Tag Archives: Bologna

Mercato Notturno at Union Square Greenmarket

Bologna City of Food

Friday night, between the end of work and the start of going out with friends to see The Ivory Tower at Cooper Union (if you are curious about some of the real costs of higher education, I highly recommend seeing this movie), I swung by the Union Square Greenmarket for one of their two upcoming night markets.  This one called Mercato Notturno (night market in Italian), featured foods from Italy as well as a pasta-making demonstration.  There was also a table at the market that had information on it about Expo Milano 2015: “Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life,” where the United States will have a pavilion.  For me, it was a little trip back to Bologna, the central focus of the market, where I lived for several years.  Here’s some pictures from the event:

Pizza al FornoPizza al Forno by Pizza Moto

Risotto with PestoRisotto alle herbe from Risotteria Melotti

Mortadella di Bologna on the slicerMortadella on the slicer

Info sign about chefsInformation about the participants

dolce non dolceDolce non Dolce by Agostino Jacobucci

Ricotta made with the leftovers from the production of Parmigiano-Reggiano along with a syrup made with Lambrusco and pistachio powder.

La SfoglinaLa Sfoglina – Stefania Civolani of Trattoria del Gallo

Rolling out pasta doughStarting to roll out the pasta

Rolling out Pasta SheetRolling out the sheet of pasta (la sfoglia)

Cutting the pasta into squaresCutting the pasta into squares

Adding tortellini fillingAdding filling to make tortellini

Forming tortelliniForming the tortellini

Cutting tagliatelleCutting pasta sheet into tagliatelle

Showing la tagliatelleShowing off le tagliatelle

Ribbons of tagliatelleRibbons of tagliatelle

Nests of Pasta“Nests” of pasta drying (i nidi)

MBA in Food & WineMBA in Food & Wine at the University of Bologna

For those who would like to find out more about Bologna and its cuisine, or just about the marketing of Italian food in general, you might consider looking into this new program put together by the University of Bologna’s Business School.  To learn about Bologna, in general, you can see my photos of the pasta class that I took at La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese and read about a trip outside the city to drink wine and enjoy pasta in a vineyard nei colli (in the hills) and about my adventures traipsing around the city eating gelato.

NettunoStatue of Neptune in Piazza Maggiore, Bologna

Buon appetito!

Dinner at Borgo delle Vigne in Bologna, Italy

A warm summer’s evening, sitting at a table at the edge of a vineyard, eating dinner by the gentle glow of candlelight, drinking locally-made wine.  Sounds like a dream?  I stumbled upon this opportunity when I was visiting Bologna, Italy a couple of weeks ago.  After I had checked into the airport, I dropped by the local tourism office (ufficio turismo) to see what information I could gather about what would be going on in town when I was there.

Borgo delle Vigne vineyard

I found a flyer for an event called “Tagliatellata” at Borgo delle Vigne in Zola Predosa, a suburb of Bologna that was organized by City Red Bus.  For 28.00 Euros, I could get on a charter bus with a group to head into the hills outside of the city for a dinner of traditional regional cooking hosted by one of the “Apostles of Tagliatelle” (Gli Apostoli della Tagliatella), the owner of the vineyard, Carlo Gaggioli.  The Gaggioli family runs the vineyard and a small hotel where guests can stay on the property (agroturismo) as well as a restaurant.

Hotel Borgo delle Vigne

So, I met up with the other participants at the statue of Neptune in front of Palazzo Re Enzo, a standard meeting point in the center of town.  We boarded the bus to head out Porta Saragozza, one of the medieval exit points from the city, and towards our destination.  Part way through the journey, Sr. Gaggioli joined us at a stop and filled us in on the gastronomic history of the region as well as what we’d be sampling that evening.

Carlo Gaggioli

After we arrived, we were treated to a tour of the cantina, the wine making room.  As well as a chance to speak more with Sr. Gaggioli about his wine.  Most of his production is for Pignoletto, as he put it “Il vigno dei colli Bolognese.” (The wine of the hills of Bologna.)  I don’t know that I’ve ever tried it, which isn’t a surprise as he explained most of its consumption is in Italy with a small percentage of it being shipped to Germany and Switzerland.  They have already taken in the grape harvest for this year (la raccolta).  F0r 2011, he revealed, the result will be a small vintage, but a good one (un vino piccolo ma buono).

