- 2foodtrippers Bologna Food Guide
- Quick Bites
- Aperitivo Bars / Salumerias
- Food Experiences
- Further Afield
- Research Bologna Hotels
- Book a Tour
- Buy a Travel Guide
Curious about what and where to eat in Bologna Italy? Check out our Bologna Food Guide with our favorite restaurants and cafes in Italy’s most gastronomic city.
Have you been to Bologna?
Many American tourists focus their Italy travels on the ancient city of Rome, the artistic city of Florence and the watery city of Venice. Others spend time drinking wine it the rolling hills of Tuscany. But not so many venture to Bologna. With the recent opening of FICO Eataly World, this situation may be changing as travelers discover the gastronomic charms of Bologna, one of Italy’s major transportation hubs. Yes, Bologna is a city where you can eat well and then get a train or plane to almost anywhere.
We first visited Bologna seven years ago. After stays in the more touristed cities of Rome and Florence, we opted to skip Venice, the third city in the Italian tourism trifecta, and instead headed to the more food-focused Bologna. Any city known as “La Grassa” (the Fat One) intrigued us for its nickname alone. Bologna is the center of the Emilia-Romagna food culture where such great products as Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Mortadella meet and, most important, the city is THE place to eat hand rolled, fresh pasta served along with complex, meat-laden ragus known around the world as bolognese sauce.
As Italy’s main rail hub and home to Europe’s oldest university, Bologna is a crossroads of culture that spans Italy’s long geographic boot. Restaurants have begun to attract chefs from as far away as Campania and Puglia. These chefs putting an exciting new stamp on some Bologna classics like Tagliatelle al Ragu and Lasagna Verde al Forno.
During our initial visit, we connected with Bologna and its tasty food selection as well as the city’s rich history and architectural beauty. As we strolled through the city’s maze of ancient porticoes while licking cones stuffed with gelato, we vowed to return to the city one day for many reasons but most of all for the food. It took us seven years, but we finally made it back. To our pleasant surprise, the Bologna cuisine is even better than we remembered.
Bologna Food – More than Ragu
Blessed by its geographic placement in Emilia Romagna, one of Italy’s major food regions, Bologna has some of the country’s best cuisine… and lots of it. Streets in the center of town are hectic all day and night, though the city comes alive in the early evening when cafes fill with locals sharing plates topped with locally produced meats and cheeses. We’re talking about Prosciutto from Parma, Coppa from Piacenza and Parmigiano Reggiano from Modena. And the wine! Local favorites include Sangiovese, Pignoletto and the classic red sparkler Lambrusco. Unlike the swill available in grocery stores around the world, the Lambrusco produced in Emilia Romagna pairs perfectly with Bologna’s hearty pasta fare.
Speaking of pasta, Bologna is the epicenter of freshly prepared pasta. Bologna restaurants serve all types of pasta but local favorites include Tagliatelle al Ragu, Gramigna with Sausage, Lasagna Verdi al Forno and Tortellini in Brodo. For the uninitiated, Tortellini in Brodo consists of small handmade dumplings served with a rich, meaty broth. Trust us – this dish alone is worth a trip to Bologna.
And it’s not just restaurants. You can buy pasta from local pasta pros named sfoglinas to eat later and, if you’re ambitious, you can even take a pasta class and learn how to make it yourself. Although it’s fun to make your own pasta, we recommend buying freshly made pasta and cooking it up at your short stay Bologna holiday apartment. Even better, you can also buy ragu (made by the sfoglinas, of course) to go with the pasta – a true time saver while you’re on a Bologna holiday.
2foodtrippers Bologna Food Guide
We dined at some of the most popular Bologna restaurants and found some hidden gems during our three-week stay in Bologna. We also took pasta-making classes and indulged in leisurely aperitivo sessions. Every time we thought we had eaten the best Bolognese pasta, we found even better pasta. Such is the food scene in Bologna.
Places to eat in Bologna skew on the casual side with diners enjoying long meals often involving heaping plates of fresh pasta and carafes of local wine. As a bonus, the prices at the best restaurants in Bologna tend to be reasonable with a few exceptions, namely upscale restaurants like Diana and I Portici that cater to business travelers and those celebrating special occasions. As for us, these are our favorite Bologna restaurants:
Trattoria di Via Serra
If you think that all trattorias are created equal, then Trattoria di Via Serra will convince you otherwise. Helmed by slow food acolytes Flavio Benassi and Chef Tommaso Maio, this trattoria serves superior pasta dishes along with an exciting range of Bologna Italy food options that create surprise and delight with every bite. Don’t be fooled by its off-center location near the train station, Trattoria di Via Serra is a must visit Bologna restaurant.
