When the whole country is considered a foodie paradise, you have to pay attention when they dub one of their own cities a foodie destination.
That’s why I visited Bologna, Italy. And I wasn’t disappointed.
The capital of the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy, Bologna is known for its food, universities, and red color. Along with the food, I loved all the porticos throughout the city, which allowed this fair-skinned redhead to stay in the shade for 90% of the time I explored the city center. The redhead in me also loved the city’s earthy colors.
Fully embracing the foodie theme, I took a cooking class where eight of us learned to make three pastas and three sauces: gnocchi in a tomato sauce, ricotta cheese and parsley tortelloni in a sage and butter sauce, and tagliatelle in a ragù. I made the mistake of saying that Bolognese sauce was my favorite. I was promptly informed that it wasn’t “Bolognese sauce”—it was called “ragù.” Noted.
The instructor showed us how to portion tagliatelle. You pick six strands and loop them around your hand loosely to form a nest. She stated that this is considered one serving. I couldn’t help but chortle (yes, it was a definitely a chortle). I replied that in the States, that would be considered more like one mouthful rather than one serving. I like the Italian approach better.
By the way, don’t ask for pepper or anything else that isn’t given to you for your pasta. If it’s not offered to you or put on the table, it doesn’t belong on the dish. I learned more than just cooking in this class.
People asked the instructor for restaurant tips. One asked about gelato. When I mentioned where I had bought some gelato the day before, which I thought was delicious, my answer elicited eye rolling and a shaking of the head from the instructor. Without hesitating, she said everyone must go to the Cremeria Cavour. She said her family doesn’t eat gelato from anywhere else, and we should wait no matter how long the line.
The next day, I headed to the cremeria. (Gelato for lunch is healthy—right? I mean, it’s got dairy and protein.) I didn’t think I’d notice the difference, but thought I couldn’t miss out on the gelato dubbed the best by an Italian cooking instructor.
Thank goodness she had pointed out the location on a map, because the cremeria was actually on Cavour plaza but was called Cremeria Funivia. Rather than piled up like you see at most places, the gelato was kept in covered bins. From the second I tasted it, I realized why she endorsed it. Even I could taste the difference. It was the creamiest gelato I’ve ever had. Clearly, if you ever receive a restaurant or food recommendation from a cooking instructor, you follow it!
As part of my Parma stay, I visited cheese and ham “factories.” (To say “ham” and “cheese” seems a bit sacrilegious, but that’s what they use. “Factories” implies an automated environment. Not the case.)
At Giansanti, I watched the charmingly cantankerous cheese master work the fresh milk into a concentrated glob of deliciousness. I even got to taste the fresh cheese before it goes through the salting and aging process that makes it the slightly granulated, amazingly flavorful Parmigiano Reggiano. When it emerges directly from the milk, it’s similar to mozzarella. At the end of my visit, I tasted cheese aged for 12, 24, and 36 months. I loved all of them for very different reasons and purchased a hunk of 24 month-aged cheese to enjoy later.
My Conti tour was led by one of the family members who owns the factory. Making prosciutto is much more involved than making Parmigiano Reggiano. The result, however, is no less delicious. Of course, I bought some to take away. (In Europe, they typically use “take away” rather than “to go”).
Bologna and Parma offered amazing food and wine explorations. Yet I hadn’t even arrived at the place that was main reason for my trip…