Specialty Food Shops in the Heart of Bologna

Just off Piazza Maggiore, you’ll find a number of small streets filled with Bologna specialty food shops that are foodie heaven. This is part of the Quadrilatero and these shops are part of the food market tradition in these streets that date back to the medieval period, if not further. Small shops dedicated to top-quality Italian classic ingredients. There are the fruit and vegetable stalls, the butcher, the fishmonger, cheese, bread, chocolate, and many more variations on a foodie theme. These narrow streets are always busy, even more so during the holiday season. And yes, those are eels in the white box on the bottom right. Just one of the many types of seafood you’ll find on offer.

bologna specialty food shops Via Pescherie Vecchie

With New Year’s Eve fast approaching, we went to one of the butchers to get the ingredients for the classic lasagne that G makes. After all, that’s one of the famous dishes that traces some of its origins to this part of Italy. Emilia-Romagna lasagne is made up of ragú bolognese, bechamel, parmigiano, and the pasta sheets, which can be regular or made with spinach for a lasagne verde. Nothing else! There are other versions in the country, but this is the version most common in northern Italy. And that’s all I’ll say on that, before someone from another region complains. 😉 I love to eat Italian food, but talking or writing about it? No, thanks! Too easy to make a mistake and offend someone!

The butcher we go to is the Macelleria Agnoletto & Bignami on Via Pescherie Vecchie. Even if that wasn’t where the family usually goes, I think I would have wanted to go, just for the sign. I noticed it last week and couldn’t resist squeezing in a quick shot, despite having Charlie with me and numerous tourists and locals passing through the narrow street. I find it kind of hilarious and a brilliant design!

macelleria bologna specialty food shops

As well as the fresh meat and poultry available (just take a number to get served), there is also a selection of meats and cheeses, from the obvious parmigiano to bresaola, mortadella, and other charcuterie classics. Plus, wines, olive oils, sauces, and so much more.

bologna specialty food shops Via Pescherie Vecchie

bologna specialty food shops Via Pescherie Vecchie

bologna specialty food shops Via Pescherie Vecchie

These aren’t necessarily the most affordable shops, but you do get a broader selection than in the local grocery stores. There are also shops where you can buy some lovely pasta, as well. We were considering some tortellini, but that might have to wait for later into the new year.

Whether you’re purchasing for a special occasion, taking advantage of having a kitchen in an AirBnB place, or just want to window shop, there are plenty of Bologna specialty food shops to tempt you in the Quadrilatero. Some day, I may even get some decent photos, instead of really quick snaps between all of the shoppers. A new year’s resolution, perhaps. For now, a few more snaps along Via Pescherie Vecchie.

bologna specialty food shops Via Pescherie Vecchie
bologna specialty food shops Via Pescherie Vecchie
bologna specialty food shops Via Pescherie Vecchie

The French Christmas Market … in Italy.

christmas market
Along with the regular markets taking place throughout the week, a new influx of holiday markets has arrived. Some have come and gone, while others hold out through the new year. Some are purely Italian, while others have a more foreign flavor. Once such market is il villaggio di natale francese, the French Christmas Village. This little Christmas market has packed up and said au revoir for the season, but we managed to stop by for a quick visit on its last night in town.

The market took place in the Piazza Minghetti, which is a charming little square surrounded by some beautiful, classical-style buildings. It’s also just a short walk from some of the fanciest shops in town, as well as some of the most beautifully decorated portico ceilings in the city. While the stalls weren’t excessive in number, they were certainly picturesque. They reminded me of some of the wooden Christmas market stalls that were set up frequently in Utrecht for some of the festivities in recent years. All that was missing was a light dusting of snow and some reindeer for a pure holiday display.

christmas market bologna piazza minghetti

The stalls themselves sold a variety of wares, including a spice stall that had me seriously considering buying some pink pepercorns and some of the various curry spice blends they had on offer. Of course, there was also plenty of cheese, hats, fabric pieces, chocolates, macarons, decorations, and other odds and ends. You could also purchase drinks and food to enjoy right there. I do slightly regret not giving in and trying some of the numerous hot dishes, including the cassoulet. Everything smelled divine and my mouth was watering.