Benassi, who manages the restaurant’s dining room like a well-oiled machine, greeted us like old friends and then patiently walked us through the menu, explaining how the restaurant procures its ingredients from local producers, many located in small mountain towns near Bologna. Since we were dining with friends, we ordered a range of primi plates (starters) and secondi plates (main courses) to share. Via Serra’s gramigna dish with its distinctly flavored local pork was notably different than the gramignas we enjoyed throughout Bologna. We also loved the salumi plate as well as the basket of crescenti tra le tigelle served with mountain pesto.
Trattoria di Via Serra is located at Via Luigi Serra, 9/b, 40129 Bologna BO, Italy. The restaurant has earned a Michelin Bib Gourmand rating.
Osteria al 15
Cosy and decorated with a kitschy decor, Osteria al 15 is the neighborhood tavern of our dreams. Located in the Via Mirasole neighborhood, Osteria 15 serves classic Bolognese dishes at reasonable prices and in generous portions.
We started our meal by sharing a plate of Crescentine (fried bread) and Squacquerone (soft cheese from Emilia Romagna). The dish conveyed the rich, decadent, melt in your mouth flavors we crave in Bologna. Our secondi plates, Tagliatelle al Ragu and a generous slab of Lasagna, surprised us with their execution and sophisticated mouth feel. The tagliatelle, though cooked, still maintained a pillow-like texture. Osteria al 15 also offers desserts like tiramisù and pannacotta just in case you have any room after a day of consuming cornetti, salumi and gelato.
Osteria Al 15 is located at Via Mirasole, 13, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy.
Unlike many of the top restaurants in Bologna Italy, tiny Sette Tavoli offers cuisine with origins beyond the Emilia Romagna borders. Chef Marco Spanghero offers a rotating menu that spans Italy’s many regions like Campania, Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria.
After starting our meal with a selection of cured meats, we plowed into a range of pasta dishes including the “Super Spaghettone” Verrigni with Langoustine and Mullet Bottarga pictured above. We managed to save just enough room for a light dessert of Pannacotta made with basil, strawberry sauce and fresh mint – an odd flavor combination that worked.
Sette Tavoli is located at Via Cartoleria, 15/2, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy.
Not every meal needs to be an epic event, which is how we ended up at Osteria Broccaindosso on a night when we wanted a casual meal filled with pasta and red wine. After settling into a corner table, we ordered classic pasta dishes and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from Veneto.
As we ate our generous portions of gramigna and tortelloni, we enjoyed a bit of voyeurism while observing our fellow diners including a group of young women sharing salads and spirited conversation. With a welcoming and convivial vibe, the restaurant made us comfortable while we indulged in some Bologna pasta classics.
Osteria Broccaindosso is located at Via Broccaindosso, 7/A, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy.
Trattoria del Rosso
A visit to Bologna would be incomplete without trying Tortellini in Brodo at least once, even in summer. We satisfied this requirement at Trattoria del Rosso, a cheap and cheerful restaurant in the city center. Reputed to be the oldest trattoria in town, Trattoria del Rosso serves a range of local pastas and other regional favorites.
Trattoria del Rosso is located at Via Augusto Righi, 30, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy.
We mentioned that Bologna’s dining scene is mostly casual, with most diners opting for pasta for part of their meal if not for the entire meal. In Bologna, this situation is not a sacrifice. Saving money for wine = winning!
Pasta Fresca Naldi
Open since 1985, Pasta Fresca Naldi is one of the most popular pasta shops in Bologna thanks to owner Valeria Nardi’s commitment to freshly prepared pasta at reasonable prices. Although Nardi’s shop serves a variety of pasta meals there are no tables. Everything is sold on a takeaway basis.
Pasta Fresca Naldi is located at Via del Pratello, 69, 40122 Bologna BO, Italy.
Located across the street from Pasta Fresca Naldi, MozzaBella is serving the best pizza in Bologna with an exciting selection of gourmet toppings. The rectangular al taglio style reminded us of pizzerias we enjoyed in Strasbourg and Bucharest, but the ingredients at MozzaBella are pure Emilia Romagna. We especially liked the Mortadella, Parma Ham and Yellow Tomato toppings. For full enjoyment, pair the pizza with a cold, refreshing Menebrea craft beer.
MozzaBella is located at Via del Pratello, 65, 40122 Bologna BO, Italy.
Open since 1996 and located behind Bologna’s best market, Mercato delle Erbe, Le Sfogline is a pasta institution. Sisters Daniela and Monica Venturi prepare their pasta by hand, only using machines to stretch the dough. Lucky enough to have learned how to make pasta as young girls, they are now skilled enough to make 24 tortellini in a minute – not an easy task.
