Table of Contents
- What Is Bologna Italy Known For?
- Where Is Bologna in Italy?
- Our Connection to the Food of Bologna
- Bologna Food – More than Ragu
- Bologna Food Guide
- Bologna Restaurants
- Bologna Cheap Eats
- Bologna Pizza
- Bologna Aperitivo Scene
- Bologna Bars
- Bologna Desserts
- Bologna Cafes
- Bologna Food Experiences
- Bologna Markets
- Further Afield
- Plan Your Bologna Stay
- Hungry for More in Emilia-Romagna?
- Pin It for Later
- About the Authors
Some businesses may revise their hours and menus due to COVID-19. Others may close, either temporarily or permanently, without notice. Be sure to check websites for updated information and make advance reservations where possible.
Do you know about the food in Bologna?
Many tourists spend their Italy trips in the ancient city of Rome, the artistic city of Florence and the watery city of Venice. Others spend time drinking wine in the rolling hills of Tuscany or eating pizza in Naples. But not so many travelers realize that Bologna is known around the world for its exciting food culture and that the best things to do in Bologna all involve food.
With the 2017 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 in Italy or beyond.
We first visited Bologna in 2010. 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.
What Is Bologna Italy Known For?
The secret is out. For the past several years, savvy food travelers like us have been visiting Bologna to eat some of the best food in Italy’s Food Valley. And who can blame them?
As the center of the Emilia-Romagna food culture, Bologna is famous for its access to great products like Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Mortadella. Most importantly, Bologna is THE place to eat hand-rolled, fresh pasta served along with complex, meat-laden ragus that many around the world define as bolognese sauce.
But food in Bologna is just part of the city’s culture. In addition to its nickname of La Grassa (the fat one), Bologna has earned nicknames of La Dotta (the learned one) as the home of Europe’s oldest university and La Rossa (the red one) for its many red terra cotta rooftops.
Where Is Bologna in Italy?
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. Located in Northern Italy, the distance by speed train to Florence is under 40 minutes.
With this location, Bologna restaurants have begun to attract chefs from as far away as Campania and Puglia. These chefs are placing an exciting new stamp on Bologna classics like Tagliatelle al Ragu and Lasagna Verde al Forno.
Though we recommend a longer stay in Bologna, it’s feasible to plan a day trip or overnight stay in Bologna. Keep this idea in mind if you’re basing yourself in an Italian city like Florence or Verona.
Our Connection to the Food of Bologna
During our initial visit in 2010, 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 to eat our Bologna food favorites.
It took us seven years, but we finally made it back. To our pleasant surprise, the Bologna cuisine is even better than we remembered.
We’ve returned to Bologna FOUR TIMES since writing the first edition of this Bologna guide in 2017 and will continue to update the article with new Bologna food favorites and not-to-miss Bologna restaurants.
Bologna Food – More than Ragu
If the question is what is Bologna known for, the answer is food. And lots of it.
Blessed by its geographic placement in Emilia-Romagna, one of Italy’s major food regions, Bologna has some of the country’s best cuisine. 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.
When it comes to must-eat food in Bologna, we’re talking about Prosciutto from Parma, Coppa from Piacenza and Parmigiano Reggiano from Modena. And the wine!
Local wine favorites include Sangiovese, Pignoletto and the classic red sparkler Lambrusco. Unlike the swill available in grocery stores around the world, the excellent Lambrusco produced in Emilia-Romagna pairs perfectly with Bologna’s hearty pasta fare.
If you’re wondering what to do in Bologna, the answer will likely involve both food and wine.
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 can be 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 purchase ragu (made by the sfoglinas, of course) to go with the pasta – a true time-saver while you’re on a Bologna holiday.
Bologna Food Guide
We dined at some of the most popular Bologna restaurants and found some hidden gems during our four visits to 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 to include in our Bologna guide. And that doesn’t even contemplate pizza, coffee and other local specialties. 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, Marconi 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 superior to other gramignas we enjoyed throughout Bologna. We also loved the restaurant’s salumi plate as well as the basket of crescenti tra le tigelle served with mountain pesto. Based on fresh dishes like these, Trattoria di Via Serra may be the best place to eat in Bologna.