Tables in the garden

By this time, I was getting a bit hungry and was ready to try some of the food and wine that we’d been hearing about on our trip up to Borgo delle Vigne.  Long tables had been set up in the garden area between the hotel and the restaurant so that we could enjoy the beautiful late summer evening.  First up was a glass of the Pignoletto, a light, straw-colored white wine that had a bit of fizz and acid, perfect for the rich, meat-heavy dishes that grace the tables of Bologna.


To go along with this, we were treated to one of the symbols of la cucina bolognese: Tagliatelle al ragu Bolognese.  As one of the Apostles of Tagliatelle, Sr. Gaggioli is one of the people who is striving to preserve the culinary traditions of the region and to uphold the production of pasta made by hand according to the specifications filed in the Chamber of Commerce in Bologna and represented by a replica of a piece of this pasta in gold (width is 8 mm cooked, about 7 mm uncooked).

Tagliatelle al ragu Bolognese

These delicate golden strands were dressed with a slow-cooked, rich meat sauce.  The blending of pork and beef along with broth, wine, a bit of tomato sauce, and very little else, put together in a specific cooking sequence builds layer upon layer of flavor that really doesn’t need much embellishment.  Fresh, handmade pasta and a dusting of Parmegiano-Reggiano, and this is the perfect primo (first course).  Again, this is another recipe that has been officially agreed upon and filed with the authorities.  The Italians take these food traditions very seriously.

Sparkling Barbera

The next wine we were served was another that I’d never tried before.  The Sparkling Barbera was another wine with some acidity to it but was light enough to be a summer drink with a clean feel on the palate.  As one of the people who works at the vineyard explained to us, it would be a good wine to go with richer, fattier dishes.  Before I moved to Italy, aside from drinking the occasional glass of champagne, I never would have tried any sparkling wines to go with food (maybe it was the leftover influence of the wine cooler/wine spritzer phase that was going on when I was learning to drink).  After living in an area that boosts a wide array of heavier cuisine, I can appreciate the balance that these wines supply to a meal.

Tigelle (round) and Crescentine (puffy)

To go with this wine, we were brought baskets of another regional specialty, and a favorite of mine, Tigelle and Crescentine.  I’ve also seen crescentine referred to elsewhere as gnocchi fritti (literally “fried gnocchi’).  To eat these, slice them open (or pull them apart) and fill them with local meats and cheeses.  We were brought a plate of mortadella, proscuitto, and dried sausage along with a local white cheese.  I think it might have been a version of scamorza, but I couldn’t be sure.

Crescentine with cheese and meat

The fatty crescentine made the perfect, slightly doughy envelope to encase the creamy, slightly sharp cheese and the porky meat.  Fortunately, we were given a few baskets of these to devour.  At one point, a pot of plum jam, made from the fruit grown at the vineyard, was put on the table, too.  Following the lead of one of my dinner companions, I filled a corner of one of the crescentine on my plate with the jam.  The strong fruit flavors were a perfect match for the fried dough.


Sensing our interest in knowing more about the locally-produced wine, one of the people who works at the vineyard brought over to us some of their Merlot.  The flavors of the cherries for which the region is known, came through so clearly with every sip.  There were also hints of minerality as well, some from the aging in steel and some from the soil.  You can also see in the background of this photo the plate of the meats that we enjoyed with our meal.

Tiramisu alla pesca

From the more traditional dishes of Emilia-Romagna,  we ended our meal with a take on a sweet that seems to grace the menus at every Italian restaurant, some with more success than others.  The Tiramisu alla pesca (Peach Tiramisu) had big, sweet chunks of ripe fruit embedded in a creamy mascarpone filling dotted with slivers of sponge cake.  It was surprisingly light with just the right amount of richness to be a satisfying end to a great meal.


For dessert, we were also treated to a glass of another wine made from the same grapes as the Pignoletto we’d enjoyed earlier in the meal.  Passito is a sweet wine, with the grapes having been dried to concentrate their flavor, that was a perfect finish to our dinner.  It was really nice to have a chance to see the variety of wine production from this one vineyard and to be able to sample some of the varietals that they make.

In the garden

After coffee, it was time to say good-bye to Borgo delle Vigne and their wonderful hospitality.  It had been an educational and amazing meal.  The majority of the participants were Italian, some from Bologna, some who were visiting from out of town.  One couple was there from Naples, spending time in the city with their son who had studied at the University of Bologna and then had stayed in the city.  There were also a few regulars as our guide pointed out.  Several were groups of women choosing this as their “girls night out.”  I would love it if I could do dinners like this with my friends.  The next time I’m in Bologna, I definitely plan to check in with City Red Bus to see what other trips they have organized.

