Strada Maggiore, Bologna Italy
This street in the picture brings back memories of walking, eating, walking, eating. Italy IS an amazing country to explore and eat and walk and take in the beauty of an old country rich in history, rich in tradition. You can eat SO well in Italy and sometimes eating just the first course, il primo piatto, at a typical restaurant can be a meal in itself, leaving the table with a garden of memories to take home.
In Bologna food is king and the cuisine is deliciously rich and filling
Bologna is considered the culinary capital of Italy. If you are a foodie or have a passion for gastronomy, dining in Bologna is a treasure that you must experience for yourself. Transformed at an Italian table, the karma of eating at the right restaurant can make you feel that you are really escaping, both on a taste and mental level. Bolognese food, appropriately nicknamed la grassa (the fat one), is generally rich and heavy. Not a reason to exclude the perfect meal, but I find just eating the primo piatto (first course, usually pasta) is enough ‘basta’. You may add an antipasto, a secondo piatto, or why not a dessert ‘dolce‘? The plural term, primi piatti, means first courses, eaten during 5 short days in Bologna.
Bologna is a real Italian city, beautiful with its 38 kilometers of portici patios throughout (you can see in the picture above an example of the portici patio, the overhang on top of the sidewalks). A young crowd mingles throughout with students attending University of Bologna, one of the oldest universities in the world. I appreciate that Bologna has less tourists than other big Italian cities such as Roma or Venezia. I don’t like to feel that I am in my home country when I travel abroad (a personal desire). A real mental getaway includes a break from everything, our mother tongue included. Although Italians speak English quite well if you get stuck!
Day One of Five in Bologna, Italy: Ate lunch at a traditional restaurant with classical cooking
or more beautifully said: Un ristorante tradizionale con cucina classica
Lasagna Verdi was the primo piatto, a typical dish from Bologna
Si! Cucina tipica bolognese
Real food for the soul? Lasagna! Garfield loves it, kids love it, it is comfort food-all year round. In Bologna, the lasagna verdi is made with béchamel sauce, or salsa besciamella and with bolognese meat sauce, ragu alla bolognese. This is a different variation than I am used to growing up in ‘Joisey (that is New Jersey for anyone not from the area). My version has ricotta cheese as a filling and mozzarella grated on top. The Bolognese recipe is topped with Parmagianno-Reggiano cheese instead. Verdi (actually the singular word is verde) means green in Italian, and the lasagna egg noodles have spinach in it that adds the color: great for taste and presentation. Here is a picture of my primo piatto, lasagna verdi bolognese eaten on day one in Italy:
It tasted delicious although the picture doesn’t do enough justice. You can see it is a rich dish and although the portion size was smaller than what you would get in an American restaurant, this was enough for me. A nice espresso after and basta, I am full. If you would like to try to make this yourself, here is a website that has an authentic recipe version of lasagna verdi. See “The Italian Chef.”
What you can’t see in the picture is the atmosphere: eating in a traditional restaurant
The restaurant that served this lasagna verdi is one of the oldest in Bologna and still has a good reputation for fine dining. You walk in their doors, there is an air of elegance, you are greeted with buongiorno by a well dressed member of the restaurant staff. Should I mention that I only saw men working there? Nice polite men wearing clean white tuxedo coats and black bow-ties. Excellent service, very discrete, a glass of red wine put down to drink in front of me (I did ask for some vino rosso). The wine was above par and the staff took the time to explain where the wine came from and the name so I could write it down. A very traditional eating experience, which I liked because it was typical of the culture. The service brought back memories of eating in New Jersey, at one of my favorite Italian eating places called “Il Giardinello” where the waiters dress in white coats and the service is also excellent.
For the cultural experience, at least one meal in a traditional restaurant is worthwhile
Before traveling to Bologna I did some research on where to eat. A traditional restaurant is snapshot of the culture you are visiting. Where I ate my lasagne verdi was at Ristorante Cesarina and you can find their website here: Cesarina. At traditional restaurants you can typically find food that is from the region using recipes that sometimes have been handed down through generations. At Cesarina, the staff was available to answer my questions about the food and wine. A plus for any foodie enthusiasts. Another restaurant trend I saw during my 5 days: many men servers, all well-dressed. With the boss-man keeping things moving during the service and giving small remarks to the staff during the meals.
BRAVO! You made it through the first day in Bologna! If you would like to read day 2,3,4,5 they are coming soon with more recipes and good addresses on places to eat in Bologna, one of my favorite cities. Buon Appetito.
Per favore, would appreciate any readers input on using ricotta cheese versus béchamel sauce in the lasagna. Apparently the ricotta cheese comes from Southern Italy version and béchamel from the North. Any comments from natives? Drop a line in the “leave a reply” section.
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