The one stall I ended up not being able to resist was the cookie/biscuit stall. Sure, they had the classic madeleines, but they also had macaroons, which are delicious mounds of lightly sweetened shredded coconut on a biscuity base, with drizzles of chocolate. For my fellow Americans, think of a fancier, bigger version of the beloved Girl Scout Samoa/Caramel deLite cookies. They are perfect and I’m so glad I gave in and got some. In fact, I bought four, just enough to allow me one a day through Christmas. They are my morning treat with my coffee, a perfect combination.
christmas market cookie biscuit stall bologna

christmas market cookies samoa coconut girl scouts bologna

We missed the elves, which a friend told me about, but in all, I’m glad we stopped by this little bit of France in Bologna. It was the perfect size; big enough to be appealing rather than overwhelming.

There are a few more Christmas markets in Bologna that I’d like to visit (or revisit, in one case) before the end of the holiday season. Whether I make it or not, at least I’ve seen a couple that are helping me get into the holiday spirit.
Joyeux Noël!

christmas market bologna french

christmas market bologna italy

The Italian Connection #DolceVitaBloggers

The internet is a wonderful thing. Sure it has its downsides, but when you find yourself moving to a new city or country, it can become a wonderful resource and a way to make new friends and connections. In the end, it can also lead you to find that special someone in your life, as it did for me. Today, thanks to some of those online connections I’ve started to make here in Italy, I’ve been invited to take part in the first #DolceVitaBloggers link-up organized by Kelly, Jasmine, and Kristie. The first theme is the Italian Connection, how each blogger has found themselves with a connection to this fascinating country.

Italian Introduction

My connection started off purely academic. I was at university studying art history and had to take a course on Italian Renaissance art and architecture. At first, I wasn’t particularly excited, as my interest at the time lay in Gothic architecture. My expectation was a class full of pictures of naked little chubby baby angels fluttering about. Meh. Fortunately, I was oh so wrong!DolceVitaBloggers renaissance art

I ended up falling in love with the art of the Italian Renaissance. All of that symbolism, iconography, and those colors and forms! The faces full of drama and passion and pathos! I still get a thrill when I get to see a work in person that I remember studying. It’s like seeing an old friend you haven’t seen in ages! All of the emotions come rushing back.

I did also end up falling in love with the architecture. Give me some rustication, alternating curved and triangular pediments, columns, keystones, pilasters, decorated cornices, and quoins and I’m positively giddy. Probably a bit annoying, too, if you’re walking with me in any Italian city and having to stop constantly for me to admire some little architectural bit here and there or when I suddenly cry out, “Ohhh!” upon stumbling across a building I hadn’t been expecting. Not quite When Harry Met Sally levels of ecstasy, but you get the idea.

#DolceVitaBloggers alberti mantova church architecture
The unexpected joy of coming across Alberti’s Basilica di Sant’Andrea in Mantova.
Basilica di sant'andrea mantova alberti architecture
Look at that coffered ceiling in the entrance arch!

Sono Una Tifosa

Unfortunately, I’d come to my love of Italian art and architecture a bit late in my academic career and didn’t end up studying the Italian language at the time. But I was becoming a full-on Italophile, furthered by the Wold Cup taking place the year I graduated. I was cheering on Italy throughout the tournament and they went all the way to the finals! Then there was a penalty kick shoot-out that went horribly wrong and we won’t mention that any more.

Eventually, I started following Serie A, Italian calcio (soccer/football), thanks to the Internet and some international newspapers and magazines I could find at one of the big bookstores. I started trying to learn Italian on my own and could occasionally catch an episode of TG1 (evening news) on cable tv late at night. I eventually signed up to take Italian 101 at the local university, which was hugely helpful. I had also started exchanging emails with someone in Italy, so I was able to practice my Italian regularly.

By the time I finally organized my first trip to Italy, I was able to get by with the basics, had some fun conversations that were a mix of Italian and English, saw some works of art and architecture I’d been dying to see, and even got to go to an Inter-Milan derby at San Siro.

