As I’ve written here before, the food in Italy is very regional. Bologna has its typical dishes that appear on menus throughout the city, but these are different than what you’ll find in Tuscany, Sicily, Puglia, etc. This makes a trip to a new region a culinary adventure. When we visit a new region or province, I eat as much of the local food as I can manage; after I’m full or if we’re not eating out, I still prance up to restaurant windows to scope out what’s on the menu. I usually stop in a pasticceria and buy up an assortment of local sweets to-go before we head home (often with a nervous sense of panic: I don’t know if I’ll ever visit this place again and I mourn the cookies and cakes that I’ll never get to try).
Luke and I experienced one of these culinary adventures last month when we traveled up to Alpe di Siusi to cross an item off our bucket list: Ski at least once in Italy. Alpe di Siusi (aka Seiser Alm in German) is only three hours from Bologna by car but feels like it’s another country. It feels like Austria (well, I presume it feels like Austria since I’ve never been to Austria). Most of the residents speak German. Each town has a German name and an Italian name. There are stunning mountains and rolling hills (green in the summer and white in the winter). The towns are speckled with chalets. The streets are clean and orderly. The restaurants are spacious. And the beds in the chalet hotels are made up Scandinavian-style (two twin beds pushed together each with a twin-sized duvet folded in thirds on top). And then there’s the food…
I didn’t manage to take shots of everything we ate on the trip, but here is a sample:
I had gnocchetti di spinaci con finferli. The pasta is called spätzle or gnocchetti tirolesi and the pasta dough is made with spinach. Finferli are a type of mushroom, known as chanterelles in France.
Before leaving town, we stopped at the pasticceria and grabbed two hunks of apple strudel (strudel di mele) and a slice of buckwheat cake filled with cranberry jam (torta grano saraceno e mirtilli rossi). There are a couple of bakeries in Bologna that offer buckwheat cookies and cakes filled with raspberry jam and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite combinations.
On the way back to Bologna, we stopped in Verona for Sunday lunch. Verona is in the region of Veneto and only ninety minutes from Bologna by car. I’ve been itching to get to Veneto for awhile now. It’s so close to Bologna yet when you cross the border from Emilia-Romagna into Veneto the culinary scene drastically changes: you leave the land of fresh pasta and enter the world of risotto.
I had il risotto all’Amarone — a risotto dish made with Amarone wine. The rice of choice for risotto in Verona is a local variety called vialone nano which guarantees a creamy risotto. Since returning home from the trip, I found a vendor who attends two of the Farmers’ Markets in Bologna who sells the vialone nano rice.
I definitely regret not buying more strudel to-go. Fortunately for us, Trentino and Veneto aren’t too far from Bologna so a return trip is not out of the question.