Wondering where to eat in Bologna, aka the foodie capital of Italy? Armed with a friend’s recommendations and some research, here’s my guide after eating my way through the city.
For quite a few years now, I’ve had Bologna on my long list of places to visit in Italy. When I realized I had a few days free at the end of my Tuscany road trip, I decided to tack on three days here to pretty much eat my heart out. I truly did not plan much else until it actually came time for some sightseeing!
If you don’t know, one of Bologna’s nicknames is La Grassa, or the Fat, because of its rich culinary history with meats and cheese. I feel like anytime a city gets a name directly related to his gastronomy, you know you’re going to be eating well. Below are some tips for what to eat in Bologna as well as which restaurants I went to specifically!
Quick Bologna Tips
- Getting in: Bologna has its own airport, but most likely you’ll come via the train station. From the train station, you can pretty much walk to wherever your hotel is; though be warned the city is bigger than you’d think, so hotels can be more spread out.
- Getting Around: I got around on foot the entire time, but it was definitely more walking than, say, Florence. I recommend renting a car if you want to go a bit out of the city and see more of the Emilia-Romagna region.
- Where to Stay: I prefer to stay within 10-minutes or less of train stations in Italy. This time I booked Zanhotel Regina which was in a decent location. Some other great options are Modern Mechanics, Grand Hotel Majestic gia’ Baglioni, or Hotel Corona d’Oro.
- Where to Book Activities: For tickets, I check the attraction’s website (many you have to reserve ahead of time). Otherwise Get Your Guide or Viator have the most options for tours and day trips. Bologna, as you might guess, as a TON of food tour and cooking class options!
Specific Italian Dishes to Try in Bologna
Tortellini en Bodo
Chances are, you’re already a little familiar with tortellini in its prepackaged form at the grocery store. I always just heated it up, added some sauce from a can, and called it a day!
That is not how you will experience tortellini in Bologna, aka the birthplace of this particular pasta. (Though, depending on who you ask, it could also be Modena). Like most pastas, tortellini is made fresh, and can expect a filly of some sort of meat and cheese as well. The most authentic way to eat it is en brodo or in a sort of chicken broth. I definitely prefer it with some sort of sauce or even a butter but the broth is pretty tasty and worth trying at least once while you’re here.
Tagliatelle al ragù
Listen, once you go tagliatelle you’ll never want to look at spaghetti again. Spaghetti bolognese is like the global bastardization of tagliatelle al ragù.
If you’ve never had it, tagliatelle are long flat noodles and, in my opinion, much better suited for a meat sauce than spaghetti. The noodles are best made fresh from scratch and the ragù is made with mainly with some sort of meat, sautéed vegetables, tomatoes. While I didn’t get it on my trip, I’ve made it in a cooking class in Florence and ate it a few times on my trips to Italy. Trust me once you have it, the stuff you can make with a can of sauce and spaghetti noodles just won’t taste that good every again.
Do you remember getting bologna growing up and wondering why the heck it was spelled as such when it was pronounced baloney? Well, like spaghetti bolognese is a bit of a bastardization of tagliatelle del ragú, our lunch meat bologna is a bastardization of mortadella.
I was on a hard pasta mission this trip so I never tried the mortadella, but you’ll notice a lot of restaurants have whole pages of charcuterie boards for sharing.
PS: I’m so sorry, but this song has been stuck in my head and I’m passing on the burden to you…”Oh I love to eat it everyday, and if you ask me why I’ll say, cause’ Oscar Mayer has a way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A!!!!”
Lasagne al forno
Hands down lasagna has always been one of my favorite dishes! It’s actually one of the oldest recorded pasta dishes out there – first appearing in a 1282 text called Memoriali Bolognesi.
As the name suggest, it’s very much tied to Bologna. While different regions take their own spin, lasagne al forno is probably the most similar to what we imagine – ragù, béchamel sauce, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Where to Eat in Bologna
Now where to eat! Lucky for you and me, I have a friend who’s from Bologna and also a huge foodie, so she sent me a list of recommendations. Unlucky for you, I was in a tortellini haze, so, you know, the pictures below might blend together just a bit. SORRY!
Travel Tip: CHECK the times when you plan your lunches and dinners. Most restaurants in Italy only open for lunch and then much later for dinner (no earlier than 7:30 PM). You’ll also want to see if you can make reservations during busier seasons.
Anna Maria Trattoria
I managed to squeeze Anna Maria Trattoria in right before I had to catch my train back to Florence. I opted for the tortelloni al gorgonzola (different than tortellini!), and it was delicious. The restaurant has been around since 1985 and focuses on traditional Bolognese recipes, so it’s perfect if you want to dive into a full meal Bologna-style. They also have tons of outdoor seating for the warmer months.
Ca’Pelletti – Altabella
Ca’Pelletti has two locations in Bologna, and I ate at the Altabella one. One major thing that sets them apart is that they believe “real Romagna is open all hours,” so you can literally come here for breakfast, lunch, an dinner all through the day from 8:00 AM – 11:00 PM. They also offer tons of authentic Bologna cuisine with a more modern setting. When I went I got the garganelli with cuttlefish ragù which was new to the restaurant and quite tasty.