Love Connection

In 2000, I moved to New York City, when my job moved there. After some really lousy dates, I decided to give Internet dating a shot. It was new and a little weird, but hey, it couldn’t really be worse than some of the other dates I’d been on. In the end, I actually met a few really nice people. One, in particular, stood out, and he just happened to be Italian.#DolceVitaBloggers amore

Certainly, the fact that I knew something about Italy and knew a tiny bit of the language helped us connect, but we hit it off anyway, talking for more than five hours on our first date. I knew he was a keeper when he surprised me one day with the gift of a book. It was one of his favorites, Ocean Sea, by Alessandro Baricco (in English, though).

Sixteen years later, we’re still together and we’re now living in his hometown, Bologna. I get to indulge in my love of Italian architecture — and Bologna is particularly stunning with all of the portici. I’m also trying to remember and relearn all of the Italian that I once knew and have forgotten. I think official classes will be part of the plan in 2018. We spent nearly the last nine years in the Netherlands, so I’m currently speaking a mishmash of Italian and Dutch. I’m never quite sure what’s going to come out.

As well as learning the language, there are other adjustments to be made. But I’ve assimilated more than enough to now recoil in horror about the wrongness of spaghetti bolognese like a true native of Bologna!

trattoria serghei restaurants in bologna italy tagliatelle al ragu tortellini in brodo
Tagliatelle al ragú, as it should be!

Are you an Italophile or simply have your own Italian connection? Check out the other blogs being posted today and check out the #DolceVitaBloggers. There are seemingly endless types of pasta and surely just as many personal Italian connections.

 

Homemade Eggnog and Holiday Spirits

Is it December already? In an attempt to get into the holiday spirit, it’s time to break out the spirits — and the homemade eggnog recipe that is a good excuse for the spirits. I’ve certainly adapted to some of the Italian Christmas traditions, such as panettone and pandoro, and I’m looking forward to the Christmas feast, but I still have my own traditions I like to indulge in to make it feel like home, no matter where I’m living.

homemade eggnog recipe

Years ago, in the Netherlands, after suffering through two whole Christmases without eggnog, I finally broke down and worked up my own recipe after combining bits and pieces of other recipes I found online. I made my own eggnog once before, but that was when I was little and trying out my first cookbook, Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls. Eventually I found a couple of recipes that didn’t call for crazy amounts of sugar or fancy techniques and I created my own mashup with a few tweaks. I’ve been using it now for the past seven years and while I occasionally let it cook a little too long — it just gets a bit custardy — it’s always drinkable and copious amounts of rum (or bourbon or brandy or your tipple of choice) makes it all go down easy and will thin it out if you make it too thick.

Even in the US, I only drank eggnog on the day I decorated the Christmas tree and that tradition remains. I put some Christmas tunes on, break out all the old decorations that have travelled with me from state to state and country to country, get a bit tipsy on eggnog, and by the end I’m feeling the holiday spirit. Well, that might be the alcoholic spirits, too, but a tree full of lights and decorations that are full of memories and meaning for me does make me start to feel a bit more like the winter holidays are upon us. Oh, and my favorite bit is somewhere in the middle of the decorating when Elvis’ Blue Christmas comes on. For some reason, it has become a tradition that when that song comes on, I grab Lola and we start to dance. I love it. Her opinion is still out.
Merry Freakin' Christmas

So, whether you’re in the US and just want to try your hand at making your own eggnog or you’re overseas and don’t have easy access, here’s my one-pot, easy, homemade eggnog recipe. Oh, and if you want to avoid a film forming over the top while it cools, just rest some plastic wrap on the surface. Enjoy!

flamingo homemade eggnog recipe expat life

 

 

I found okra in Bologna!

