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Eating Trattoria Style in Italy: 5 Days and 5 Primi Piatti

Home dining Italian style at a local trattoria

Eating at a ‘home feel’ trattoria in Italy makes you wish you lived in the neighborhood

It was on day 4 of eating il primo piatto, the first course, in Bologna, Italy when it finally hit home. That at home feeling where I felt like I was really home, home where my heart was. It was that turning point on the fourth night. Una bella sera at a trattoria in the neighborhood near the medieval quarters in Bologna.

It started with a look through the humid glass window, a hand written menu next to the entrance door, smiling diners happy and enjoying a break from life. This was what I saw on the fourth night. I had to walk into this ristorante to eat and what a meal it was.

As I entered the restaurant the bell rang on the door behind me, warm lighting surrounded my hunger and immediately my stomach and eyes knew it had to enjoy a meal there. But the two dining areas were completely full with patrons.

One key to finding great eating places when traveling: go where the locals eat and where the restaurant is full with diners

This intimate trattoria was bursting with conviviality. I could feel the energies in the air and smell the food cooking. Will there be space for me to eat tonight? I had my doubts. I put on my nice smile and with my best Italian I could muster said with confidence to the man who approached me,

Buona sera signore, è possible mangiare al vostro ristorante stasera? Sono solo e posso attendere.

Good evening sir, is it possible to eat at your restaurant tonight? I am alone and I can wait.

Certo! Può attendere circa 10 minuti?
Of course! Can you wait about 10 minutes?


Vuole un bicchiere di vino mentre aspetta?

Would you like a glass of wine while you wait?

Si, perfetto! Grazie.
Yes, perfect! Thank you.

And so I sat on the bench, drinking a glass of delicious Italian red wine in hand, wine bathed in a beautiful ‘big bubbled’ red wine glass and just waited to be seated.

I was hoping it would take longer than 10 minutes to wait. It was such a cultural experience watching the crowd eating together, many of which knew each other, many who knew the owner of this trattoria, many who probably dine weekly or more at this little gem of eating on this normal street in Bologna.

In Italy, the restaurant’s menu is posted outside so you know what type of food is served

Posting the menu outside is key to helping you choose a restaurant that serves the type of food you would like to eat. For those who are vegetarian, have food allergies or strict dietary preferences, this is important.

I eat just amount everything and luckily because I didn’t even check out the menu ahead of time for this trattoria. I just walked in, being pulled in by subconscious sources that I cannot explain. Thankfully I eat everything, because the menu at this local trattoria was almost 100% seafood and fish. The specialties being from Sicily, this trattoria called Da Maro, Sicily for Bologna, boasted a small choice of primo piatto e segundo piatto with Sicilian inspirations. All carefully made in the kitchen and brought over to the table with pride and a smile.

If you are not too picky about eating and feel adventurous, try something new on the menu

Looking at the menu I realized that my Italian needed work. I couldn’t understand what half of the dishes from the menu could actually be, all I can tell you was that they looked amazing. You could just tell by the combination of some of the offerings. I was too proud to ask any questions to the owner (maybe a mistake), but I knew I could try anything and just pick a primo piatto that looked good. The one I chose that night had sardines (called sardine in italian) in it, prepared with a unique type of pasta that I have never heard of. Given that there are 350 different dried pastas in Italy this wasn’t too surprising.

The primo piatto is often just enough for my appetite when eating in Italy

The first course came, il primo piatto, and it was healthily delicious. Light and still full of flavor, this dish, which I tried to recreate after returning back to France, transformed me to feeling like I was just a spirit away from home. Yet, it felt like home in this trattoria, even without knowing a soul and eating alone, it was a feeling of warmth and camaraderie, something to look for when traveling by yourself. The primo piatto portion was big. When I was done I felt satiated, just enough to feel full but no more. My earlier days in Bologna spent enjoying primi piatti were the same, a filling first course, a wine to match, a slice of fresh bread to go with the dish. Wonderful meals.

If you would like to see the first 3 days of this trip in Italy and discover other restaurants in beautiful Bologna, see here:

  1. Eating Traditional Style In Italy
  2. Eating Trendy in Italy
  3. Eating Jazzy in Italy

Bologna is a wonderful place to visit, eat, discover and taste first-hand what real Italy can be about, sans tourists. Roma, Venezia e Firenze are all must visit cities too, but what I like about Bologna is that you feel you are visiting a working Italian city and there are less tourists than the other big must-see cities.

That night, although eating Sicilian food in local trattoria, il mio cuore was there in this intimate ristorante. I can truly say I wished I lived on this street to come back often.

Here is the primo piatto that I had that night with a recipe entered into the Recipe Redux challenge. My recipe for “A Simply Sicilian Spaghetti alla Sardine Sauce.”

I am also adding a link for Slow Food’s donation movement to help small restaurants and osterias who have been affected by the two major earthquakes in the Bologna region. If you would like more information on how to help or donate click here: Campaign and Relief-Emilia Emergency

Whatever country you live in or visit, support your local trattoria, cafe, bistro, pub.

It may just become your home away from home. Even if this is temporary, your heart and stomach may be all the better for it. If you want to discover a taste of this trattoria, here is the name and address:

Trattoria Da Maro Via broccaindosso, 71/b 40125 – Bologna (BO)

Do you have a favorite ‘home away from home’ small place to eat? Tell us what it is in the ‘leave a reply’ section below.

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5 Responses to Eating Trattoria Style in Italy: 5 Days and 5 Primi Piatti

  1. ~ The Lady in Red ~ June 28, 2012 at 22:49 #

    Oh yes! When you travel it’s so much better to eat where the locals eat! I’ve found many incredible places that way. If I had listened to the recommendations of the hotel concierge, I would have been steered to a tourist spot. It’s much better to get off the beaten path and find thriving establishments frequented by those who live in the area.

    I would love the dining atmosphere in Italy! How cordial to offer you a glass of wine while you waited for your table to be ready!

    I love getting to know the owners of a local trattorias. It makes the whole dining experience warm and inviting!

    • mbrighton July 3, 2012 at 06:03 #

      Ah “The Lady in Red” …Yes, I am quite sure you take the road less traveled when you travel. Thanks so much for your comment and love your blog, you have great eating ideas/recipes on it. Ciao :)!


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