Be sure to make an advance dinner reservation for Trattoria di Via Serra. With limited seating, the restaurant fills up every night except Sunday and Monday when the popular Bologna restaurant is closed. Trattoria di Via Serra is also open for lunch on the weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).
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.
Don’t be surprised when you arrive at Oltre located just a few blocks from the bustling Mercato delle Erbe. Plastered with stickers, the restaurant’s front doors look like they lead to a hipster club or dive bar.
Once inside the interior of Oltre, which translates to beyond, we realized that the restaurant is no mere saloon.
One of the restaurant’s three partners, Lorenzo Giacomo Costa confided that the doors are an intentional attempt for Oltre to blend into the gentrifying neighborhood. However, Oltre’s interior is a different story with a sleekly modern design by second partner Jacopo Pozzati. And then there’s the food.
Chef Daniele Bendanti, Oltre’s third partner, has created an exciting menu filled with deceptively traditional dishes like tagliatelle, tortelloni and cotoletta. During our meal, each of Bendanti’s dishes featured an array of fresh ingredients that elevated Bologna food classics to new heights.
Sure, we could have ordered tagliatelle al ragu, but how could we resist eating fresh noodles in a buttery white sauce with culatello and asparagus? And tortelloni has never tasted better than the version we ate here stuffed with anchovy perfumed ricotta cheese and adorned with fava beans and pecorino cheese.
It was fortunate we opted to share a secondi. The Cotoletta alla Bolognese (Bolognese cutlet), literally as big as our heads and topped with generous amounts of culatello and 24-month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, packed a mighty flavor punch. As we plowed through the gargantuan dish, glasses of fruit forward local chardonnay provided a nice and surprisingly weighty counterbalance to the delightfully salty, umami-packed cutlet.
Dessert options include favorites like 70% dark fondant cake with English cream but the true gem is the breakfast pannacotta. This sweet and salty dessert looks like pain perdu but has elements of buttery, salty popcorn. Trust the team at Oltre to turn a classic dessert into something ‘beyond’ the expected.
Enjoy an aperitivo at nearby Mercato delle Erbe before your dinner at Oltre.
Oltre is located at b 1, Via Augusto Majani, 40122 Bologna BO, Italy.
Place this restaurant in the category of elevated traditional Emilian cuisine. You’re going to pay a little more to dine at All’Osteria Bottega but the ingredients are fresh, the pasta exquisitely constructed and the family-run atmosphere special.
During our leisurely lunch, we enjoyed two pasta renditions made with seasonal ingredients – Strichetti with fresh sausage, super green spring peas (piselli) and onions and Tagliatelle with culatello and asparagus. We also shared a gorgeous secondi featuring fried sweetbreads (animale) and fresh peas.
We recommend All’Osteria Bottega not only for wonderful fresh pastas but also for its relaxed, intimate atmosphere. Located under a portico in a quiet area of the city, this restaurant is as classic Bologna as it gets.
Consider dining alfresco at All’Osteria Bottega if the weather permits.
All’Osteria Bottega is located at Via Santa Caterina, 51, 40123 Bologna BO, Italy.
Drogheria della Rosa
Don’t be confused by the name. Drogheria della Rosa is neither a grocery store nor a pharmacy.
Instead, this Bologna institution is a restaurant that specializes in classic Bolognese food. The building just so happens to be a former pharmacy.
Next, don’t be confused by the trattoria’s lack of physical menus. Drogheria della Rosa offers a full complement of Emilian classics including Primi’s like Tortelli, Tagliatelle and Ravioli. You just have to listen to the server to hear all the options.
Second courses (Secondi) are more hearty fare with dishes like Osso Buco and Veal Cutlet. To balance it out, desserts trend lighter for those who want to end on a sweet note. As for us, we started our meal with glasses of Prosecco and nibbles of vegetable omelet, salami and pecorino cheese before digging into pasta.
