The other day a member of the group asked me where he could find the best place in Bologna to eat true Bolognese food. The city is renowned for its cuisine, so for him it made sense to try it out whilst here. Off the top of my head I suggested Ristorante Diana, on Via Indipendenza, a smart place which makes it into all the guidebooks on the city, though as I’ve never eaten there myself I nevertheless felt slightly fraudulent in recommending it.
Being a vegetarian (mostly!) I can’t comment on many of the typically Bolognese dishes, which are meat-based (everyone’s heard of the tomato and meat sauce, known throughout Italy as ragù).
But what I can comment on, having eaten my way through Italy’s boot from top to toe during the past 15 years, is that a good local restaurant always has certain definable characteristics. For one, it’s usually family owned, often for many generations. It will have a short menu that changes daily, as this will depend on the fresh ingredients available at the market that morning. Sometimes it will not have a menu at all (I’m thinking of the excellent Trattoria La Torre in Siena where the owner simply barks out the day’s choices at you – and no, it doesn’t have a website). It will pobably not have waiters dressed in bow ties, candles on the tables or a menu of multiple dishes printed in multiple languages. And will often not appear in any guidebook (here in Bologna, the great value Trattoria del Rosso fits this bill).
So, if not in a guidebook what the best way to find this perfect restaurant/trattoria? As with everything else in Italy, ask a local. Italy is all about ‘local’ – they even have a word for it (campanilismo – the attachment to one’s own church tower). In Italy it’s word of mouth, not the written word that counts – which is perhaps why PR (as we heard at Edelman the other day) is less developed here than in more globalised, less close-knit Northern European or American societies.
Just an after-dinner thought to imbibe along with your digestivo.