The shop is busy all day long with locals bringing in their babies and leaving with bags of pasta and, in some cases, pints of ragu. Tourists also stream into the shop, lured by positive word of mouth and the shop’s spread in Long Weekends, Rick Stein’s gorgeous cookbook.
Le Sfogline is located at Via Belvedere, 7, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy.
Pizzeria da Totò
We once met a Romanian couple who didn’t like Italian pizza since, in their opinion, it doesn’t have enough toppings. That couple would like the Bolognese pizza at Pizzeria da Totò, a sprawling Bologna pizzeria with a menu that has a lot of topping options. Though not the best pizza we’ve eaten in Italy or even Bologna, Pizzeria da Totò is a solid choice if you’re looking for a cheap, filling meal outside of the city center.
Pizzeria da Totò is located at Via S. Rocco, 7, 40122 Bologna BO, Italy.
Although Ca’ Peletti has a full menu featuring pastas and desserts, we like the Centro Historico’s cafe’s Mortadella Panini for a quick snack or light lunch. In our opinion, there’s no better place to eat Mortadella, Bologna’s signature pork product dating back to the 17th century, than in the city of Bologna.
Ca’ Peletti is located at Via Altabella, 15 C/D, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy.
Aperitivo Bars / Salumerias
The streets of Bologna come alive when the day turns to night as that’s when locals stream to cafes and bars to share aperitivo with their friends and loved ones. An aperitivo is technically a pre-dinner drink, but, in Bologna, the aperitvo is a social activity that involves food and drinks. What can be better than that?!
The corner of Via Drapperie and Via Pescherie is the epicenter of the Bologna aperitivo scene, and that’s where you’ll find Salumeria Simoni, a Bologna fixture since 1960. Aperitivo fans fill the shop and spill on the sidewalks every day where they enjoy plates with Emilia Romagna products like Mortadella, Cicioli, Culatello, Ham and the king of cheese – Parmigiano Reggiano along with other local favorites.
Salumeria Simoni is located at Via Drapperie, 5/2a, 40100 Bologna BO, Italy.
Located around the corner from Simoni in Bologna’s Quadrilatero, Tamburini is another classic aperitivo spot where locals meet friends for drinks and a pre-dinner meal. Tourists also flock to Tamburini to try the scintillating variety of Emilia Romagna meats and cheeses that the shop has been selling since 1932.
Tamburini is located at via 40124, Via Caprarie, 1, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy.
Considering the pervasive prevalence of pasta in Bologna, you might think that desserts are not a big deal in the northern Italian city, but you would be wrong. It is the fat city after all! Bologna desserts include Zuppa Inglese, inspired by the English trifle and similar to tiramisu, as well as traditional cookies like Raviole and Pinza. The Torta di Riso (rice cake) is another popular Bologna dessert, but none of these compare to Bologna’s greatest sweet treat – gelato.
We could have eaten a cone of gelato every day in Bologna … so we did just that. We alternated our visits to the best gelaterias in the world including Cremeria Santo Stefano, Galliera 49, Stefino, Cremeria Funivia, Gelatauro and Sorbetteria Castiglione.
Cremeria Santo Stephano is located at Via Santo Stefano, 70, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy.
Galliera 49 is located at Via Galliera, 49/b, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy.
Stephino is located at Via S. Vitale, 37, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy.
Cremeria Funivia is located at Via Porrettana, 158/4d, 40135 Bologna BO, Italy.
Gelatauro is located at Via San Vitale, 98/b, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy.
Sorbetteria Castiglione is located at Via Castiglione, 44 d/e, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy.
Finding a good cup of coffee in Italy can be a challenge for lovers of third wave coffee since the art of drinking coffee is unique in the country that invented the cappuccino and espresso. We drank a lot of coffee around Bologna from tony cafes on the Piazza Maggiore to trendy student cafes. At the end of the day, these are our favorite spots to drink coffee in Bologna:
At first glance, Caffè Terzi looks like a typical Italian cafe with its long bar filled with locals quickly drinking shots of espresso. However, this popular cafe near the city center takes its coffee to the next level by offering a global selection of beans. Trained baristas carefully prepare the drinks, shaving orange peel into some and coffee flakes into others.
Caffè Terzi is located at Via Guglielmo Oberdan, 10/d, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy.
Voted the sixth best cafe in Italy, Aroma serves single origin specialty coffee drinks like the Cappuccino Melange with vanilla or cinnamon, the Caffé allo Zabione with artisan eggnog and cocoa powder and the Caffe Diordilatte with artisan pannacotta. If you want a more simple coffee, the baristas at Aroma also serve coffees brewed with alternative extraction methods such as French Press, V60 and Aeropress.
Aroma is located at Via Porta Nova, 12/b, 40123 Bologna BO, Italy.