Seriously, y’all, today was not the best of days, but we finally stopped in at a new world supermarket that has opened on Via del Borgo di San Pietro. It’s a new shop and there’s space on the shelves still to fill, but there’s definitely some interesting stuff to be had there. But when I saw the refrigerated vegetable section, small as it may be, I couldn’t help but start dancing and boogy-ing. They had okra! And not just small bags of it. Big boxes of the stuff! After I had my moment of celebration, I was soon throwing handfuls into a bag G had found for me.

Okra Bologna Mondo Nuovo Supermarket via del borgo di san pietro

Growing up, I was not a fan of okra. Too slimy. Or at least, that’s what I’d heard, so I never really even tried it. But as I got older, I became much more food adventurous — for the record, I’ve tried durian and didn’t gag — and soon came to love okra in any form. Even just pan cooked, which is when it can get the texture that puts people off.

I was lucky enough to find one store and a Saturday market stall in Utrecht that sold it, but I wasn’t sure I’d have much luck here. Thus my excited reaction when I saw it today. Best of all, we had already picked up some polenta the other day to make cornbread (it’s close enough), so I figure I’ll add a light touch of cornmeal/polenta and have fried okra tonight. Always a classic! After I talk to my dad to find out how he made it for me last time I was home, though.

The reason I made cornbread this week is because today is Thanksgiving in the US. Gotta have cornbread dressing! However, for various reasons — the main one being that I thought Thanksgiving was next week — we’ll be celebrating tomorrow. But that’s ok, the giblet gravy is simmering away right now and we’ve got enough turkey to feed the whole building. I’ll be having turkey sandwiches for weeks, which is fine, because that’s one of the best parts of Thanksgiving. And until tomorrow, I’ve got some fried okra for dinner tonight to tide me over. Oh, and the stews and gumbo that I’ll be able to make this winter! Happy days!

So to anyone in Bologna looking for okra and some other less common world-food items, check out the Mondo Nuovo Supermarket on Via del Borgo, not too far down from Via Irnerio. Please keep them busy and in business, no matter what you purchase. I don’t want to lose my okra source!

Okra Bologna Mondo Nuovo Supermarket via del borgo di san pietro

Okra Bologna Mondo Nuovo Supermarket via del borgo di san pietro

Food on the Move: A Bologna Street Food Festival

Parco della Montagnola, Charlie’s go-to dog park, is the home of Sapori in Movimento, the Bologna Street Food Festival taking place this weekend. This three-day feast has a fun mix of foods on offer from vegetarian to full-on carnivore. There are also events for the kids during the day and the park itself is just a great place to hang out and chat with friends.

bologna street food festival sapori in movimento

Friday, when the festival started, was unbelievably hot and I feel for everyone who had to be there, especially cooking! Saturday was considerably cooler, though we still waited to stop by in the evening. We’d already eaten, but we took a wander around the park, enjoyed a beer at Clandestino, the new seasonal beer garden, and then chatted with some dog-park acquaintances (their dog is our dog Charlie’s BFF). They also happen to be involved in the organization of the event and the promotion and betterment of the park in general. It was a nice evening out and despite having eaten, the smells permeating the park had me drooling. Charlie showed incredible restraint! He’s such a good boy.

Some of the food available to tempt an array of palates includes crepes, buffalo sausages, and zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and truffle. The line for Porcobrado, which serves up a special type of pig from Tuscany with its own DOP (protected designation of origin) status, was one of the longest lines we saw, though everyone seemed to be doing brisk business. Every sign I saw sounded tempting and, as I said, the aromas filling the park were mouth watering.

porcobrado bologn street food festival

If you’re in town, you can still make it in time to enjoy the new Bologna street food festival. It runs until just before midnight tonight and is worth a visit. Go for an aperitivo, go for dinner, go for dessert, go for drinks. Go just to see the car converted into a grill. Just go!

bologna street food festival sapori in movimento bologna street food festival sapori in movimento

bologna street food festival sapori in movimento

Clandestino, the new beer garden that also serves food (and more than just beer). It remains through the summer.

bologna street food festival sapori in movimento clandestino beer garden

Our Dutch dog wanted a biertje of his own. Sorry, Charlie!

bologna street food festival sapori in movimento clandestino beer garden dog

bologna street food festival sapori in movimento

 

 

Birthday Dinner at Trattoria Serghei

My birthday was this week and that seemed as good an excuse as any to go to dinner at a traditional Bolognese restaurant. After all, la grassa is home to some of the best of Italian cuisine. I had bookmarked an article about some of the restaurants in Bologna that the blogger/professional foodie Curious Appetite had suggested, and G was busy doing his own research. In the end, we decided on Trattoria Serghei on Via Piella. I couldn’t be happier.

