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Taking a bite out of Bologna . . .

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i am heading to Bologna this summer for 3 days with my husband and children. Being that Bologna is widely known for having amazing food -- I would love to have a couple restaurant recommendations from those who have been lucky enough to eat their way through this town of notable cuisine.

Thank you!

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    How old are your children?

    If they are under 12, they are unlikely to want to sit through a Bolognese restaurant meal that doesn't start until 8pm, and the food is generally quite rich. Many Bolognese opt for salads in summer, or prosciuitto and melon.

    Also, a lot of children, accustomed to tomato-ey pasta sauces, are not going to be too thrilled by the town's signature "ragu," which is more of a ground meat paste than the kind of runny pasta sauce familiar to non-Italian eaters.

    But assuming everybody is up for something that starts late, is time-consuming and is adventurous, some charming spots where you will need a reservation in advance are Giampi e Ciccio on the via Farini, Da Gianni in the via Claveture, and Bistrot 18 on the via Claveture (which has outdoor seating). La Baita on via Galliera (not the cheese store, but the restaurant) offers both full meals and pizza, so it is a good choice for varied appetites, and it has good desserts.

    There is fun pizza at Nicola's in the piazza San Martino and at Spaccanapoli on the via San Vitale. These pizzas are HUGE however, the size of tricycle wheels, so you might want to split them.

    Il Gelatauro on the via San Vitale is popular, as is La Sorbetteria on via Castiglione, and Stefino with two branches, one on the via Galliera, the other on via Riva Reno.

    If your kids can't hold out for the late dinner hour, or it is too hot face another plate of pasta, Les Pupitres on the via dei Giudei serves salads and other light fare in the early evening. You can get good plates of cheese and sliced meats at Divinis on the via Battibecco, and also in cafes on the streets of the food markets (but I think Tamburini is not very good). Eataly in the area of the food markets (off the piazza Maggiore has sandwiches and soups and other quick bites.

    A popular food of the region is a rolled-up wrap called a piadina that is easy to find being sold out of small storefronts. I don't really care for it, so I'm afraid I can't give you a personal recommendation, but La Tua Piadina in the via Borgonuovo is often talked about as being the best.

    The tiny pastries at Zanarini in the piazza Galvani might be a hit with the kids for a snack.

    Just so you know, Bologna's reputation for "amazing" food is largely based by-gone days when the test of "amazing" was whether a French critic or Michelin-star giver liked it -- and Bologna is one of the few regional cuisines that uses a lot of butter and some cream in its dishes. Also, because it is a long-time business center, there are fair number of expense account restaurants in town that produce wow high end food in fancy settings that impress foreign clients.

    But today, most people feel Bologna's restaurants don't come close to other cities for great food. The one thing to track down is home-made, handmade pasta, especially filled pastas, because there are still people in Bologna who make great stuff. Another unusual pasta your family might want to try is passatelli in brodo (google it up).

    But otherwise, you are unlikely to be very impressed by Bologna's restaurants or its food. Appetizers and main courses are often not special or sub-par.

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    Sorry -- I just realized it wasn't clear that I was talking about gelaterie when I listed Il Gelatauro, La Sorbetteria, and Stefino. None of these places serve anything but gelato and sweets. While I'm at it, I might as well toss in Gelateria delle Moline, on the via delle Moline, as another recommended spot for gelato.

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