Bologna, Italy’s gastronomic capital: The Bartender Magazine Aperitivo Tour

The busy streets of Old Town Bologna

Bologna is widely considered to be the culinary capital of Italy, if not the world. It is the home of the famed mortadella, the Bolognese-style pasta sauce and of course, the seven-layer lasagne. The old city of Bologna is very small and is packed with people, especially on the weekends when the roads are closed to cars. Both locals and tourists flock here to enjoy cheese and wine and pasta in the cobbled streets which are so full of history.

We managed to get a seat on a Sunday morning early to enjoy some of the cheese and meat platters that are so prolific. We had seen that the area is known for serving hard cheeses with aged balsamic drizzled on top but were advised (or maybe scolded!) that it was not for the soft, younger cheeses.

Top picks for Bologna dining:

Trattoria dal Biassanot
Via Piella, 16, 40126 Bologna BO
We were lucky enough to be taken on a tour of the Gruppo Montenegro distillery and facilities which are located just outside Bologna. Our hosts Matteo Bonoli (Master Herbalist) and Rudi Carraro (Global Brand Ambassador for Amaro Montenegro) as well as Marta (PR for Amaro Montenegro), took us for lunch at this authentic Bolognese restaurant which was possibly the highlight meal of our entire trip. They ordered everything and you could watch the tortellini being rolled by hand in the kitchen. The pumpkin tortellini with taleggio fondu is a dish to be remembered forever.

Antica Drogheria Calzolari
Via Giuseppe Petroni, 9a, 40126 Bologna
This beautiful family-run bottle shop and wine bar was founded back in 1913. It is a traditional style of Italian grocery store where you could get a little bit of everything from pickles, to pasta and of course, wine. It was lovely to get a glass of bubbles at the bar and chat to the owner and his niece about the city, and whether one of the children will take over this business. It’s an interesting thing in Italy that a lot of these older more traditional style venues will not be passed on to the next generation.

Osteria del Sole 1465
Vicolo dei Ranocchi 1/D, 40124 Bologna
This medieval bar dates back to 1465. It’s hard to even wrap your head around. It is low-key, serves no food, a limited variety of booze, and they even have to leave the bar to go the modern fridges (as the old bars had no fridges!) You can bring your own food from one of the neighbouring cantinas, sit down, stand up and enjoy the cacophony of Italian voices. A must see.

Caffe Zanarini
Piazza Galvani, 1, Bologna
This Pasticceria, caffe and aperitivo bar is a classy offering in one of the many Piazzas in Bologna. The pastry selection is out of control. It was here that we learned, after standing at the bar waiting for about 20 minutes to be served, that you need to order and pay at the cash register and the take your receipt to the bar staff to make your drink. Hot tip!

Salumeria Simoni
Via Pescherie Vecchie 3B, 40124, Bologna
Highly recommend this place to grab a charcuterie and cheese board (with a glass of red) in Bologna in one of the cobbled laneways. There is also the full salumeria (deli) on the other side which serves everything you can imagine from pasta to porchetta and mortadella.