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9 must-eat spots in Bologna and Florence
Carbs don't count when consumed in Italy.
I’m Darren Samuelsohn, and thank you for reading love, journalism. We’re sticking with the travel-writing theme this week with a review of some of my favorite eating spots from a recent vacation in Italy.
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I’m a sucker for Italian food, and the restaurants of Bologna and Florence recently delivered.
How could they not? Both cities are legendary for their cooking, and my wife and I did our part to sample as much as we could without our stomachs exploding.
Below you’ll find a rundown of several places we visited that are worthy of a visit the next time you’re in either of these great cities of Italy. Buon appetito!
Sfoglia Rina, Bologna
Don’t be turned off by the line outside the door. It moves moderately fast. It’s also a good sign that it’ll be well worth the wait.
The menu is simple enough, and I chose right by ordering the tagliatelle with ragu. My wife picked one of the special dishes featuring fried artichokes and triangle pastas stuffed with mushroom and potato. While it was a heavy lunch, we more than justified it with all the walking we did that day on our trip.
Osteria dell’Orsa, Bologna
We got in without a wait or reservation by arriving at the very American eating hour of 6:30 pm, local time. Our main mission: No pasta after all the carbs we’d had for lunch.
I ventured outside my comfort zone by ordering the Cotoletta alla Bolognese, a traditional dish that basically was a breaded veal cutlet smothered with ham, Parmesan cheese and a rich and creamy white sauce on top, with a side of roasted potatoes. So much for avoiding carbs. Dinner stuck to my ribs, and it’s still there. My wife went with a meatball plate touted on the menu for being someone’s grandma’s recipe. My wife is smart.
La Prosciutteria, Bologna
This casual walk-up spot (there’s also one in Florence) caught our eye several times while strolling the busy Oberdan thoroughfare. I’m glad we stopped. We let the people working behind the counter advise on the ordering, and they guided me to a flatbread sandwich full of local meats and cheeses. It satisfied. My wife went for the “healthier” option: a salad covered in meats and cheeses that came with a bread basket on the side.
Da Nello al Montegrappa, Bologna
We were stuffed to the brim upon exiting this iconic place decorated with photos of celebrity diners. We’d tested the limits of what it means to order one thing from each part of the menu.
My advice: You can’t go wrong with the pear and cheese (hard and soft!) appetizer and I was happy to try another restaurant’s version of tagliatelle with bolognese sauce. But if I had a do-over, I’d have skipped the grilled fillet steak and split another pasta dish. Don’t skimp on the Zuppa inglese sponge cake. Someone’s grandma said so.
La pizza in teglia, Florence
Get this pizza. Just do it. Trust me.
It’s on the second floor of the Mercato Centrale, a great big food court that will tempt you in every direction with its various meats and cow innards on bread, gelatos, wines, pastas, and barbecue. Yes, barbecue. Don’t be fooled by those options. Instead, get this pizza. Any toppings will suffice. Let them heat it up first too. Just do it. Trust me.
Mister Pizza, Florence
I’m a glutton. Somehow, the pizza from the market got me in a pizza mood. And so after a visit to a special exhibit of M.C. Escher artwork we found ourselves sitting inside Mister Pizza overlooking the Piazza del Duomo for a second lunch. I heeded my waiter’s advice and agreed to put the extra dollop of Burrata cheese atop my pepperoni pizza. Italian waiters are always right. My wife is still mad I wouldn’t share and made her get her own pizza.
I picked this place for a reservation via the Italian version of Open Table because of its name. It sounded close enough to Sabatino’s, a recently-shuttered Chicago joint that my family had been going to for decades.
Sabatini rocks. We decided to go simple and picked the special Chianina Beef Menu. It started with a plate of homemade cappellacci with meat sauce, porcini mushrooms and peas that I want to go back to Florence to eat again and again. Next came the grilled T-bone steak that somehow got better when we sprinkled on the little specks of salt that came on the side. Mixed salad meant dinner was healthy. And then came the Torta della nonna, which means Grandma’s custard pie.
Il Latini, Florence
My dad sent us here about a decade ago the first time we visited Florence. I’ve sent dozens of people back ever since.
We finally returned in late March after emailing the restaurant the moment our tickets were booked to ensure a reservation. As you can see by the pics above, people line up in a big bunch at the door when it’s their time to eat. And while things may seem a bit disorderly, everyone gets food here. Lots of it.
On this occasion, we went with the price fixed family menu for two and regretted it if only for the fact there’s so much food. And that’s just talking about the bread basket, the appetizer plate of sliced meats and crostinis with spreads, the two pastas and two bowls of soup — all of which arrive before the giant Florentine steak and side of potatoes. Hands down my favorite dish of all the above was the tomato bread soup. I also managed to finish the tiramisu, somehow.
I’ Girone de Ghiotti, Florence
Long lines spilling outside the door. Warm flat breads arriving every few minutes. A man slicing meat after meat after meat. Not much more needs to be said about this gem of a lunch spot except that the Suicide sandwich at the very top of the menu should be your first, second, and third choice. The warm bread crackles with each bite, and somehow that makes it an even better delivery mechanism for the roasted pork, the spicy sauce, the sun dried tomatoes and the arugula.
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