Emilia-Romagna is not only home to the Motor Valley of Italy but also to culinary bastions like Bologna and Modena. Although we missed out on the famous lasagna alla bolognese this time, we managed to have a number of amazing meals and no shortage of gelato!
- Thursday: Imola and Ravenna
- Friday: Bologna
- Saturday: Modena and Maranello
Thursday: Imola and Ravenna
Gelateria Nord Pol
On the way back from the racetrack, we spotted a gelateria on the side of the road, and I couldn’t resist. Did you know, this is the first time we’ve had gelato in Italy?! I can’t tell you how many gelato shops we passed in Milan, but we never found the time to try any. This time, since we had loads of time to kill waiting for a train, we decided to sit down and enjoy some of Italy’s favourite summer treat.
I bought a scoop of stracciatella in a cone, which Kevin liked a lot, to my surprise. He’s not big on chocolate, so I was really not expecting that! He later went up to buy another one. For this second scoop, we tried the “Nord Pol” special flavour, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you what that one tastes like—there were a lot of different flavours hitting my mouth at once, but I couldn’t figure out what any of them were—kind of nutty? Kind of fruity? Not the best flavour I’ve had but it’s not bad.
Each ice cream costed us €2.50.
Dinner at Ristorante Ca’ de Ven
Few people may think of Ravenna when they consider Italy’s top tourist destinations, but if you’re a history buff like me, this city could very well be the highlight of your trip! It was one of the last capitals of the Western Roman Empire, and you can see that reflected throughout the entire city in the form of Eastern, Byzantine-inspired motifs, including inside this restaurant we ate at.
The interior decoration of Ristorante Ca’ de Ven is the coolest ever. It is so fitting that Ravenna would have a restaurant like this: the walls are covered in Byzantine motifs, and although certain aspects felt very modern, the building had such an old-time feel to it.
The food here was amazing, too. I ordered a gnocchi with shrimp and pesto. ASLKDKLHAFK it was so good! Probably the best gnocchi dish I’ve ever had (not saying I’ve tried a lot of gnocchi, but…). I’m not even the biggest fan of pesto, and yet it worked really well in this dish, pairing with the shrimp perfectly.
Kevin tried to order the tagliatelle al ragu, which was misheard by the server as cappelletti, oops! It was too cheesy for him, but I liked the one that I tried. I actually think they went lighter than they could’ve on the cheese, but you know that’s just me :-)
The portions are on the large side: I was close to bursting after just a main course (on the other hand, Kevin said he wasn’t too full…). Also, maybe an interesting perk: this restaurant doesn’t charge a coperto (cover fee)! Our bill came to €26, so all in all, it was a very reasonably priced meal. Luckily for us, we came right as they opened, because by the time we left there was a crowd at the entrance. If I lived in Ravenna (one can dream) I would come here regularly, I think.
Dinner at Trattoria Da Me
The entire reason we made a reservation at this restaurant was to try their lasagna alla bolognese, which was good enough to have won a local television award and had been recommended by our Airbnb host. However, it’s a tradition in the region to eat lasagna for lunch on Sundays, and apparently, that’s the only time most restaurants serve it, too. Since we had to check out of our Airbnb by Sunday morning, we missed out this time, but even without it, this was one of our favourite meals in Bologna.
The star of the show was definitely the appetizer of crescentines (a thin, fried pocket of dough local to the region) with a board of mixed cold meats. Besides great lasagna and tagliatelle, Bologna is also home to many delicious cured meats, most famous of which is mortadella (better known as baloney, after “bologna,” in North America).
The crescentines (on the far right of the picture) were delicious on their own, but paired with the cold cuts and some caramelized onions as a side, they became even better. Kevin was totally in love with every part of the dish, especially the mortadella. I also liked the meats, which came as a surprise since I generally dislike pork, although my favourite was the one to the left of the mortadella in the photo (no idea what it was called, sorry). He also enjoyed the paired side dish of caramelized onion.
In addition to that, we also ordered a second appetizer (on the server’s recommendation) of cheese ice cream.
What does that mean? Exactly what it sounds like. Cold, creamed cheese.
I was expecting something milder and sweeter than regular cheese, but instead I got the exact same flavour profile, just in a frozen form.
From left to right in the picture above: cow cheese, goat cheese, blue cheese (gorgonzola); served with fig jam and crackers.
The cracker was dry and nutty tasting—not a fan. The fig jam was very strong and a bit bitter, similar to prune sauce or similar—also not a fan. The ice creams are best eaten on their own. I found the gorgonzola to be my favourite (even though I’m not usually the biggest fan of blue cheese), it actually works so much better as an ice cream than a hard cheese block. The goat cheese was also tasty (it was the softest and melted extremely quickly—you can see it melting even in the photo), while the cow cheese was too subtle for my taste.
