This past June, I spent two weeks studying international commercial arbitration at the University of Bologna. It was an excellent opportunity to go back to Europe (as you probably saw in my post on Madrid) and eat some amazing Italian food.
Bologna is famous for its handmade pasta, in particular, its stuffed pasta. It is said that in Bologna, they eat “la grassa.” It literally means fat or rich. In other words, they eat very well. The pasta itself is made using only fresh eggs and type 0 flour (vs. 00 flour), which in other regions is often used for pizza preparation. They mix the eggs together in a “fountain” of flour, slowly incorporate the flour, set the dough aside for about half an hour, and then carefully roll it out into sheets before cutting it. I bought a book by Sorelle Simili, two elderly Italian women well known in the art of handmade pasta in Emilia Romagna (the larger region of which Bologna is a part), in the hopes of perfecting the technique this summer. Unfortunately, I have yet to find time for it! I still have about a month of summer left, though. Whatever I learn from the experience, I will recount here.
Many of my American counterparts got tired of Italian food while visiting, but I found that there was enough variety to keep my senses occupied during my two weeks. While they do eat a lot of pasta, it’s not just spaghetti and meatballs.
The freshness of the ingredients and the pasta in Bologna has made it difficult to appreciate Italian cuisine elsewhere (even in Florence!). They also eat a variety of meats and hams if you tire of pasta. If you’re near the coastline, there’s always fresh seafood.
And of course, there’s gelato! The best gelato of my life I ate at a place called Cremeria Funivia in Piazza Cavour southeast of Piazza Maggiore near the enclave of designer retail stores. The flavors were potent and fresh, the gelato light yet creamy. I had tried a couple of other gelato places without knowing where to go and thought, “I’ve had this at home.” After discovering Cremeria, I felt cheated knowing I had gone days in Bologna without having been. I ate there at least once every day until I left. It was like fireworks in my mouth. (Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of it because my camera’s batteries died the week that I discovered Cremeria, and the photos that I did take are on another’s camera. :\)
Bologna also makes excellent piadinas. Piadinas are flat breads filled with a variety of meats (prosciutto, speck), fresh produce (arugula, tomato, mushrooms), and cheeses. The bread is toasted on the outside and almost doughy in the middle. According to locals, the best place in Bologna for piadina is called La Tua Piadina on Via Borgonuovo about a five minute walk from the two towers (due torre). I can vouch for their tastiness. Much like bocadillos, they are simple and light yet filling and flavorful. They make an inexpensive lunch and can easily be enjoyed in one of Bologna’s many nearby piazzas.
Bologna is often perceived as a university town, which it is, but for this reason tourists will skip over it and instead go see the architecture in nearby Florence just an hour to the south. However, any food lover should make a mental note to stop by Bologna and eat as much fresh handmade pasta, piadinas, and gelato at Cremeria Funivia as they can.