"La Dotta" - The Scholar. "La Rossa" - The Red (as much for its leftist politics as its red-tiled roofs). Bologna has many names and many aspects. But it is most famously
(and deservedly so) known as "La Grassa" - the Fat - for its cuisine. No self-respecting Parmigiano would ever admit this (and they probably should not) but Bologna may be the food center of the world. It is a lovely city and remarkably undervisited
by tourists. For a more wide-ranging perspective on Bologna you might take a look at our earlier report found under "Bologna - 2012" in www.travelandgrowe.com
Beside the main purpose of this trip (to see our friends) we went to eat. So we spent a lot of time walking under Bologna's miles of porticoes window shopping and the rest eating.
We did notice a couple of things.
There appears to be the tiniest beginnings of corporate encroachment into the food business of Italy
(or at least in Bologna and Parma). Our friend in Parma made note of the rise of the "Supermercato" - the supermarket alla Walmart. Everything in one giant place. This arrangement runs contrary to centuries of Italian commercial structure where
fruits and vegetables are in one market/store (oftentimes the size of a large closet) meats in another, bread in another and so on. Fresh, local and owned by the guy putting your purchase in your grocery bag.
In Bologna we noticed two family owned food stores which had been in operation for 70 or 80 years were closed since our last visit in 2012. Next door was the food emporium of Lidia Bastianich - star TV
chef, owner of a chain of restaurants in the US, partner and public face behind EATaly, the food conglomerant founded about 10 years ago by Oscar Farinetti (who built one of Italy's largest electronics businesses). The Bologna EATaly, one of 11 in
Italy, offers all things in the Italian world of food under one convenient (for who?) roof.
It's too soon to tell what the long term effect of all this will be but
it's ominous at best. However, wars, plagues, pestilence and food fads have all come and gone and Italians still honor their culinary traditions by practicing them as they have, largely unchanged, for generations. That's where my money is.
In the meantime (just in case this might be the beginning of the end) you can still find three practitioners of the cooking and serving arts hard at work turning out dishes that
if they do not bring tears to your eyes with their stunning tastes (and some will) then at least you will leave these establishments having had some of the best meals you will ever have. You will also be able to sleep at night knowing that some people
still care about these things.
This was the second time we've been to Gianni's (Trattoria da Gianni) and well, in two trips, they haven't missed a step.
Drogheria della Rosa (www.drogheriadellarosa.it) is a tiny trattoria set in an old drugstore, somewhat off the beaten path in Bologna. It's simple, unfussy (but
very stylish in that casual way Italians have mastered) and god knows, delicious. We spent a great afternoon there (no, no ... just eating lunch).
Imagine a sepia photograph
circa 1930. The restaurant seats perhaps two dozen and faces of opera singers, stars of the musical arts and other notables look down from the walls. A local family - nonna, nonno, figlia, figlio e bambini - are enjoying a birthday
dinner. The rest of the room is filled with happy Bolognese, enjoying the traditional dishes of this great city. This is why people travel thousands of miles to Bologna. This is Ristorante Grassilli.
So, the trip is winding down and you don't want to leave town without something? Well, those mouthwatering hindquarters of Mr. Pig (prosciutto crudo) hanging up in the windows are just a bit too cumbersome.
Likewise, the wheels of parmigiano cheese. However, there is hope.
Vechhia Malga Negozi (roughly, "the old alpine hut stores) will set you up with any kind of cheese,
wine, cured meat or balsamic vinegar you may wish to bring home. This is NOT a problem as long as the item is sealed and/or vacuum packed. The "store" is connected to a salumeria (deli). Look for the sign "La Baita Formaggi" (roughly, "alpine
hut cheeses"). www.vecchiamalganegozi.it or www.salumificioaurora.it . There is a twin store at the Bologna airport as well.