Taking the Bologna coffee scene to the 21st century, Pappare serves coffee with a side of internet, not a given in Bologna. We loved the modern cafe’s airy space and dessert selection but appreciated the coffee and free WIFI even more. In addition to coffee, Pappare serves a selection of cafe fare including options for Vegetarians and Vegans.
Pappare is located at Via De’ Giudei, 2, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy.
Bologna offers a slew of food experiences for visitors. The most obvious choice is to take a pasta class at Le Sfoglione (see above) or with a Bologna local like Davide Labanti. Another fun food experience is to take a Bologna food tour with a reputable tour company like Yummy Italy. For the adventurous food traveler, we recommend a Vespa tour of the Bologna hills with Travelhoo.
Watch our video to see us learn how to make tortellini in Bologna.
Time permitted, plan to spend a day in nearby Modena for the ultimate Emilia food experiences of tasting Parmigiano Reggiano, Balsamic Vinegar and Prosciutto di Modena at artisan factories where they are produced. You can then also a self-guided Master of None tour in the city. If you haven’t watched the first two seasons of the Aziz Ansari show – watch them now.
As is the case in much of Europe, markets in Bologna are a great place to buy produce and connect with locals. Farmers bring their wares to Bologna from nearby towns, resulting in a vast selection of local, seasonal products at reasonable costs.
Mercato Delle Erbe
Although Mercato delle Erbe is historically a vegetable market, vendors at the largest market in Bologna also sell fruit, meat, wine and prepared foods. Part of the market is now a food court with tables where visitors can enjoy a quick lunch or longer aperitivo. Though tourists are welcome at this covered market, most of the market’s shoppers are locals buying supplies for their next meal.
Mercato delle Erbe is located Via Ugo Bassi, 25, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy.
Though it’s the biggest Bologna food market, Mercato delle Erbe is not the only game in town. Other recommended markets include Mercato di Mezzo near Piazza Maggiore and Mercato della Terra operated by denizens of the Slow Food movement.
Mercato di Mezzo is located at Via Clavature, 12, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy.
Mercato della Terra is located at Via Azzo Gardino, 65, 40122 Bologna BO, Italy.
As a transportation hub, Bologna makes a great base for exploring Emilia Romagna and its many food experiences. Here are a few that you shouldn’t miss.
Even if you don’t stay at an agriturismo, you can eat a meal at one like we did at DonnaLivia. In addition to serving meals made with locally produced products, DonnaLivia also offers tastings of the olive oil and wine that it produces on the premises.
Agriturismo DonnaLivia is located at Via Cavina 26-28, 48013 Brisighella RA, Italy.
We stopped at Fienile Fluò during our Vespa tour of the Bologna Hills. This agriturismo offers wonderful local products plus wine produced at the onsite vineyard. However, the best part of eating at Fienile Fluò is the epic view.
Fienile Fluò is located at Via di Paderno, 9, 40136 Bologna BO, Italy.
Modena’s most famous restaurant, Osteria Francescana, tops the world’s most important restaurant lists and sports three Michelin stars. However, it’s not feasible for most tourists to eat every meal there, if even one. Luckily, the city has affordable restaurants that offer better reservation availability. During our day trip to Modena, we enjoyed dinner at Trattoria Pomposa where Chef Luca Marchini serves traditional Emilia Romagna dishes including house-made pasta.
Trattoria Pomposa is located at V. Castel Maraldo, 57, 41121 Modena MO, Italy.
Osteria de Borg
Osteria de Borg may be located in the old fishing village of San Giuliano in Rimini, but the restaurant serves more than just fish. Popular dishes include piadina, homemade pasta, meatballs and wood-fired pizza. As a bonus, the outdoor terrace is a lovely spot to enjoy a fine meal and a bottle of local red wine with friends.
Osteria de Borg is located at Via Forzieri, 12, 47921 Rimini RN, Italy.
Emilia Romagna has its share of Michelin starred restaurants including Ristorante Righi in San Marino. Plan to stay overnight and spend a leisurely night enjoying Chef Luigi Sartini’s creative menu. As a bonus, you’ll get to enjoy the sunset and sunrise in San Marino, two magical experiences.
Ristorante Righi is located at Piazza della Libertà, 10, 47890 City of San Marino, San Marino.
Hungry for more? Check out our Bologna Gelato Guide with the best spots to eat gelato in Bologna.
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We thank Emilia Romagna Tourism for hosting us during our participation in their Blogville project in collaboration with iAmbassodor. We also thank Valentina Cavalli from Bologna Welcome for her restaurant recommendations and for setting up our pasta making demo at Le Sfoglione. Finally, we thank Halldis for hosting us for a few nights and for facilitating our pasta making class.
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