Buon appetito!

My Gelato Tour of Bologna

Aside from all the pasta I ate when in Bologna last week, I also consumed a large amount of gelato.  The temperatures most days were around 90-ish degrees (30+ in Centigrade).  My pasta class was quite intensive and physical and was held in a non-air conditioned environment.  My hotel also did not have AC other than in the lobby.  With a humid, sticky atmosphere both outside and in wherever I seemed to go, this was the perfect excuse to eat ice cream for dinner.

Before I left, I had done some research on the topic of where to find the best gelato in town.  There were several lists from which to draw, plus I had some recommendations from people whom I met while there.  What is really interesting, as one of my Italian classmates agreed with as well, is that when I lived and studied in Bologna many years ago, it wasn’t particularly known as having great entries in this food category.  Pasta, yes, Lasagna, yes, other great dishes, yes, but gelato, while good varieties could be found in several neighborhoods, wasn’t really considered the city’s strong suit.

Grom (Via D’Azeglio, 13)

Oh, how times have changed!  There were so many great flavors and combinations to try.  I limited myself to a two or three scoop sample at each place and, in general, steered clear of all fruit versions or completely chocolate, with one exception.  For my first cone, I decided that the local branch of Grom would be my “gateway gelato.”  On occasion, I treat myself to one of their scoops at one of their stores in New York, so I thought that they would be a good benchmark for my mission in Italy.  The Sea Salt Caramel was creamy and light on the caramel taste.  I didn’t really pick up a good hit of salt in it.  The Ricotta with Almonds (the September flavor when I was there) was rich and nutty tasting due to the ricotta.  The almonds were meaty and, I think, toasted which gave its flavor a bit more complexity.

Gelateria Gianni (Via Montegrappa, 11)

For the next stop on my tour, I didn’t have to go far from my hotel.  Gelateria Gianni was about half a block away.  They make their gelato using milk from the cows in the region around Bologna.  Like many of the places I sampled, they make all their products in-house with the highest quality ingredients available in Italy and also from around the world.  What is special about their creations is that they have traditional flavors as well as some unique special blends.  How about a little Inferno (Hell) for a steamy afternoon?  This white chocolate, cherry, wafer combination was one of my choices above.  Or  Il Sole (Sun) creamy orange gelato, with chocolate and candied Sicilian almonds, which was probably my favorite of the two.  Even the man behind the desk at the hotel said that he indulges in them “ogni tanto” (sometimes).

Il Gelatauro (Via San Vitale, 98/b)

Around the corner from the school I attended then worked at in Bologna is a gelateria that has received lots of buzz for using organic ingredients and for creating some more unusual flavors with them.  One of my former co-workers, a native Bolognese, recommended that I stop by Il Gelatauro after our meeting as well.  Knowing her culinary credentials, I figured that she would not steer me in the wrong direction.  I have to say that the Smoked Green Tea (The’ Verde Affumicato) scoop wasn’t quite my cuppa.  I prefer the taste of the version from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory instead and found this one to have an almost acrid backnote.  Their Ginger (Zenzero) flavor was more up my alley with a creamy, zingy profile that worked well with my other choice Pumpkin and Cinnamon (Zucca e Cannella).  I’ve long been a fan of pumpkin ice cream, and they pulled it off perfectly.

Cremeria Sette Chiese (Via Santo Stefano, 14/a)

While on my way to dinner on Saturday, the day I arrived in town, I passed by Cremeria Sette Chiese.  They had a gorgeous display of ice cream bars as well as large tubs of inviting flavors of gelato.  When I met one of the owners/chef, he had just come out from the “laboratorio” in the back part of the store, as they make everything on location.  I tried the Caramel version from here and found it to be all right.  What really grabbed my tastebuds, however, was the Peccato al Gola (which my on-line translator says means “Gluttony”) with a creamy base supporting the sweet red swirls of local Amarena cherries and ribbons of rich dark chocolate.  Oh my.  He said he’d like to bring his gelato to New York.  With flavors this delicious, I’d definitely queue up for it.