Outdoor seating is limited but they have plenty of space inside.
La Baita Vecchia Malga
My friend specifically recommended La Baita Vecchia Malga, and I can see why! Right by the main square, it was founded back in 1969 by a husband and wife duo, it’s both a shop and a restaurant with a ton of outdoor seating that fills up quick. If you’re with people, this is THE place to do a charcuterie board. As you can see, I still went the pasta route and was not disappointed in the least.
Just a heads up when it’s super busy, you’re going to have to seek out your waiter. Otherwise you’ll be waiting for a very long time to order and/or pay.
La Salsamenteria Bologna
I think I found La Salsamenteria Bologna because I was hungry and looking for a place close to me with decent reviews. It focuses on Emilian cuisine and, as with pretty much every food spot in this list, is handmade.
Luckily it lived up to the reviews on Google Maps and is the first time I’ve ever had balazoni, which is a green type of tortellini (made with spinach) that also comes from Bologna. This one also has some pistachio nuts and let me tell you, it was freakin’ phenomenal. The serving looks small, but you really do not want to rush eating this dish.
One my very first night I made my way over to Osteria dell’Orsa for a very late dinner. It’s a very casual place that’s super popular with the younger crowd in Bologna due to its university location. Don’t expect a quiet, restaurant-y type dinner but do expect a lively atmosphere with tons of people eating and waiting outside for a free table. I got the tortellini en brodo and can recommend it, though like I said above, I definitely prefer pasta with sauces over broth.
After I descended the ridiculously tall towers of Bologna, I found myself starving after climbing up all 230 feet of the Asinelli Tower. Unfortunately, I got down at the awkward in-between time so most places were closed. The closest pasta option to be wound up being Sfoglia Rina which pretty much did exclusively pasta.
This is another spot that takes a while to get service. I remember being seated and then the waitress told me she’d go get a menu… and never returned. I finally flagged a guy down who brought over a chalkboard with the menu of the day and service afterwards was normal/quick. The tortellini was delicious! There’s also a set-up where you can buy fresh pasta to go if you have a kitchen.
Antico Panificio Armando Priori
Antico Pacifco Armando Priori is a super nice little bakery close to the towers of Bologna. It’s quite tiny and you may miss it on the first walk by, but don’t skip it if you want something sweet! I got myself a bag of cookies to take around as a snack.
Paolo Atti e Figli
Another bakery and shop to visit is Paolo Atti & Figli. At over 150 years old, it’s definitely a mainstay in Bologna and is still owned and operated by the family of its founder, Paolo Atti. They’ve even kept the original furnishings! I popped in here but didn’t have anything specific I wanted to buy. However, it did make me wish I had booked an apartment with a kitchen so I could pick up some of their pastas and sauces to cook myself.
La Sorbetteria Castiglione
Not only did my friend recommend La Sorbetteria Castiglione as her favorite gelato spot, I’m pretty sure it was on every single list I read for where to eat in Bologna. It’s a bit of a walk from where my hotel was, so I when I mapped out my big walking day, I used it as the turn around point.
This spot has been open since 1994 and takes a ton of pride in helping bring in better artisan gelato to Bologna. The use an open laboratory to craft their flavors and you can just tell they take pride in their production. It’s the perfect gelato stop while you’re exploring Bologna and they have plenty of seating right outside if you want to sit for a bit. Otherwise you can wander through the porticos as you lick away.
Gelateria Peccati Di Gola
Just also shouting out this little, no frills gelateria that was right next to my hotel. This is pretty much the only reason I went, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good the gelato was! There are a few seats outside, but I always got mine on my way back to my hotel room.
Bonus: 2 Restaurants a Drive Away
As a bonus to this list, I’ve got two more recommendations from my friend that aren’t in Bologna but easy to get to if you have a car. I’m personally saving them for a future visit as I want to do some travel around the Emilia-Romagna region on my next Italy trip!
Trattoria da Amerigo
About 40 minutes away in the small frazione of Savigno, is the unassuming, Michelin star Trattoria da Amerigo. The name comes the current owner, Alberto Bettini’s grandfather Amerigo, who first founded the restaurant with his wife, Agnes, in 1934.
They use local ingredients from the Emilian Appennines and Samoggia Valley as well as traditional recipes to create their dishes. One fun aspect to their menu is that they put the year of introduction next to each dish. I’m already dreaming of trying their seasonal tasting menu.
Trattoria del Borgo
Also 40 minutes away but this time in the mountain frazione of Monteveglio Alto sits Trattoria Borgo. My friend describes it as traditional as it gets. Their terrace overlooks the hills and the menu just looks incredible.
And there you have it! A nice big list of where to eat in Bologna from restaurants to gelaterias to bakeries. Any to add? Let me know so I can go test them out on future trips!
For more Italy travel nearby, read these posts next:
- 28 Venice Travel Tips to Read Before You Go
- How to Spend 3 Days in Milan
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