Sticking to the classics, we ordered two classics – Tagliatelle Ragù and Tortelli filled with stracchino, squacquerone and squash blossoms – as well as glasses of Moma Rossa wine produced locally in Emilia Romagna with Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot grapes.
Both dishes were utterly divine with balanced flavors. In Mindi’s dish, rich beefy ragu clung to long, supple strips of Tagliatelle. However, Daryl’s dish was more memorable. His Tortelli were stuffed with a sweet cheese filling and topped with locally-sourced squash blossoms that were as pleasantly bitter as they were pretty.
Start or end your meal with coffee at Forno Brisa Castiglione. It’s just a two-minute walk from the trattoria.
Drogheria della Rosa is located at Via Cartoleria, 10, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy.
Osteria al 15
Cozy and decorated with 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 primi plates, Tagliatelle al Ragu and a generous slab of Lasagna, surprised us with their execution and sophisticated mouthfeel. 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.
Just a short walk from the center of town, this cozy, subterranean restaurant is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner.
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 lives us to its name with just seven tables inside the Bologna restaurant. Consider making a lunch reservation if you’re not able to secure a table for dinner.
Sette Tavoli is located at Via Cartoleria, 15/2, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy.
We first visited Sfoglia Rina in 2017, entranced by the restaurant’s display case filled with a colorful array of green, gold and even black handmade pastas. Like every worst blogger stereotype, we wandered toward the drool-worthy pasta case, snapped a photo of the shop’s hunter green tortelloni and bolted for the street.
Shame on us! It just so happens that Sfoglia Rina offers one of the best traditional lunch values in Bologna. On our most recent visit to La Grassa, we headed to the central Bologna restaurant to satisfy our craving for Tortellini in Brodo.
Eating this thimble-sized bologna pasta staple, typically filled with a traditional mince of Parmigiano, prosciutto and mortadella and pork or veal loin and swimming in a light chickeny broth, is reason enough to visit Bologna. Tortellini in Brodo may seem inconsequential the first time you eat it, but its undeniably porky and cheesy flavors will inevitably grow in your memory every time the chew filled knots of handmade tortellini enter your mouth.
Sfoglia Rina’s version of Tortellini in Brodo did not disappoint us. We also enjoyed a comforting slab of Lasagna Verde al Forno that stood up to some of Bologna’s best with a deep flavorful ragu and tender, melt-in-your-mouth layers of pasta. Pairing our lunch with Belgian ale from Emilian brewer Birrificio Zuker was a no-brainer.
Try to eat an early lunch at Sfoglia Rina. Since the popular restaurant doesn’t take reservations, the wait time increases exponentially starting at 11:30 am when they open.
Sfoglia Rina is located at Via Castiglione, 5/b, 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 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.
Eat Osteria Broccaindosso’s Tortellini in Brodo in the cooler winter months. This dish will warm you from the inside out.
Osteria Broccaindosso is located at Via Broccaindosso, 7/A, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy.
Located near the Basilica Santo Stefano (also known as the Seven Churches), Vineria Favalli serves a range of Bologna food classics including lasagna, tortelloni and tigelle. For sandwich lovers, the restaurant also serves a variety of piadina options including parma ham, mortadella, speck and eggplant for lunch.
Since vineria literally translates to winery, it’s no surprise that Vineria Favalli has an extensive wine menu with white, red, rosé, sparkling and sweet selections available by the glass or by the bottle. Choosing the right wine is half of the fun. Drinking it is the other half.
Weather permitting, request an outside table so that you can people watch on one of Bologna’s prettiest streets.
Vineria Favalli is located at Via Santo Stefano, 5A, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy.
Antica Osteria Le Mura
You really can’t go wrong at a restaurant like Antica Osteria Le Mura located slightly off Bologna’s tourist trail. With a menu that seems fairly typical for Bologna, this restaurant sources products like cheese, meat and pasta from top Emilia-Romagna producers. Even the wine list has a local flair.
