We stayed at the lovely Porta San Mamolo Hotel on our recent visit to Bologna. The accommodation was excellent and a very decent continental breakfast was included in the deal. The staff were very helpful and friendly at all times. When we asked for a restaurant recommendation they suggested that we try the Antica Osteria Romagnola which was a ten minute walk away. They made a reservation for us and we set off.
The restaurant is located on Via Rialto which is a particularly undistinguished street. It doesn’t even have any of the magnificent porticos for which Bologna is noted. The road was dark and narrow and the pavement was barely the width of one person. My fingers were crossed as I hoped that the restaurant would not be more inviting than the street was.
We arrived punctually and were shown to our table. We took note of the surroundings and people watched while we waited for the menu to be brought. But Surprise! This restaurant doesn’t have a menu! The waiter calls it all out to the customers. And in our case he did it in English and gave detailed descriptions of every dish making each one sound more tempting than the previous one. I ordered risotto made with red wine and himself went for tortellini in broth. For main course we both opted for boneless rabbit stuffed with cabbage and wrapped in Parma ham. We ordered a bottle of the local Sangiovese wine and some sparkling water.
After a few minutes a tray full of antipasti arrived. There were chickpeas, beans, bacon and tomato dishes from which to choose. We nibbled (nay scoffed) our way through most of it except for the chickpeas which neither of us really like. My risotto arrived and it was the colour of beetroot. It was probably the best risotto I have ever tasted. (The chef at Il Primo in Montague Street, Dublin ought to take a lesson here). I tasted the tortellini too but they was no contest. The risotto won hands down.
The staff cleared our plates away to make room to serve the rabbit. It was presented beautifully and was sprinkled with crispy fried onions to pretty it up. We were starting to get full – the ‘free’ antipasti was taking its toll. I managed to eat most of my rabbit dish but I had to leave the lovely potatoes behind. I just couldn’t manage to finish them. The fried onions were really tasty as was the sauce. I was full to bursting but himself managed to order, and eat, dessert.
We went to pay at the counter as this seemed to be the custom at this restaurant. Our waiter offered us a complimentary glass of grappas or limoncello. We’re not known for refusing free drink so, of course, we had some!
The Bill came to €109.00 which, by Irish standards, was a fair price for an excellent dining experience. The wine was only €14.00. I noticed that we had been charged for the antipasti we were served. Seeing as we hadn’t ordered them I thought it was a bit cheeky to charge for them. I, naively, thought they were given to us free of charge! However, this was only a slight hiccup and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend trying this restaurant should you find yourself hungry in Bologna.