Editor Note: This piece was updated March 2nd.
It's not easy to sample the best food on offer when you visit a new place, which is why we love a good city food guide to offer up some insider tips when dining in unchartered territory.
Finding great food in a place like Italy's food driven city Bologna is easy, but finding truly great food in truly memorable locations can be a little tricky, which is why this guide comes in handy for avoiding those city centre tourist traps.
If there's one question that all Bolognese fear, it's "where can I eat in the centre of Bologna?" Not for want of eateries, in the last year the capital of Emilia has seen a remarkable proliferation of options, but almost all limited to locality and to appeal to the student population and tourists.
If you want to avoid this, here are 8 of the best places to eat in Bologna city centre - with varying offerings and price points.
Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants in Bologna City Centre
1. Zenzero Bistrot
Sometimes simplicity is the secret to success. For many years Zenzero Bistrot has been one of the most well-known vegetarian restaurants in Bologna thanks to it's changing daily menu, lunchtime convenience and simple cuisine. Don't miss the well-presented buckwheat triangles with radicchio and brie, to cabbage rolls with tofu. The bright and no frills setting make it a firm local favourite.
Via Fratelli Rosselli 18Website
2. Botanica Lab
If you ask a vegan for a suggestion on where to eat in Bologna the answer is usually: Botanica Lab. Only open a short time, the restaurant-bistro offers strictly vegan cuisine, with a few forays into the raw food world. The simple yet tasty fare comes at attractive prices – at around 10/12 euros a dish – where there is no sense of the 'meat missing.' Anyhow, the veggie burger with beetroot tartare and cashew cream will appeal to any omnivore. This place gets bonus points for the beautiful decor in shades of blue and grey, with contrasting velvet wrap and industrial materials.
Via Battibecco 4/cWebsite
Traditional Restaurants in Bologna City Centre
3. Sfoglia Rina
In its new and central location, Sfoglia Rina attracts long winding queues of hungry diners at lunchtime, making at least a half hour wait almost mandatory at weekends. However, those that are willing to wait will be rewarded with homemade pasta (you can also buy it) used in classic Bolognese cuisine, from tortellini to tagliatelle, or vegan stuffed pasta and their famous zabaione tortellini.
Via Castiglione 5Website
4. Osteria Bottega
Tortellini soup as only a nonna can make? A sublime cutlet Bolognese? Lasagna on the edge of perfection? The answer is always the same: Osteria Bottega. The risk of making mistakes is minimal. Count on 40 euros, excluding wine – worth every cent.
Via Santa Caterina 51
Best Meat and Seafood Restaurants in Bologna City Centre
5. Osteria Bartolini
Opened in 2016, the Bolognese outpost of Andrea Bartolini boasts one of the most beautiful locations in town, with a courtyard worthy of a marriage proposal (or 100 likes on Instagram, to fly lower). The concept? Mixed fried fish, spaghetti with clams, calamari and shrimp skewers. Raw material of the Emilia Romagna region, including wines.
Antonio Piazza Malpighi 16website
6. Quanto Basta
To classify Fabio Fiore's restaurant as "meat" would be an understatement, but it gives an idea of the heart of the menu of this tiny restaurant, from its secluded location in the Via Pratello porches, where it offers sumptuous gricie and carbonara, tripe alla Romana, and amatriciana. Without parochialism: this is Roman cuisine done as it should be. Enough said.
Via del Pratello 103website
Best Pizza in Bologna City Centre
Two winning pizzerias are located inside the city centre, each recommended for their originality.
7. Alce Nero Berberè
One option is Berberè, one of the first gourmet pizzerias in Italy, which has retained an outpost in via Petroni since 2013. Expect medium to high prices for a pizza, and be sure to make a reservation. The menu features radicchio, taleggio cheese, balsamic vinegar and kale, provolone cheese, and mustard. Don't miss it.
Alce Nero Berberè
Via Petroni 9website
Best Contemporary Restaurant in Bologna
Opened just a few months ago, the two room bistro is located bang in the centre of town, a stone's throw from Piazza Maggiore. It comes highly recommended for breakfast or a snack – including vegan croissants and novelties such as chia pudding or avocado toast – but dinnertime (and the service) has yet to convince. The menu suggestions are simple and playful, such as salmon crusted with pistachios or falafel with curry cream and yogurt (which don't always make for a home run!) However, it makes an excellent alternative to the tourist traps and local hipster movement (the white tile menu and filtered coffee, aside).
Via de 'Jews 9website