At first sight, Orsa seems a bit scruffy. It is certainly not a fine dining experience. But there’s bags of character. You find yourself at a long table, probably sharing with a group of office workers or maybe academics or poets (see below) who are clearly regulars. There’s banter with the waiting staff, discussions and live music some evenings. It’s soon obvious why it’s so busy: excellent food served in a friendly, local osteria in the university quarter of the city. Indeed – the osteria claims – it is here, rather than in the lecture rooms, where the real exchange of creative energy has happened over the years. ‘A cross roads of ideas, of music and performance, a virtual extension of the university, has brought together artists, philosophers, teachers and students, poets and professionals, workers and employers.’ Crumbs.
Anyway, one morning we were passing along the street when we noticed a shop selling pasta. As we looked in we saw in the workshop behind the counter two sfoline making pasta by hand, one of them a man, a rare sight. Sfogline, people who carry on the dwindling tradition of hand-made pasta, are invariably women. Noticing our curiosity, Ornella and Roberto invited us behind the counter to observe at first hand the making of tortellini, explaining that the laboratorio – workshop – was attached to the Osteria dell’Orsa. Our attention was taken by an unusual pasta shape. ‘It’s mezzluna’, Roberto told us, ‘a special order. The filling is artichoke and asparagus.’ He promised to set some aside for us if we came back later for lunch in the Osteria.
So lunch was mezzaluna, followed by grilled steak and chicken. As we were leaving Roberto rushed in from next door with a small parcel of tagliatelle, ‘for you to take home’.
Via Mentana 1/F
40126 – Bologna
Phone 051 231576
Open every day from 12.30 till 1.30 (kitchen closes at half past midnight)