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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 10 places to eat in Bologna city centre of 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 the city 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 18
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/c
Where to Eat Traditional Food 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 5
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
Where to Eat Meat and Seafood 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 16
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 103
Where to Eat Pizza
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 9
Sega uses the foundations of beloved Oven Brisa and embarks on increasingly tempting toppings, such as sausage, mushrooms, buffalo, peppers, tangerine peel or squacquerone, radish and lemon zest. Happiness has a name, and it is called pizza slices – especially in a residential area like that of Via San Mamolo, where it's difficult to eat (well) at a reasonable price.
SEGA Maniaci della pizza
Via San Mamolo 25 / a
Where to Eat Contemporary Food
Happily this insitution is just within the city centre. Opened just last year by former musician Maolo Torreggiani, the cosy venue offers sandwiches – including gourmet (our favourite: the resounding Hamburger pumpkin with smoked burrata and fried sage) – but also classic and well made dishes along with many vegan dishes and desserts, including the sweet potato pie that will incite wild blood sugar levels. For less than 25 euros you can leave happy and satiated. Living proof that you can be creative without falling into clichés, be satisfied without being starving and yet be fed wihout forfeiting on quality. Even in Bologna.
Taffio and Balotta Via Ercolani 1D
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 9