tad drier than, let’s say, Jamon Iberico. Truly an amazing ham.
I mean, Look at it. Gaze at its glory!
Another dish of the region, is the very humble Tortellini di Brodo. The tortellini is stuffed with meat, and just served with a light broth with a hint of black pepper. It looks simple, but it’s beautiful in its unpretentious, austere form. The pasta was well cooked and al dente, the pork filling is rich with flavour, whilst the broth is clear and served to highlight the beauty of the tortellini. Truly a stunning dish.
For the Secondi, we had ordered a local Bolognese meatloaf, which was oddly redolent of spam, but an upscale version with lots of spices in it. A very tasty offering, and nicely paired with the local vegetables on the side.
Moving on to desserts, we had ordered a local Torta di Rosi, which is a sort of pudding like cake made with Arborio rice. Quite tasty, I must say.
And finally, was a Zabaglione with biscotti and possibly some Amaretto or Cognac liquor. Zabaglione is equivalent to the French Sabayon, although this rendition was like ice cream and paired very well with the crumbly biscotti. They had also added just enough liquor to make things interesting.
The meal was washed down with a bottle of Lambrusco, which is a local bubbly red wine. This particularly one was a Grasparossa Frizzante Secco, which tends to be more full bodied and tannic. Frizzante indicates that it’s semi-sparking (Spumante being full sparkling), whilst Secco would indicate that it’s dry. It was certainly a very refreshing drink, and also had a nice fruity nose to it.
I don’t think we could have had a better start. It was, quite honestly, one of the best Italian meals I’ve ever had thus far. It was stereotypical (in a good way) as one might have hoped for, owned by an Italian family with locally made hams, a simple and unassuming restaurant, and just simple and bloody good cooking. No frills about it, but just perfect as it is.
I’ll definitely try return here one more time before heading back to reality. For those who want to visit, you can reserve a table by e-mailing in the address given below, or perhaps get your hotel to call them for you.
Location: via Santa Caterina 51, 40123 Bologna, Italy. +39051585111.