Stefino (Via Galliera 49/b)

On the way back from pasta class one afternoon, I decided that I’d check out a place that I’d heard some raves about. Stefino isn’t a typical shop in that they sell from a window where their selections are displayed rather than customers going into a store to see all the choices.  I heard a few other English voices ordering as well, so I have a feeling that this one has been making the rounds on a few lists.  I had the Caribe (Caribbean) with the fragrance of rum and vanilla.  My other selection was the Mediterraneo (Mediterranean) with pistachios, almonds, and pine nuts.  Both of them were creamy, cool, and refreshing.

La Sorbetteria Castiglione (Via Castiglione, 44)

Not far from where I used to live is another place about which I’d heard lots of positive things.  La Sorbetteria Castiglione has a wide range of ice cream confections, including some beautiful cakes that would be a welcome addition to any dinner.  This time, I decided to sample the Amaro Extra (Dark Chocolate) on the advice of one of my fellow pasta class participants.  The reason I don’t usually go for chocolate gelato is that I find it to be a bit gritty, as this one was on my tongue.  As another classmate explained, this is generally because cocoa powder is used instead of processed chocolate to make it.  I don’t know if that is true, but the texture didn’t make it work for me.  On the other hand, the Cremino Guglielmo with mascarpone, espresso, and raw chocolate pieces was perfectly blended and tasty.  The hit for me, however, was the Dolce Emma which combined creamy ricotta gelato with sweet-sticky caramelized figs and zesty lemon peel.

Gelateria delle Moline (Via delle Moline, 13/b)

Back towards the university district I found Gelateria delle Moline with tables full of students taking an afternoon break.  Once I made my way up to the front of the line to pick my flavors, I opted for a scoop of cool and lively Fior di Latte con Mirtilli (blueberries wrapped up in milky creaminess) and rich Delizia di Croccante (a vanilla base with chocolate and crunchy bits).  Both of these were worthy entries in the giro di gelato that I was undertaking.

Cremeria Funivia (Piazza Cavour 1/de)

The cone in the photo above looks very sad, but I assure you it was completely and wonderfully delicious.  I’d seen Cremeria Funivia mentioned as the place to go for gelato in Bologna.  Fortunately, they have a location not far from the center of town (in addition to one outside of the city’s ring road) so I could fit it into my errands.  It was hard to choose, but I got a scoop of the Cassata Siciliana which was like having cannoli cream filling in ice cream form with chunks of dark chocolate and candied orange peel embedded in a creamy ricotta gelato.  The definite winner for me was the bright pink Amarenata scoop, flavored with and colored by the local cherries.  Candied nuts studded the gelato giving it an added boost.  There were no tables to eat at outside the gelateria so I made my way to Piazza Maggiore (the main town square) to savor the gelato before it melted while sitting on the steps of the church located there.

Venchi (Via Orefici, 23)

Before my flight, I grabbed lunch at Tamburini, a well-known and well-loved stop for locally made pastas, cured meats, and cheese, as well as a spot to get a reasonably-priced hot lunch.  On the way back to grab my bags, I walked by Venchi which was across the street.  A chocolate and gelato place, I figured that I should at least try it out.  They had some of the usual flavors plus a really deep, dark chocolate option.  Instead, I went for the Tagliatelle al Vegetariano, a combination of vanilla with milk chocolate chunks and cherries in syrup in a waffle cone, which became a soupy mix in the heat.

So what was the end result of the tour?  The Peccato al Gola from Cremeria Sette Chiese was in the lead before the Amarenata from Cremeria Funivia swooped in and took over.  Another strong contender for best combination was the Zenzero and Zucca e Cannella from Il Gelatauro.  It was not that difficult of a decision to make, in the end, despite the fact that all the gelati that I tried were tasty.  It was the combination of top-quality ingredients, a great blend of taste and texture, and just amazing flavor throughout each and every bite that made the Amarenata a winner.  You know, to really be sure, I think I might need to head back over there again to work my way through another round just to double-check that I didn’t miss something.

Buon appetito!

Pasta Making Course in Italy and European Food Travels

Last week, I spent five days in an intensive pasta making course in Bologna, Italy at La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese learning how to be a “sfoglina,” or person who creates and rolls out the sheets of pasta that are the base for the delicious Italian creations that are typical of Emilia-Romagna in the north of the country.  You’ll know them by the names tortellini, tortelloni, tagliatelli, and pasta verde.  At some point, I promise I’ll string everything together, but for the moment, you can check out how it went by looking at the photo albums on my Facebook page.

