A short jaunt to Bologna for two nights at the week’s end offered a quiet respite from the intensity and chaos of Rome. This town, situated in the Emilia Romagna region, boasts some of the best food to be found in all of Italy. Barely mentioned in the Rick Steve’s Italy guide it also seemed to have fewer tourists than say Venice or other more tourist trampled cities in Italy. Yes, as stated in a recent article published by the New York Times, it is admittedly scruffy and has a patina that might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But it is hard not to appreciate the passion for food, design and style that is at every corner turned in this medieval city about two hours northeast of Rome.
We arrived at around noon and were pretty hungry from an early morning commute. After checking into our hotel, lunch time, Italian time, was quickly approaching.
We headed out to find All’Osteria Bottega; a restaurant that we had wanted to try for dinner but was fully booked. We figured that for lunch we might have chance at getting in. Finally after about a 10 minute walk we arrived at 51 Via Santa Caterina; an unassuming place that was at once discreet and welcoming. We stepped into what looked like an almost empty dining room where we were pleasantly and wholeheartedly greeted by the owner and his wife. The empty tables would soon become a thing of the past as the place slowly began to fill with mainly local Italians who were obviously regulars as they were courted by the owners like old friends. There were only two other tourists who sat patiently outside waiting for an available table.
Our waitress was very accommodating. We started by ordering a bottle of Manaresi Duesettante wine which is comprised of Sauvingon, Chardonnay and Pignoletto grapes. The Pignoletto is the grape that makes it specific to the region even if it has been recently matched by DNA to another grape with Umbrian origin. It was smooth and dry with light earthy tones that paired nicely with the Bolognese cooking.
Our waitress recommended a sampling of regional cured meats, Parmesan cheese, and of course Mortadella which originated in Bologna. Shortly thereafter a platter of thinly sliced Mortadella, Prosciutto and Culatello, an exclusive type of Prosciutto from a black pig that is found in these parts of northern Italy, along with a small but ample sampling of Parmesan. We were instructed by the hostess to start with the Mortadella and the Prosciutto and work our way around finishing with the Culatello. I think luxurious is the best word here for describing these wonderful samples of local specialty meats. They were both robust and silky in texture; emphatically fatty…yes, luxurious.
For our main courses we ordered ravioli stuffed with rabbit and pigeon served with cannelloni beans and a meat and wine reduction. The ravioli were light and delicate little pillows filled with a stuffing that had an amazing depth of flavor that was augmented by the rich sauce.
Following we ordered the baby pigeon served over a bed of slow cooked turnip greens and a red wine and balsamic vinegar reduction. The pigeon breasts were incredibly delicious and somewhat sweet which contrasted nicely with the welcomed bitter undertones of the sautéed turnip greens and balsamic vinegar.
For dessert we decided reluctantly on the rice cake which is regional dessert. We were, I guess, skeptical as rice cake has never been one of my favorites. After some debate we decided to go for it and whow…were we ever surprised by this delicious light and moist cake that had been flavored with toasted almonds. This gave the cake a decidedly new life with a welcome change in texture to that of the mushy rice cakes I have eaten I in the past.
All’ Osteria Bottega
via Santa Caterina, 51