After the mindblowing appetizers, the mains were almost a disappointment. Kevin got the tagliatelle alla bolognese, the next closest thing to lasagna. I had a taste and both he and I agreed that it tasted, well, just like a regular pasta, I suppose? No new flavours here, just a solid meal.
Nothing special, [especially] after that appetizer. Wasn’t bad tho.
For my main, I ordered the passatelli with cold liquid escarole, black olives, and lemon. What are passatelli? When I was ordering, I couldn’t tell you, and I couldn’t get cell signal inside the restaurant so I wasn’t even able to google it.
Hopefully this doesn’t ruin passatelli for anyone, but when my food arrived at the table, I had the first impression of worms swimming in a green swamp. Don’t get me wrong, it was quite yummy! But would I order it again? No, and not just because it looks unappetizing.
Like the maltagliati I had earlier in Milan, this dish contains pine nuts, but whereas the flavour of the earlier dish complemented the nuts very well, this one didn’t. Every bite I took with pine nuts overwhelmed all other flavours. Furthermore, since they are made with breadcrumbs, the passatelli are dry and crumbly, almost like they are stale. Not exactly my favourite pasta texture, but the whole point of eating food in different countries is trying their local cuisine, and I definitely got to eat something that’s very hard to come by back home. The sauce of escaroles, olives and lemons was wonderful, quite “homey,” although I couldn’t taste the lemon.
In total, our meal came to €56. The most expensive item turned out to be the tagliere, meat plate appetizer, for good reason of course, at €15. Also, this restaurant doesn’t charge for water, so don’t be afraid to ask for another bottle!
Since we skipped dessert at dinner, we stopped for gelato on the walk home (ft. the worst lighting ever). According to their Instagram Stories on the day I’m writing this, Katy Perry came here recently :-D
I had the “Marsala” flavour because my dumb mind connected it to garam masala; well, it turns out marsala is a type of Sicilian wine so obviously I couldn’t be further from the truth! It was a very interesting taste, I’ve never had alcoholic ice cream before, and to me the closest comparison would be egg nog. I recommend trying it at least once.
I don’t remember what Kevin’s gelato was, I’ll have to ask him and report back.
Saturday: Modena and Maranello
A warning about traveling to Modena in August: EVERYTHING IS CLOSED. Despite being a small city, Modena is a culinary destination in Italy, known especially for its balsamic vinegar production but also for many fantastic restaurants, including the Osteria de Francesca, one of the top restaurants in the world. It, along with half the city, was on vacation when we visited.
So if you visit at this time, even if the restaurant normally should be open or says it’s open on Google maps, check the website or search for them on Facebook. Many restaurants won’t even update the website but will mention holiday closures on their Facebook page. Or just try your luck and go to the restaurant in person, but be prepared for disappointment and have a backup or three in mind.
Ice Cream at Gelateria K2
Since we couldn’t find a single decent-looking restaurant open for business, in desperation, we settled for some gelato, and bought some snacks from the Coop next to the train station to take home with us.
My flavours, on the left: Spagnola (vanilla and cherry) and Zuppa Inglese. Yeah, we’re feeling international today!!
Kevin’s flavours, on the right: tiramisu, amaretto, and crema.
Each of our cups cost €2.40, which was ok for the portions. I didn’t dig the Spagnola flavour (confession time: I only chose it for the name), since I don’t like cherry flavour in practically anything. I did enjoy the zuppa inglese a lot, though! There were actual chunks of zuppa inglese cake in there, which was nice, and the whole thing had a bit of that alcoholic flavour that Italians seem to love in their gelato.
Empanadas from CHIMI CHURRI EMPANADAS ARGENTINAS
I know, I know! You’re thinking, what the hell are you two doing, eating Argentinian delivery in the foodie province of Italy?! In our defence, it was late at night, we were tired from our day of zipping around Modena and Maranello, and freakin’ every good trattoria or osteria in the neighbourhood was closed.
So we ordered empanadas and we enjoyed it! Italy has its own set of food delivery services to mirror our SkiptheDishes and Foodora. The one we saw most frequently used was Deliveroo (such a cute name). The other difference is that most of the deliveries seem to be on bikes, I guess because everything is closer to each other in these Italian cities. Anyway, I think it’s great! And the empanadas were great too. I ordered a tuna empanada, while Kevin ordered a couple of meat ones. The fillings were delicious and there was quite a lot of it relative to the pastry.
So my takeaway from the Emilia-Romagna segment of our journey is that, this area is definitely worth staying more than three days in, if you want to really enjoy everything, food or otherwise. But also, it is key to check that restaurants are going to be open when you go. At the very least, if we had done our research more thoroughly, we would’ve stayed until lunch on Sunday to try some lasagna!