We found the homemade pastas and sauces to be solid. However, we were most impressed by cotoletta covered in 24-month red cow Parmigiano- Reggiano. From the ‘creative’ side of the menu, this dish features a juicy thick cut of veal cooked medium and topped with a crispy slice of prosciutto.
Dine at Osteria Le Mura when you’re in the mood for a nice meal just a short stroll from the center of town. The atmosphere, while not what we would call relaxed, makes for a romantic dinner for two.
Antica Osteria Le Mura is located at Vicolo del Falcone, 13A, 40124 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.
Sit outside if the weather cooperates. You can people-watch while you eat your meal.
Trattoria del Rosso is located at Via Augusto Righi, 30, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy.
With so many excellent restaurants in Bologna, it’s challenging to find a reason to justify traveling for pasta. Osteria Satyricon in the Murri neighborhood is reason enough to venture outside the city walls for a taste of local Bologna.
Truth be told, Osteria Satyricon isn’t that far from the center of town – just a 45-minute walk, 25-minute bus ride (#13) or 15-minute cab ride. The extra effort is worth it for those who crave excellent food served in a decidedly non-touristic setting.
In fact, we appeared to be the only non-locals at the restaurant on the night of our dinner. Lucky for us, we were dining with a Bologna local who translated the Italian only menu. Otherwise, we would have used our phones to facilitate the culinary translation.
The ways that Osteria Satyricon distinguishes itself from other restaurants are three-fold.
First, the restaurant’s decor is both bohemian and homey with funky art randomly displayed throughout the room. Second, the menu includes both typical Bologan dishes and a selection of more innovative dishes.
But the third factor is the most important and justifies the commute – the food is excellent. During our meal, we especially enjoyed Spaghetti alla Chitarra made with black garlic, oil and vividly red chilli pepper strands, though the Passatelli with Ragu had a pleasing mouth bite as well.
All good things must come to an end as did our meal at Osteria Satryicon. We marked the occasion by sharing a decadent dessert topped with a biscuit and Amarena cherries.
We should mention that prices are relatively reasonable and wine flows freely at Osteria Satyricon. These are two more reasons to dine there.
Bologna Cheap Eats
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 since much of the best food in Bologna is available for under €10. 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.
Grab some plastic forks and take your Pasta Fresca Naldi pasta to nearby Barazzo where you can order some craft beer and eat your meal. It’s cool and everybody does it.
Pasta Fresca Naldi is located at Via del Pratello, 69, 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. As we learned from personal experience, this is not an easy task to master as adults. Watch our YouTube video to see the ladies of Le Sfogline in action.
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.
Don’t leave Le Sfogline without buying Raviola cookies. Filled with jam and flavored with lemon zest, these cookies make a fun snack during a busy day of touring.
Le Sfogline is located at Via Belvedere, 7, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy.
Although Ca’ Peletti has a full menu featuring pasta 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.
Go to Ca’ Peletti for an early lunch, which in Bologna means before 1:00 pm. The small restaurant does not take reservations and tends to get crowded at peak meal times.
Ca’ Peletti is located at Via Altabella, 15 C/D, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy.
Pizza may not be a staple in Bologna like it is in Italian cities like Naples and Rome – but don’t count the Italian food favorite out when you visit La Grassa. In Bologna, pizza options include classic pies as well as slices prepared in both al taglio and in teglio styles.
Whether you crave a slice or an entire pie, these are our favorite Bologna pizzerias:
Ironically, we first discovered Berberè in Verona. Once we learned that Calabrian brothers Matteo and Salvatore Aloe opened Berberè’s original location in 2010 in Bologna while attending university, it was inevitable that we would try a pie where the creative pizza chain was born.
Berberè’s pizza doesn’t fit into a typical pizza genre but is instead its own style. The artisan pizzeria uses organic stone-ground, semi-whole wheat flour to create dough that rests for 24+ hours and tops each pie with fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from vetted producers.
The resulting pizza has both a crunchy, thick crust with plenty of hearty flavor. Since Berberè’s pizza pairs well with craft beer, be sure to order a beer (or two) to complete your meal.
