Friday, 30 July 2010

Where to be seen in Bologna - Zanarini

Michele Doria - Mr Zanarini

Michele Doria seems awestruck to find himself the manager of Zanarini. Ask anybody in Bologna which is the city’s premier meeting place and cafe and they are most likely to say Zanarini. After a lifetime in the business, Michele now runs one of Bologna’s most important and long-standing institutions. Since 1928, Bolognese have come here to see and be seen so maintaining the prestige and standing of Zanarini is no small matter.

All day long the square in front of the cafe and the bar inside are busy with (usually) welldressed and turned out locals. The day begins with breakfast, a big Sunday morning tradition in Bologna, then moves through veloce lunch, afternoon tea and then the cafe gears up for the aperitivo. But no dinner because the cafe doesn’t have a licence for hot food.

Italians everywhere enjoy a drink and a snack before dinner, maybe as a break during the early evening passeggiata. But the Bolognese are particularly keen on the practice. Even during the depths of the winter, when a biting wind sweeps in from the Plain of the Po, people can be seen huddled around the doors of bars all over the city, a calice of prosecco in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Aperitivo time is the high point of the day at Zanarini. The free buffet that is your automatic right with a drink is that much more lavish than anywhere else and the service that much more courteous.

Four of us paid €8 each for a share of a bottle of prosecco and more snacks than were wise just before dinner. Michele says that a lot of people skip dinner altogether and just snack away at Zanarini.

Courgette (US zucchini) and ricotta fritters

This quick and easy recipe is delicious and helps you – if you’re a gardener – to confront the annual courgette glut. The fritters make a good starter or snack, accompanied by a bowl of freshly made mayonnaise, or could form a main course, perhaps with a salad. Mind you don’t chop or process the courgette otherwise you’ll get a squidgy mess. You want 0.5cm. dice for a good texture and flavour. Other vegetables work well instead of or alongside the courgettes: potato, beetroot and spinach or chard (but make sure it is dry after you have briefly cooked it).

These quantities will make about 12-16 fritters, depending on how generous you are with your spoonfuls of batter; plenty for 4 people.

1 large Onion

1 large Clove of garlic

200g Courgette

3 large Eggs

3 tablespoons Plain flour

200g Ricotta

4 tablespoons Oil – sunflower

handful Basil

To taste Salt and pepper

1. Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry until it softens.

2. Meanwhile dice the courgette and add to the onion, frying it until it begins to brown. That caramelisation adds a subtle sweetness to the fritters.

3. Make a batter by mixing the flour into the beaten eggs, then adding the ricotta. Then add the vegetables, the basic and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and begin to add tablespoons of the mixture, flattening them slightly as you do so. Fry for three or four minutes on each side, until the fritters begin to brown
Courgette and Ricotta Fritters

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Bring your at Osteria del Sole

top: the unpreposessing entrance
below: bring your own food

Bring your own for us denotes a restaurant without a licence to sell alcohol. Osteria del Sole, a rough around the edges hostelry in Bologna’s market streets area, is the opposite. You bring the food and they provide the drink. Opened in the 1940s by the family who still run it, you would be hard pressed to say whether it had been redecorated since its first day of trade. Slightly dark and dank, definitely scruffy, Osteria del Sole is also friendly and incredibly appealing.

Entering through an anonymous doorway on Viccolo Ranocchi, Frog Street, your first sight is of a cluster of people around the bar. Behind the bar is a rough and ready but wide selection of wine and prosecco by the bottle or glass (from €2 per glass), grappa, port and beer – the only things served. You won’t get a glass of water, a vodka and tonic, a coffee or a bowl of nuts and that is what makes the osteria such a treat.

Every afternoon and evening the assortment of visibly mended and actively wobbly chairs fill up with people of all ages, in couples, small family groups and big voluble office parties. The long scrubbed wooden tables are quickly covered with bags of bread sticks and wax paper parcels from nearby food shops: pizzette from Atti, or culatello slices and grilled artichokes from Tamborini. You can bring in a Tupperware box of homemade pasta, as long as you don’t forget the cutlery, or a pot of chow mein from the Chinese restaurant further down the street. The atmosphere is convivial; people shuffle up and down the benches to make room for each other or drift outside onto the street for a cigarette.

With the nearby food shops providing an irresistible temptation for a visiting foodie with no access to a kitchen, del Sole provides an equally irresistible solution. Open every day until 10pm, no trip to Bologna should be considered complete without an afternoon or evening whiled away picnicking at one of its long tables, supping from the bar and soaking up some very Bolognese joie de vivre.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Olivo, Filippo and Federico - Food, music and pharmaceuticals

Giorgia Zabbini, who knows everyone in Bologna, introduced us to Filippo Russo who set up and runs Olivo. ‘Sometimes you need a change from the trattoria bolognesa with its tortellini and all the classic dishes’, he explained. ‘We take the classic approach and ingredients but give them a modern twist more linked to the Mediterranean.’ An engineer by trade, Filippo also runs an upmarket seafood restaurant in Rimini. ‘At lunchtime we want to offer something affordable, with more elaborate food in the evening.’ A two course lunch with wine, dessert and coffee costs 20 euro.

My tagliolini with baby plum tomatoes and basil was that exemplary Italian dish – perfect ingredients, simply combined with under-stated skill. Ruth is still raving about the seafood pasta she ate there, rigatoni with clams and mussels. The menu changes daily, according to what is in the market.

As well as food, Olivo offers live music in the evening. Right in the heart of the commercial and the university districts, Filippo says it’s like a party at night, with a younger set.

We lunched with Filippo, Giorgia and with Federico Aicardi, song-writer and guitar player. Federico’s day job is running a pharmacy, the Aicardi pharmacy with its gorgeous art nouveau facade, just across the road from Olivo. But he’s probably best known in Bologna as a singer as you can hear at 

Piazza Aldrovandi 21b
+39 051 08 788 72
closed Sunday lunch and Monday dinner

Olivo's Filippo Lusso

Piazza Aldrovandi

More a wide street than a square, Aldrovandi is often overlooked when it comes to food shopping because it lacks the sheer quantity of top grade specialist shops in the quadrilateral off Piazza Maggiore. But it has its own charms.

The main attraction is the endless parade of fruit and vegetable and cheese stalls, many of them run by south east Asians who know the value of a bargain. Some stalls offer a 1 euro bowl of anything, splendid value when the produce is dazzlingly fresh, as it invariably is in Bologna. There are bars and clothes shops, and at the junction with via San Vitale, a new arrival, Olivo, a new wave restaurant with tables on the street as well as indoors in a jumble of interconnecting rooms.