It pains me to post only 5 pictures in this one. In a span of 10 days we had about 10 exceptional meals, including 5 meals that I can only describe as epic. Each epic meal was like a story. A story filled with interesting characters, intrigue, wine, passion, surprises, wrong turns, betrayal, tears, tears of joy and a lot of time. An epic meal requires extra time, preferably on a Sunday, and preferably as far from the center as possible. Bologna, arguably the greatest food city in Italy produced one of those on a little street behind the train station called Via Serra.
For the family sitting next to us, it was just another regular Sunday afternoon meal at one of their favorite neighborhood spots. For us however, the only tourists in the house, it was anything but. “Only tourists” unless you count our new friends from Turin who we stumbled upon again after meeting them the night before at All’Osteria Bottega, another Bologna gem. As far as I’m concerned, friendships start when someone offers me food. And as I reached for a scoop of the neighbors homemade Gnocchi with pumpkin cream sauce, much to the horror of the other family, I thought to myself, that could have been dish #6. I had room, damn it.
Via Serra is as “Slow Food” as it gets. The duo of Flavio and Tommaso have sort of a history together that reached peak levels with a successful spot down in the mountains, Osteria del Sole in Zocca. Tommaso, like so many other Slow Food cooks (they don’t like to be called chefs I learned over the years), has no formal culinary training. He was working in a dairy equipment manufacturer before he decided to change careers and showcase what he learned from dad. In fact right after our lunch they closed for a week to visit their families and the various producers in their respected areas. “Continued Education” as we call it in the states. Tommy traveled to Campobasso to scout butchers for a traditional Sunday Molise ragu (liver sausage, cotechino, sausage, ribs and minced shoulder in a tomatoes sauce). We came on the wrong Sunday it seems, but very far from a bad one
During this trip we drank all sorts of great wine, some more memorable than others. But none had the same affect as the house red here. Perhaps the best house red we ever had. On the board it just says “Rosso Bologna”, a 60% Barbera, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Flavio explained that its a local producer, completely organic called Maria Bortolotti. The aromas that came out of this one are those that you smell when you go to sleep the same night. Or is it just me and I should probably talk to a food/wine psychiatrist about that. Robustness in a very good way (unlike the Barbaresco at the Commune in Neive). Quite full bodied, nicely balanced with big tannins for a house wine.
Here you need to pay attention to the daily specials. We started with a fantastic Pate di Fegatini. Sweet, creamy, buttery goodness. Pate freak Mrs Ziggy was in liver heaven. Piada was a lot of fun. Not quite as thin as a traditional Piadina and without much of the lard but quite delicious. Its served with prosciutto and fresh soft Squacquerone cheese from the nearby Castel San Pietro. A fun traditional snack normally associated with the Romagna towns to the east.
The Primis we picked from the regular menu. Traditional Tagliatelle with ragu – it never ceases to amaze me how much flavor they exude from so little meat. Six fat Tortelloni with butter and sage, of the explosive, sinfully good kind. Outstanding Faraona arrosto, filled with stuffing made of bread, egg, cheese, and more Faraona. Best Faraona (guinea fowl) of the trip, but also quite different. Mrs Z is a little more fond of the Faraona overall, but I’m game! (Get it? I’m game!). Coffee gelato and homemade Nocioni was the perfect finish to one of those meals.
Via Serra is on Via Serra, 5-10 minutes past the train station. From the outside it looks like one of those hip London spots, because it was sort of was. It used to belong to the hotel next door that opened a posh spot that didn’t quite fit the neighborhood very well. Inside however, Via Serra couldn’t be more different than the previous tenant, starting with the philosophy. Those guys pay zero attention to how your plate looks and around 100% to the ingredients that goes on it. And Flavio in true Slow Food style will talk about those ingredients like new parents talk about their babies. Except in this case you pay attention, and enjoy.