Check out Barberè’s lunch special before you order a midday meal. At the time of our last visit, this special included a pie, beverage and coffee for €10.
Berberè has two Bologna pizzerias. We ate our pies at the original location at Via Giuseppe Petroni, 9, 40126 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. Originally from Naples, owner Michele Leo takes pizza seriously and offers toppings like mortadella, parma ham and yellow tomato.
Leo’s rectangular in teglio style reminds us of pizza we previously enjoyed in Strasbourg and Bucharest, but MozzaBella’s ingredients are pure Emilia-Romagna. For full enjoyment, we paired our pizza with cold, refreshing Menebrea craft beer.
MozzaBella is a great option for Vegans and Vegetarians.
MozzaBella has multiple pizzerias in Bologna. We ate at the location at Via del Pratello, 65, 40122 Bologna BO, Italy.
If the question is where to find cheap eats in Bologna, then PizzArtist is the answer so long as you like Roman-style pizza served al taglio style. Open since 2012, this pizzeria is a popular spot for university students and locals seeking a quick slice on the go.
PizzArtist’s design is casual with just a few chairs scattered around the sidewalk. The solid pizza is so well priced that three of us enjoyed lunch for under €10 including three bottles of sparkling water.
Don’t eat too many slices. You’ll want to save room for gelato
PizzArtist is located at Via Marsala, 35/A, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy.
Pizzeria da Totò
Recommended to us by a Bologna local, Pizzeria da Totò is a spacious pizzeria with a sprawling menu. Notable for its thin crust and variety of toppings, this pizzeria does not serve the best pizza in Bologna. However, it’s a fine choice if you’re looking for a convenient spot to share cheap pizza meal with a large group of friends.
Budget some time to read Pizzeria da Totò’s menu. It’s huge.
Pizzeria da Totò is located at Via S. Rocco, 7, 40122 Bologna BO, Italy.
Bologna Aperitivo Scene
The streets of Bologna come alive when the day turns to night. This is the time when locals stream to cafes and bars to share aperitivo with their friends and loved ones.
An aperitivo is technically a pre-dinner drink. However, in Bologna, the aperitvo is a social activity that involves food and drinks. What could be better than that?!
Typical Bologna aperitivo sessions involve flowing wine and big plates topped with charcuterie and cheese. Those more in the mood for an Aperol Spritz or a Gin & Tonic can drink them as well.
Don’t expect a lot of free food with your drinks. Buffet spreads are not the norm in Bologna as opposed to other Italian cities.
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 sit at outdoor tables every day where they enjoy plates with Emilia-Romagna products like Mortadella (i.e. Italian bologna or baloney), Cicioli, Culatello, Ham and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Arrive early to score an outside table. Salumeria Simoni one of the best people watching spots in town!
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.
If you order correctly, it is possible to get all the best things to eat in Bologna on one plate at Tamburini. How cool is that?
Be sure to wash your salty snack down with a glass of local wine or craft beer. Or, if you’re in the mood, it’s always a good time for an Aperol Spritz in Bologna!
Tamburini is located at via 40124, Via Caprarie, 1, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy.
La Bottega di via Montegrappa
La Bottega di via Montegrappa is a great spot for enjoying aperitivo away from the Quadrilatero’s maddening crowds. Don’t get us wrong, we like the action but sometimes we prefer a chill atmosphere to end the day with good friends, good wine and good food.
This family-run Bologna enoteca serves plates piled high with local meat and cheese (see photo above) as well as a range of tempting pasta dishes. Choosing wine can be a challenge since the selection runs the gamut from inexpensive local glasses to special occasions bottles; however, the friendly staff is more than willing to offer helpful suggestions upon request.
If you need a break from wine at La Bottega di via Montegrappa, order craft Baladin beer brewed in nearby Piemonte.
La Bottega di via Montegrappa is located at Via Monte Grappa, 13, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy.
As much as we enjoy drinking wine in Bologna, sometimes we want to end our night with a different potent potable. That’s when Bologna bars come into play.