Sorbetteria Castiglione in Bologna

Along the way, as it was only, oh, 90 or so degrees and sweltering each day (30+ for those of you counting in Centigrade), I took a tour of the many gelaterie in Bologna.  Those pictures are on Facebook, too.  I also uploaded them to my Foodspotting account along with several other pictures from my food adventures both in London and in Bologna.  Next week, I’ll post about all the flavors that I managed to sample and which one(s) made my list of favorites.  It was a delicious chore to undertake so I was happy to have to do so.

Lunch at Ottolenghi in London

I know that people knock dining in London, which was another stop on my trip, but there’s really a wealth of terrific places to eat and to discover.  I wrote about several of them in my post about eating around the city during my stop there in February.  It was wonderful to be able to visit some of them again and to come across other places to add to my list.  Most of all, I was able to fit in the amazing and highly-recommended afternoon tea service at Claridge’s.  I’m now going to have to figure out if I can squeeze that in for every visit I make over there.

Sunset over the West Side from my Rooftop

As much as I love to travel and see new places, or in this case to visit my old haunts, there really isn’t anywhere like home.  After two weeks away, I can’t wait to get back to the Big Apple, to my own bed, and to all the wonderful food adventures that are scheduled for this fall.  I hope you’ll continue to follow along with this site and check out my Events page as I try to keep up with as many of them as I can manage to make, discovering great new things to eat and to cook with along the way.

Buon appetito!

Italy Trip 2007 – Bologna and Venice

Not exactly a direct quote, but about 3 people emailed me the same question about the photos I emailed around from my recent trip to Italy. I guess I didn’t realize how focused I’d been on the edible delights of the places to which we went, but now flipping through my pictures, I can see that I didn’t take any of the cities we visited.

I took a few days to escape the long work weeks I’ve been having recently (hence, why the blog has been a bit dormant) to travel to Europe. I flew to London and then on to Italy, where I got to explore a foodie heaven – Bologna – and to take a couple of day trips to Florence and Venice. As I’d written about last year on my trip to New Zealand, for me, one of the most interesting things about visiting other countries is to view cultures through a culinary lens.

Kicking off our trip, we flew into Marconi Airport in Bologna, landing amid the red rooftopped houses and green fields of Emilia Romagna. To break our fast from an airport lunch of sandwiches and crisps, we started off with a typical Italian pre-dinner snack of bubbly prosecco, meaty green olives, and warm tigelle stuffed with cheese and proscuitto:

Then, we were off to a local pizzeria for dinner. Unfortunately, the photo of all the food we managed to eat was taking by another person with whom I was traveling, so I don’t have a copy of it. Suffice to say, this was nothing like the local pie you can get delivered to your door. One of my travel companions even commented as to how one could taste the oven-cooked flavor in the crust. We ended dinner with a large piece of tiramisu that took two of us to polish it off:

The next day, we took a two-hour train ride to Venice. When exiting the train station for the first time, it is one of the most incredible sites to see this city on the water. We were so lucky on this trip to have sunny, clear weather. After hopping on the vaporetto (local water taxi), we wove our way around the canals for a water’s-eye view of the great palazzi of Venice, some of which even had their own boat docks.Our destination was Piazza San Marco, the famous town square. In need of some refreshment, I suggested that we stop off for a coffee before going in search of a place for lunch. (Do you sense a theme here?) It was obvious from the crowd in the piazza, that we weren’t the only ones with the same idea.

An 8 Euro cappuccino

Along the way to lunch, taking our time to wander the narrow streets and alleyways, someone just had to have a snack. Pre-ssert anyone?

Tartufo al cioccolato

Then, we found a small, local Venetian place. One of their dishes was cuttlefish in squid ink served with polenta squares. We also had baccala (salted cod) in a creamy sauce and pasta with a seafood tomato sauce.

We spent the afternoon wandering around the city some more. Stopping in at glass shops, checking out the jewelry and other wares. I snapped a photo of some of the pasta nests (nidi) for sale as well. Hopefully, you can see the detail in the crinkly noodles.

Then, we had time for a quick caffe macchiato before hitting the train back to Bologna. Where, somehow, we ended up having more seafood for dinner!

Spaghetti with clams, mussels, parsley, and hot pepper flakes

Buon appetito!