Commonly known as La Dotta, La Grassa, La Rossa (The Learned, The Fat, The Red), the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region has a lot to offer. Apart from hosting one of the world’s oldest universities and the longest unbroken stretch of portici anywhere, Bologna is awash with time-honoured culinary traditions. Nestled among the famous red-hued buildings and renaissance-era towers, you’ll find many eateries serving up authentic bolognese cuisine. To give you a definitive list of the very best ones for pasta, we made it our mission to visit as many as possible.
Here’s our guide to the best pasta restaurants in Bologna. Or, if you want to bring a taste of Emilia-Romagna to the comfort of your own home, why not order a takeaway or recipe kit using the links below.
1. Osteria al 15
Tucked away in an unassuming side street within the city walls, Osteria al 15 serves all the classics of bolognese cuisine. Starters consist of crescentine (a traditional flatbread also known as tigelle) with a selection of cured meats and cheeses (mortadella and squacquerone are common), before the rest of the meal proceeds with a pasta dish, main, and dessert. Although many of Bologna’s most famous pasta dishes are on the menu, we’d recommend the gramigna al ragù di salsiccia – a spiralling tube-like pasta in herb-infused tomato sauce, complemented with chunks of sausage meat.
2. Trattoria Nonna Rosa
This family-run restaurant is a local favourite, and definitely has a ‘classic’ feel to it. The tables are laid out with white tablecloths and the photos adorning the walls recall the 1950s. In terms of pasta dishes, there are quite a few to choose from; the tortellini alla panna are particularly good but if you want to try something a little different, a plate of passatelli asciutti con fondue di formaggio e tartufo nero (dried passatelli with melted cheese and black truffle) won’t disappoint.
3. Trattoria Trebbi
A small establishment, Trattoria Trebbi puts a lot of emphasis on seasonal produce. Spring and summer see pasta dishes resplendent with fresh vegetables while autumn and winter lean more towards heavier, comfort-eating recipes – pumpkin tortelli with ragù di guanciale and balsamic vinegar was our favourite.
4. Trattoria della Santa
Another traditionally-bolognese restaurant, Trattoria della Santa offers rustic food in generous portions. Again, all the classics are available here, but we’d suggest a plate of garganelli with speck and rocket. This pasta shape, typical of the region, is in the form of a short, ridged tube that’s rolled over itself. If you’re feeling particularly famished, though, the cotoletta alla bolognese (breaded veal cutlet, wrapped with prosciutto and drizzled in melted cheese) here is delicious.
5. Hostaria San Carlino
Hostaria San Carlino is a down-to-earth restaurant with a focus on honest service and simple food. Alongside a decent selection of local wines, there are various pasta dishes to delight in. Alongside Bologna’s widely-known tagliatelle al ragù alla bolognese, they serve a garganelli alla zingara (‘Gypsy’s pasta’ – a dish including peppers, mushrooms, cream, and pancetta) as well as parmigiano tortellini with artichokes and prosciutto.
It’s hard to go wrong in Bologna. With so many restaurants tucked away in its labyrinth of medieval streets, you’ll be sure to come across some of the best food Italy has to offer. With our little guide to the best restaurants and trattorias in the city, you’ll know right where to start when it comes to finding the best pasta.