Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Eating in Bologna

I don't usually make so much of where and what we eat, but this deserves its own special post.

On the day we traveled to Bologna, we ate a very early breakfast and then refrained from eating anything else because we knew Bologna was world famous for its food.  Arriving in Bologna about 5:30, we were hungry!  We walked all over the downtown Bologna but between 4:00 and 7:00 in the afternoon every restaurant in town is closed.  Finally, we found a little caffe/bar that looked like it had real food.  We walked in and the manager (later we learned his name was Merco) asked us if we would like something to eat.  Stanley said that would depend on what we saw on the menu and Merco responded, "I am the menu."  Instinctively, I knew we were eating the dinner of the management and staff- tortellini stuffed with cheese and artichokes followed by a cake made primarily with chestnuts.

It was so good we asked if we could return the next evening.  Merco said, "Sure."  I saw the look in the cook's eyes, but I chose not to ask any questions.  I knew two things very well:  1.  Preparing a four course dinner for two people was not in the ordinary schedule for that cook and 2.  There was no place in Bologna I would get a better, more authentic meal.  For the next 24 hours, dinner was never far from my mind.

We arrived punctually at 7:00 the next evening and the first thing we learned was the cook's name:  Roberta. The second thing we learned was Roberta's true status:  She owned the caffe.  The third thing was that I had been totally correct in my assumption that dinner would be delicious.

I was not disappointed!

Picture a small round table, a starched and ironed white tablecloth with inserts of hand-made lace, snowy linen napkins, tall wine glasses sparkling in the lamplight, silverware so heavy the food seemed to have no weight at all, and an eclectic array of plates and platters.  Put this table in a quiet corner next to a large world globe on a floor stand.  Light the globe from within and give all the landmarks, oceans and countries exotic sounding Italian names.

Now bring on the food.  First, razor thin slices of ham and cheese with bread crisps - two kinds of ham and three kinds of cheese.  Next, a dish made with lasagna noodles smothered in a thick mushroom sauce.  Next tortellini stuffed with sausage.  And next - yes there is a next - grilled chicken with Gorgonzola cheese and prosciutto.  Add a chilled bottle of Prosecco.

Give yourself a few moments to recover and then dive into a luscious chocolate tart with a cup of coffee that may very well be the best in Italy.

It was a lovely experience and if I am lucky enough to return to Bologna, I know where I'll be eating.  That is - if Roberta is willing to do this again.  What a privilege!

If you get there before I do - here's the address:

Pere Caffe e Tulipani
Via Alessandrini, 7
40100 Bologna, Italy

And may I introduce Roberta and Merco.  Did I mention that she sings?  One moment you hear her singing an aria and the next moment she's off on "Dream Lover."