They don't call Bologna la grassa (the "fat lady") for nothing. Bologna restaurants dish out generous platters of traditional tortellini, tagliatelle with Bolognese ragu, lasagna, and tigelle (flatbreads), not to mention good local wines. Remember to leave room for some gelato tasting, since Bologna has some of the best ice cream in Italy. And don't leave before you've checked out the city's delis, most of which—like venerable old Tamburini—cluster in the network of lanes around Via delle Drapperie, east of Piazza Maggiore.
Home of the oldest university in Europe (founded in 1088), Bologna is a sienna-colored gem of gastronomic delights. Best of all, it’s pleasantly free of the tourist crush that descends upon perennial favorites like Venice and Florence. As mentioned above, Bologna is well recognized for its fantastic cuisine, and food lovers are seldom disappointed, if at all. Bologna cuisine also features a wide array of other cheeses, meats, and pastas so choosing where to eat is often challenging when visiting the city.
One of the best things about our job is seeking out the best restaurants in Italy to recommend to our guests. If you are visiting Bologna, we’ve created this short list of our favorites Bologna restaurants where we’ve eaten recently. This is the cradle of Italy’s world-famous cuisine. Indulge in tortellini, mortadella, torta di riso and some of Italy's best gelato as you discover the best Bologna restaurants and gelaterias in our Bologna food guide.
Our Favorite Bologna Restaurants & Gelaterias
Visiting gourmets and locals rave about the fresh local cuisine of this popular dining spot. This gem located outside Bologna's city walls is worth the trek. Chef/owner Armando Martini whips up creative versions of classic dishes. Specialties include tortellini with scampi, green lasagna, and chocolate hazelnut ice cream. Often crowded even for lunch, better book in advance.
This serious neighborhood osteria celebrates the humble pig in all its gastronomic guises, from Parma ham aged for 30 months to gramigna con salsiccia. Host Daniele Minarelli is a highly knowledgeable gourmet and wine buff, and it pays to follow his prompts. The tortellini in chicken broth is exquisite; among the secondi try the cotoletta alla Bolognese—a huge veal cutlet fried in breadcrumbs, then wrapped in thin slices of ham and coated in melted parmesan. They also serve an excellent Bolognese dessert called torta di riso, a moist rice cake flavored with crumbled amaretti biscuits, candied fruit, almonds, and lemon peel. This place is well known on the city's foodie circuit so book ahead.
Visiting gourmets and locals rave about the fresh local cuisine that has earned this popular dining spot a Michelin star. Housed in a wedge-shaped building outside the city (but worth the trip), the restaurant has operated as a trattoria since 1834. The main room has an arched ceiling, windows, and wood beams; a smaller, more intimate dining area is paneled with dark wood and features a skylight and wall paintings. Specialties include tortellini filled with herbs and hazelnut butter, turbot with crisp artichokes, and a wine list with more than 400 names. The vegetarian and tasting menus are also outstanding.
This 1920s restaurant located near Piazza Maggiore was once considered the high palace of Bolognese cuisine. The endless menu still does justice to the basics—tortellini soup, tagliolini with butter and truffles, Gran Bollito Diana with Purée e Salsa Verde to name just a few—and suited waiters continue to showily carve meat tableside. For dessert, try the popular rice tarts or semifreddo Diana (ice cream cake).
A city institution since 1940. At Zita's, traditional Emilian cuisine is respected in a philological and genuine way: the pasta is homemade, the vegetarian options strictly follow seasonality, the wines are local. A different menu every day, keeping the classics such as tagliatelle with meat sauce or roast pork loin on the menu and then ranging, depending on the availability of products, from stuffed zucchini to veal liver, from cutlet to pasta and beans.
This is the realm of chef Fabio Berti and maître Alessandro Gozzi, friends and partners who in 2007 decided to open a restaurant “built on top quality ingredients and respect for tradition”. Which dish to order? Gramigna Bertozzi with bacon, zucchini, saffron and flakes of Parmesan Reggiano and old-fashioned meatballs with peas.
For more than 30 years, Anna Maria has been the reference restaurant for those who are in the university area and want to escape the tourist traps or student taverns. The restaurant is simple and pleasant, with the awards and certificates of esteem collected over many years of activity on the walls. The cuisine is simple and more than pleasant, which has its strong point in fresh pasta. Some say it's the best in town: order green tagliatelle, tortelloni with butter and sage and baked lasagna to judge for yourself.
Nestled along the covered portico leading up to San Luca, this tiny trattoria is easy to miss. But its unassuming facade belies the basic but delicious dishes served inside. Favorites include meatballs in tomato sauce (considered the city's best), stuffed rabbit, osso buco (braised veal shanks), handmade pastas including knockout tortelli di ricotta, homemade semifreddo, and the traditional rice desert torta di riso, plus any of the excellent wines. You may want to work the meal off by trekking up to the sanctuary—or build an appetite by running up and back before your meal.
Say Bertino and you immediately think of the cart of boiled meat. This is the specialty of this restaurant founded in 1957 by Alberto Roda - known as Bertino - who in over fifty years in business has always kept the sense of hospitality and welcome intact. It is worth coming here even just for the boiled meat trolley, a carnivorous riot rigorously portioned at the table and matched with traditional sauces, but also for the pasta e fieno with sausage and the delicious desserts.
If the working class Bolognina quarter is a stop for foodies, it is also thanks to this trattoria which, for many Bolognese, is one of the best in town. It's a matter of quality: the fresh produce is excellent and the dishes are intriguing but not pretentious. It's also a matter of atmosphere, because the place is as welcoming as a beautiful home. Finally, it is a matter of hospitality of the owners Flavio and Tommaso. The Trattoria di Via Serra is simply a trattoria in Bologna. That is why it is truly unique. Book well in advance.
Bohemian chic is the key mood in this funky gourmet bistro. In a designer-cluttered former druggist's emporium, with ancient glass jars still intact on the shelves, chef Emanuele Addone meets and greets his regular guests with in-crowd familiarity. Addone's tendency to hold court and the lack of anything like a printed menu would grate if the food weren't so damn good. Recited a voce, the day's spread might consist of tortelli filled with stracchino and squacquerone (cream) cheese and topped with artichokes, or lightly grilled swordfish served with seasonal vegetables. Desserts are delicious—but you might prefer to end a memorable meal with a gelato at the Sorbetteria Castiglione just around the corner.
La Sorbetteria Castiglione is a classic ice cream shop that always has a long line but never has a long wait. The exotic flavors that they serve include cremino ludovico, dolce contagio, and dolce emma. Chances are if you visit the shop another time, they will have invented and added a few new flavors to the menu.
Other great Bolognese ice-cream outlets include the Gelatauro, in the University district, where three Calabrian brothers bring a taste of the warm South to their blends of strictly organic ingredients—witness flavors like the Principe di Calabria (bergamot and jasmine) or orange chocolate (made with top-quality Amadei cocoa).
Another top spot is the ever-popular Gianni, the closest to Piazza Maggiore, where alongside the standard flavors are fantasy melds with kooky names like "Dove vai?" (zabaglione, gianduia, and coffee with crumbled ladyfingers and chocolate) and "Cosa vuoi da me?" (Amaretto and hazelnut).
Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip to Bologna, Italy —days off and vacations are taken seriously here.