“Holeless” Tortellini in Bologna
Italy’s “good-eating” region is certamente Emilia Romagna where the region’s capital city, elegant, porticoed Bologna, lives up to its appellation, “la città del cibo” (“the city of food”).
Bologna, Emilia Romagna porticoed gem
On a sunny mid-February day, we took the train there so that Pino could view a restoration project his team will bid on: that of the imposing Palazzo d’Accursio‘s upper level. After a morning viewing il palazzo with two bolognesi technicians, time to ask “dove si manga bene la cucina bolognese?”
Pino with technicians views Palazzo d’Accursio
More than one person recommended “Da Nello” for the best in bolognese cuisine. Not far from il Palazzo in a backstreet, the table out in front of Da Nello Ristorante Via Montegrappa enticed: a welcoming “bouquet” of giant wild mushrooms, crispy artichokes, a bell pepper and fresh radicchio in a silver bowl flanked bottles of bolognesi vini rossi. (Once inside with our menus, I realized that each was an ingredient of the day’s specials).
Da Nello Ristorante Montegrappa
Enticements outside greet the diner
In the window backing that outdoor table, giant mortadelle – a Bologna specialty – hung heavily like bulky torpedoes above the prosciutto.
Huge bulky mortadelle hang in the window above the prosciutto
At nearly 2 pm, most lunch clients had left and our server came at once with menus and pane ferrarese, that bread typical of Ferrara molded info fanciful forms by the bakers.
The day’s specials featuring the foods on the outdoor table tempted: risotto al radicchio, trenette ai carciofi (a narrow, flat pasta with artichokes), and a salad with slices of those wild mushrooms, sliced artichokes, slivers of parmigiana……and shaved black truffles. But…here we were in Bologna so the choice had to be either tortellini Montegrappa (tortellini with the classic bolognese ragu, meat sauce and this one, with a bit of cream, too) or lasagne verdi al ragu (“green lasagne with meat sauce”).
Lasagne verdi bolognesi
Tortellini in brodo (in a savory meat broth) and the lasagne verdi will have to be for another visit: how not to order tortellinini Montegrappa? Those homemade tortellini were filled with the tastiest ragu I’ve ever had but I was surprised to see them completely filled and not that familiar ring-shaped or “navel-shaped” circular pasta. When I asked the waiter about the shape, he explained with a smile that a hole in the middle would mean less ragu inside: “ours are so filled that the holes disappear!”
Tortellini in brodo
Those “holeless” tortellinini Montegrappa
I had skipped the artichoke pasta, but my side dish of oven-baked artichokes in a Montegrappa roux was buonissimo.
As he often will do, Pino skipped the primi, choosing only a secondo. I knew it would be his favorite Emilia Romagna dish, il bollito. The selection of boiled meats can vary: beef tongue and chicken for Pino, with mashed potatoes on the side. He topped them with Nello’s salsa verde. The “green sauce” of the bollito varies but always includes capers, parsley, anchovies, lemon juice, olive oil – and then, the chef’s variations on the theme.
Pino revels in his bollito.
Always flanking ia salsa verde will be another bollito accompaniment, la mostarda, candied fruits seasons with mustard seed oil. (Pino foregoes that one: I never do).
We glanced at the rich dessert menu but all we needed after our feast was an espresso. Maybe for our next visit to this culinary capital, also called “Bologna la grassa” (“Bologna, the fat”)? And if you visit Bologna, you’ll quickly understand that “grassa” refers to its abundant, opulent cuisine….but not to the bolognesi (and all the university students) out biking and walking under the red terracotta porticoes.
Click here for a bollito recipe
Read about a gripping Bologna memorial
Read about more good eating in Reggio Emilia
Click here for more on Reggio’s good eating
Read about Ferrara, another Emilia Romagna gem
Read about Emilia Romagna goodness near Faenza
Read more on a culinary specialty of Emilia Romagna
Read about Emilia Romagna cuisine in Bagnocavallo