After a couple of pre-dinner drinks at Bella Vita near Piazza Maggiore, we took a leisurely walk to Trattoria Serghei and arrived just as they were opening the doors. We’d made a reservation, which I recommend as the restaurant is very small and has maybe 10 tables at best. The decor isn’t trendy, but it does feel a bit like a family dining room and that seems appropriate, as it is a family-run business.

trattoria serghei restaurants in bologna italy

trattoria serghei restaurants in bologna italy

[Speaking of which, despite the name, no, it’s not a Russian family. As I’ve mentioned before, Bologna has a history of communism, though far removed from Soviet communism and not as prevalent now. However, as a result, it’s not completely unheard of to find people with Russian first names or pro-worker ideological names. But anyway, back to the dinner …]

We had already looked at some of the menu options while deciding on which restaurant to try, so we had an idea of what we wanted to order. As we’d been walking over, we’d been debating whether to try the tortellini in brodo and the tagliatelle al ragú or whether to branch out and try something a little different for the first course. After all, those are two of the staples of Bolognese pasta dishes. Although tempted by quite a few other dishes, in the end, we did go with the classics, with G getting the tortellini while I got the tagliatelle. As it turned out, they were excellent choices.

trattoria serghei restaurants in bologna italy tagliatelle al ragu tortellini in brodo

My tagliatelle was much as G makes it — and his is excellent — but thanks to the quality of the ingredients, it was particularly tasty. Full of rich flavor! We’ve been noticing the difference in even the simplest of ingredients since moving here. Just about everything seems to have more flavor. It’s not just great recipes, it’s great ingredients that make many of Italy’s rather simple dishes taste so exceptional. It also means that things will never quite taste the same outside of Italy.

G’s tortellini were equally excellent. The broth had plenty of rich flavor without being overwhelming, and the tortellini were properly al dente and you could really taste the meat in the filling, despite the tiny size. The Bolognese take this dish seriously and G was suitably impressed.

The broth for the tortellini is made from a mix of cuts of meat, and those cuts of meat that have been boiled to make the broth are also eaten. They’re known as bollito misto and are typically served thinly sliced with a green sauce. G’s family does something similar for Christmas and that was the dish that we both wanted for our secondo or main dish. We were both set on that, despite some of the other great offerings. So when it came time to order it, you can imagine how disappointed we were when Serghei said they were out of it. They only make it a couple of times a week and it sells out quickly. *sigh*

Fortunately, they did have the stinco di maiale, essentially a pork shank. That had been my second choice anyway, so we both ended up ordering that. As we waited — though not for long — G was lamenting the lack of bollito misto. He was this close to wailing and gnashing of teeth! Before he started rending his garments, the stinco came and with the first bite, I was in heaven. So tender! So flavorful! Not at all dry. Perfection! My picture doesn’t do it justice, as I essentially got it from the wrong side, but by the end, I was wishing I could start gnawing on the bones to get any last little bits off and then lick the plate like my dog Charlie. I didn’t want to miss a single morsel or drop. As it is, the meat was so tender that it all came off pretty easily and I didn’t really miss anything.

trattoria serghei restaurants in bologna italy stinci di maiale pork shank

To go with dinner, we ordered a bottle of the Donati Teroldego Rotaliano, which is one of G’s favorites. His family has been buying from that maker for years and it went perfectly with all of our dishes.

trattoria serghei restaurants in bologna italy marco donati teroldego rotaliano

In the end, we decided to skip dessert, as we had a cake and some sparkling wine waiting for us at home, but the next time we go, we’ll try one of the desserts as well. We’ll also make sure they have the bollito misto and reserve two orders, just to be on the safe side. After all, if what we had is any indication, the bollito is sure to be fantstic.