The city has a burgeoning bar scene that caters to locals and tourists who want to wet their whistles with cocktails or beer in addition to wine. After checking out several bars in Bologna, these are our favorites:
NU Lounge Bar
Although the tiki bar concept originated in Hollywood back in 1933, many people associate the kitschy cocktail genre with Hawaii. Bologna joined the global tiki party when Nu Lounge Bar opened in 2000.
NU Lounge Bar offers an Italian twist on the authentic tiki bar experience near Piazza Maggiore. When you drink here, expect beach-inspired decor, rum-based drinks and spritzes. And the best part – talented bartenders take the tiki concept to the next level with blowtorches, masks and dry ice.
When you drink at NU Lounge Bar, consider trying fruity concoctions like the Big Bamboo with a complex mix of rum and citrus juice and the Zombie with even more rums and juice. Or perhaps you’d rather try a signature NU Mai Tai with yet more rum, orange liqueur and passion fruit.
We tried all of these drinks before ending the night with a bang by sharing a Volcano Bowl with two friends and four straws. Served flambé, the unique drink fired us up before sending us to bed with smiles on our faces.
Don’t drink too much rum on an empty stomach. If you’re hungry, NU Lounge Bar serves an eclectic food menu featuring tacos, nachos and lasagna.
NU Lounge Bar is located at Via de’ Musei, 6, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy.
In a space that could be anywhere in the world from Brooklyn to Budapest, Ruggine is a hipster hangout situated in the heart of Bologna. Crowds flock here seven nights a week, surrounding Ruggine’s busy bar and spilling on to the city sidewalk.
Located in a repurposed bike shed, Ruggine’s decor skews shabby chic. If you look closely, you’ll see a bike hiding in plain sight. You’ll also find serious drinks served by a team of industrious bartenders.
Though our Old Fashion and Moscow Mule cocktails were on point, the highlight of our night was nabbing a table and accompanying our drinks with Emilian classics likes Tagliatelli al Ragu, Prosciutto di Parma and Salame Fileira.
Ruggine’s menu has a myriad of local food favorites including meat boards and paninis. Let’s face it – we can drink classic cocktails all over the world. But drinking them while enjoying classic Bolognese food is priceless.
Stop by Ruggine for lunch. The popular bar morphs into a chill cafe for three hours each day.
Ruggine is located at Vicolo Alemagna, 2/C, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy.
When we initially encountered Italian craft beer on our first trip to Bologna in 2010, the concept left us dumbfounded. Why and how, in a continent with such strong culinary traditions, would American style craft beer, with its untraditional labels, flavors and conventions, become so popular? And why would anybody skip the chance to drink Italian wine at the source?
Since that time, craft brewers like Piemonte’s Baladin have become a major brewing force in the boot and an assortment of Emilia-Romagna brewers like Birra Amarcord in Rimini province and Ca’ del Brado in nearby Rastignano have raised the bar (pun intended) when it comes to Bologna’s emerging craft beer scene. With all this in mind, we wandered over to Il Punto to meet a friend for pre-dinner beers during our latest visit to Bologna.
Opting to share two beer flights allowed us to try all eight beers featured on the bar’s rotating tap. Priced at €6 at the time of our visit, these flights are an incredible value not to mention a fun way to start a night out in Bologna. Though the Triplus Mora from Marche craft brewer Birrificio dei Castelli was our favorite beer of the night, there were no bad pours from the sour beer to the smoked rauchbier.
We also enjoyed tasting the house-cured salumi so much that we later regretted not ordering a fassona hamburger or piadina to go with our beers. Oh well, there’s always next time.
Don’t fret if you’re not a beer fan. La Punto serves a range of wines, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages in addition to its extensive beer offerings.
Il Punto is located at Via S. Rocco, 1, 40122 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. Bologna 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.
Check out our comprehensive Bologna Gelato Guide featuring these top Bologna gelaterias and more.
Take a class while you’re in Bologna. Sure, you could go to the University of Bologna, Europe’s oldest university. As for us, we went to Carpigiani Gelato University where we learned how to make gelato and got to eat our work. Yum!
