Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ristorante Bologna, Varese

I have become a real foodie since moving to Italy. There is no way around it, everything is permeated by La Cucina. If you eavesdrop random conversations around town (not that I do!) you will discover the majority of people talking about food, or using food metaphors to explain things. My ceramics teacher, for example, will welcome us to the class with coffee, use recipes to help us understand the facts of glazing, and give us wine while we work. It should be no surprise that I am making very particular pieces in this class!

But I digress. I am here to write about one of the nicest restaurants in the area. Ristorante Bologna is a traditional northern Italian restaurant. It is THE restaurant in Varese. It is not a fancy place, but it will surely give you a true dinning experience at a good value. The place itself is located in the ground floor of the Hotel Bologna, in the center of Varese, close to the pedestrian area of downtown. You need to make reservations in advance, as the place is a favorite with families and large groups of friends. Tables are usually set for 10 or 12 people. We have been lucky to find a table for three a couple times without a reservation, it is always worth to take a peek inside the dinning room, Cesare -the manager- might find some room for you.

You must order the house Antipasti, which includes a large board plentiful of salumi, salamino, salame piccante, coppa, lardo, mortadella and pancetta cotta; large containers with pickled onions, pickled salsiccia cruda, and pickled cucumbers. They will also bring a large tray with several cold dishes, including insalata capricciosa, a bean-pepper-onion salad, cheese and carpaccio.

We always debate about skipping the primo, and jumping right into the secondo, but after so much protein from the antipasti, we end up craving some pasta. This last time was not an exception, as the tagliatelle con mirtilli e funghi porcini (tagliatelle with blueberries and porcini mushrooms) was calling us loud and clear. It was delicious, the mushrooms flavor the sauce so delicately, while the blueberries give a little burst of sugar to the plate. A nice contrast, and a beautiful dish (I must apologize for my photos, they were taken with my phone).

If you have room and you want to try a great dish, you should try the filetto al pepe verde (a lean beef filet with a green pepper sauce), or a tagliata (thinly sliced meat, drizzled with herbed oils, and accompanied with vegetables and/or potatoes). We had to pass on the secondo, and instead indulged with a shared tiramisu. After coffee, the waiter brings a number of bottles to the table, mostly grapa. This time around we chose the fragoline, which is a liqueur made with strawberries, alcohol and sugar. It is DELICIOUS! I am now scouting a bottle to keep handy, as I can see using a little bit of this nectar on top of a nice bowl of gelato... I can taste it!

ALBERGO RISTORANTE BOLOGNA. Via Broggi, 7 - 21100 Varese - Italy +39 0332 232100 - 234362

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