Tuesday, March 06, 2007

February 2007 - Bologna, Italy - Gastronomic Capital

Emilia-Romagna (the region including Bologna, Modena, Parma and some other great eating cities) lies in the plains between the Appenine Mountains to the South and the Po River to the North. These plains are the most fertile in all of Italy and it shows. In planning our 3 week trip to Emilia-Romagna, we read that Bologna as the capital of Emilia-Romagna is the gastronomic capital of Italy and all foodies recognize that Bologna collects all the great foods from its region and makes outstanding meat sauces, egg pasta, mortadella, delicate cream/cheese sauces and custards. Also wonderful are the ham and cheese from Parma and the balsamic vinegar from Modena. We were skeptical after spending several weeks in Piemonte (the region including Limone and Turin) where they are said to have the most sophisticated cuisine including white truffles and the nebbiola grape used to make Barolo and Barbaresco. In the end, Emilia-Romagna provided better cuisine but we still love Piemonte and all of its rich foods.

In Bologna, it is easy to prepare an elaborate and fresh meal just by heading to the huge street market stretching from Piazza Maggiore to Piazza della Mercanzia. Every small side street between the 2 Piazzas contains merchants' shops each selling their specialties. We saw the most colorful produce, freshest seafood,
and the Bolognese all out shopping for Sunday's family dinner.

We also enjoyed wonderfully creamy pastries and, best of all, the window presentations at the bakeries. Similar to Paris, the bakers put their lovely, mainly fruit covered cakes out in the window like art for all to admire. And the Bolognese love food so it is not odd to see a group of people gawking over an elaborate cake.

So after hearing the hype about dining in Bologna we were eager to hit the ground running. Our first night we had spectacular Indian food. I know only we would start our stay in Bologna with an Indian dinner. But we enjoyed Mogul so much that we ate there on our 1st night and our last - it's the only restaurant that we repeated.

Despite being land-locked and in a valley, Drogheria della Rosa served the best fresh shellfish we've had in Italy. We were so impressed with the quality and freshness of the steamed shellfish platter. The langostino was better than any lobster we've ever eaten - amazingly sweet and succulent. It was even better than the best Maine lobster.
Our favorite Trattoria was Grassilli with its walls covered by all the famous people that have eaten there since the 1940s it turned out some of the best traditional Emilian food we had in the region. We loved the family-run feeling and our bow-tied waiter (clealry an owner) who took his job oh-so seriously.
The razor thin beef carpaccio with homemade salad dressing was amazingly fresh and tasty.
The homemade spinach tortelloni (egg-based) stuffed with meat in a fresh tomato sauce was perfectly all dente yet smooth and creamy and the stuffing was so tasty. Similarly, Kenny's homemade ricotta, spinach and meat stuffed ravioli was fresh and creamy with the just the right amount of light tomato sauce and grated parmesan. Both were some of the best pasta we've had in Italy.
I'm hungry just writing about it.

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