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 near the city’s prestigious university.
At the end of the day, these are our favorite spots to drink the best coffee in Bologna:
Despite Italy’s reluctance toward specialty coffee, Forno Brisa is leading the third wave coffee charge in Bologna. Open since 2015, the cafe brews modern drinks like flat whites and V60 pour overs with locally roasted beans sourced from Africa and South America.
Prices skew higher here compared to other Bologna cafes. However, the extra cost is worth it considering the quality of the coffee and internet availability.
More than just coffee, Forno Brisa reigns as a premiere Bologna bakery with a wide selection of bread, pastry and pizza. The cafe also sells artisan products like jams that can be eaten with toast or purchased to enjoy later
Talented baker Ilaria Prosperi fills the cafe’s counters with a variety of local favorites like cornettos and pinza con mostarda as well as top-notch Teglia alla Romana pizzas. Not your grandmother’s pizza, these square pies are creatively adorned with toppings like ragu, cured meat and creamy squacquerone cheese.
In a city known for strong, unyielding customs, Forno Brisa is a shining example of Bologna’s willingness to accept new ideas, like specialty coffee techniques, and integrate these ideas into the city’s long-standing culinary traditions. Be sure to stop by this cafe when you visit Bologna.
Check out Forno Brisa’s San Felice cafe if you’re looking for a place to work while enjoying state-of-the-art coffee. You can order toast and marmalade in addition to coffee if you’re in the mood for a light bite.
Forno Brisa has multiple locations in Bologna. The flagship cafe is located at Via Galleria, 34D, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy.
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.
Don’t skip Caffeè Terzi if you’re not a coffee drinker. The Bologna coffee haven has a wide selection of tea and honey too.
Caffè Terzi is located at Via Guglielmo Oberdan, 10/d, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy.
Award-winning Aroma serves single-origin specialty coffee drinks like Cappuccino Melange with vanilla or cinnamon, Caffé allo Zabione with artisan eggnog and cocoa powder and Caffe Diordilatte with artisan pannacotta.
Not in the mood for coffee now? Aroma sells beans that you can brew later at home.
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 WI-FI even more.
In addition to coffee, Pappare serves a selection of cafe fare including options for Vegetarians and Vegans.
Bring your laptop to Pappare. The cafe provides a viable workspace for digital nomads
Pappare is located at Via De’ Giudei, 2, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy.
Bologna Food Experiences
Eating in Bologna is the best way to experience the city, with many different food experiences available to visitors. We recommend the following culinary activities:
Bologna Pasta Class
The most obvious choice is to take a pasta class at Le Sfoglione (see above) or with a Bologna local like Davide Labanti.
Bologna Food Tour
Another fun food experience is to take a Bologna food tour so you can taste a selection of Bologna food favorites. For the adventurous food traveler, we recommend a Vespa tour of the Bologna hills with Travelhoo.
Schedule a food tour soon after you arrive in Bologna. A good tour will give you a solid introduction to the city’s food scene.
Day Trip from Bologna to Modena
Time permitted, plan to spend a day in nearby Modena for the ultimate Emilia-Romagna food experiences of tasting Parmigiano Reggiano, Balsamic Vinegar and Prosciutto di Modena at artisan factories where they are produced. You can then take a self-guided Master of None tour in the city. If you haven’t watched the Aziz Ansari show – watch it now.
The train from Bologna to Modena costs under £5 and takes less than a half hour. You can buy tickets at the Bologna train station. Check the Trenitalia website for current routes and fares.
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. If you’re wondering what to eat in Bologna Italy, you will surely find something good at this Bologna market.
Shop at Mercato delle Erbe in the morning for the best selection of the day.
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 Italian Slow Food movement.
Don’t forget about the chain grocery markets in Bologna. These stores sell surprisingly fresh food and have longer hours.
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 its 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.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
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 demo at Le Sfoglione. Finally, we thank Halldis for hosting us for a few nights and for facilitating our pasta class.
We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.