Almost as important as lunch and dinner in the Bolognese diary is the aperitivo. Even during the depths of the winter, when a biting wind sweeps in from the Plain of the River Po, people can be seen huddled around the doors of bars all over the city, a calice - champagne glass - of prosecco or pignoletto in one hand and a cigarette in the other. In summer it is a more relaxed affair, extending through the evening. As essential as the drinks are the accompaniments. In recent years, there has been a stuzzicati boom. This, the Italian equivalent of tapas, is the way that bars compete for trade. In some places you will find long tables groaning under the weight of an imposing buffet consisting of tiny pizzas and sausage rolls, ham and cheese flavoured focaccie, deep fried vegetables, salami and crisps. But choose carefully to avoid eating loads of stodgy carbohydrates.
Time for an aperitivo?
Let’s start with somewhere select or ‘snob’ as they say in Bologna: Zanarini because it’s a lovely place in its own right, with ample space inside, by the bar, upstairs where the buffet is laid out, and outside in the square. This is a place where many people go to see and be seen, and to graze on food carefully prepared and presented. Zanarini, with its courtly service and splendid displays of canapés, cakes and chocolates, is less a bar than a grand institution. Funnily enough, an aperitivo here at 8 euros costs hardly any more than anywhere else.
|Spritz Campari at Zanarini|
Piazza Galvani 1, Bologna
You may prefer somewhere less grand but with equally interesting clientele and a good buffet. The bar at MAMBo, the modern art museum, attracts the young and the artistic intelligentsia. Sometimes at the weekend there will be a DJ playing the classics of the last fifty years. (Has rock and rolls really been going that long?) The drinks are standard but the buffet is more like a vegetarian feast with lots of wholesome salads. You can stand at the dimly lit bar, sit inside or under the portico outside. Depending on the season, you can stay warm and dry or bask in the evening sun.
Via Don Minzone 14, Bologna
Osteria del Sole
If you object to paying the price for a buffet you don’t want, then Osteria del Sole is the answer. It’s easier to find in the evening – you can spot it by the huddle of people, glass in hand, spilling out into tiny Vicolo Ranocchi. Otherwise, it is easily missed; there is no sign outside the scruffy entrance.
|Osteria del Sole: scruffy hospitality|
If anything, the interior is even less prepossessing. But that really doesn’t matter. The attraction is that this is a genuine osteria, a (usually rough and ready) place that you go to drink and chat, a bit like a pub. Here you can rub shoulders with a wide cross section of Bolognese society, including writers, politicians, academics and talkers. Many osterie do provide food these days but not here. Not even a bag of crisps. Instead the deal is that you bring your own – an inversion of the usual BYO theme. And since Osteria del Sole is right in the middle of the Quadrilatero, you can assemble lunch or a couple of stuzzicati from the best food shops in town.
You eat and drink at long tables, making room for newcomers and clearing up as you go. A wide variety of wines is sold by the glass - starting at 2 euros - or the bottle, or you can buy beer. They will provide serving boards for bread and salami.
Vicolo Ranocchi 1b, Bologna