If you’re visiting Bologna and want to try an authentic meal from the region, I highly recommend visiting Trattoria Serghei. It’s affordable, delicious, and the menu is in Italian and English (and at least some of the staff speaks English from what I heard).

And now I’m feeling really hungry …

Foto Friday: Cin Cin

drinks aperitivo fabrik bologna

Yay! It’s Friday! Though as a freelance writer, that doesn’t really mean much to me. I’ll be working part of the weekend, though I’m hoping to make it to The Garage Urban Market on Sunday. But still, it is Friday and it’s hard not to feel a little celebratory.

The other week, we stopped at Fabrik for an aperitivo before dinner. They had a decent prosecco and gratis olives and nibbles that were a nice accompaniment, particularly the olives. We sat outside, but the inside looks pretty stylish yet comfortable, and G has already been back to meetup with a friend. It’s also a fun spot for dog watching, although I think most of Bologna is good for dog watching. Dogs of all sizes and breeds are regularly out with their owners for a passeggiata or on their way somewhere. Dog lovers that we are, we can’t help but admire every one we see.

I think tonight we’ll be enjoying our aperitivo at home with our own adorable cane and gatti, but whatever your plans, I hope you enjoy your evening and weekend.

fabrik bologna aperitivo drinks

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Mardi Gras(sa)

Happy Mardi Gras, y’all! Today I find myself thinking a bit about New Orleans and Italy, as well as the nicknames of Bologna: la dotta, la grassa, e la rossa. La dotta, meaning learned one, stems from Bologna being the home of the oldest Western university. La grassa, or the fat one, is thanks to the city’s famously delicious cuisine. La rossa, the red, typically refers to the red roof tiles that cover so much of the city, though the city’s sometimes communist tendencies have occasionally tied in to la rossa, as well.

Lessons Learned

It may have been decades *ahem* years since I last lived in New Orleans, but I will never not love that city. After all, it is often referred to as the most European of all the American cities. I lived there while I was a student at Tulane University, getting my degree in the history of art and trying to become a bit more dotta. It was there that I particularly fell in love with the Italian Renaissance and its architecture.

Italy and New Orleans are all tied up together in my mind in some ways. Such as running under the live oaks on the way to my Renaissance Architecture course to turn in my big paper on rustication that my professor ended up liking so much he asked for a copy. Squeeeeeee! That same professor lived and worked here in Bologna off and on over the years.

Fat Tuesday

I may not be Catholic, or even religious, but between studying so much Italian Renaissance art, as well as living in New Orleans and having a lot of Catholic friends over the years, I’ve learned some of the Catholic traditions, and such. One of which, is Carnevale. It’s not a big deal here in Bologna, the way it is in Venice or New Orleans, but there are still some traditions. In New Orleans, you’ve got King Cake to turn you grassa, because it’s everywhere and absolutely delicious. Here in Bologna, there’s another sweet treat during the season: sfrappole. Sfrappole are thin bits of fried dough coated in powdered sugar and they’re pretty addictive. It’s a common treat during the period leading up to Lent. You’ll find piles of it everywhere from local cafés to the grocery store. Not that it’s purely Italian or even from this region. There are variations found in multiple countries and numerous names even within each country.

mardi gras bologna

Seeing Red

When I get to la rossa, that’s when the comparisons fall apart. The colors I associate with New Orleans, particularly during this time of year, are yellow/gold, green, and purple. Though I suppose there are quite a few red eyes the next morning during the season from staying up late and partying. But for what it’s worth, while writing all of this nostalgic meandering, I have been looking out onto some of the red roofs of Bologna. They’re a nice pop of color on what it turning out to be a grey day.

But returning to la grassa for a moment … I thought about making some gumbo today, but I really like okra in my gumbo and I haven’t found any yet. Does anyone know if there are any shops that sell it here in Bologna? I found it in Utrecht, so I hold out some hope of finding it here. A girl can dream …

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