Bologna is a foodie’s dream. So much of Italian cuisine that has become celebrated around the world is from Emilia Romagna. Lasagne, tortellini, tagliatelle, mortadella, prosciutto, and balsamic vinegar, among other things, are some of the gifts that this region has given the world.
All of these gifts (and more) are showcased in Bologna’s amazing restaurants. One of my favorites is Trattoria della Santa.
Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Piazza Maggiore and the Quadrilatero but easy enough to reach by foot from that area, Trattoria della Santa is one of those perfect places that probably hasn’t changed much since it opened. The decor is nothing to write home about – but definitely check out the old menu that’s framed in the dining room.
The waitstaff is courteous and efficient. The house wine is cheap and good. And the food is out of this world. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to have a great, local dining experience when visiting Bologna. Read on to find out why!
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Where to eat in Bologna: Trattoria della Santa
Trattoria della Santa was recommended to me by a local. He described it as a place “dove si mangia bene, e si paga poco” which means a place “where you eat well, and pay little.” He couldn’t have been more right.
I recently went with my sweetheart and a friend, and we paid 50 euro for a shared appetizer, a plate of pasta each, water, wine, and the cover charge. Niente male!
I snapped a sneaky pic of the menu so you can see for yourself what I mean by cheap:
Admittedly, you could rack up a hefty bill if everyone in your party got meat, but I almost never do. I am a pasta person, through and through.
Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of the shared appetizer I referenced above because we smashed through it before I could take a photo. It was a plate of cold cuts and cheese, the highlight of which were the cubes of mortadella, so plump, so smooth, so much better than freaking baloney.
I’ve had three different dishes at Trattoria della Santa, each one better than the last. The first time I went, I got the classic tagliatelle alla bolognese, and I would happily eat it every day for the foreseeable future. The fresh pasta was firm to the bite, and the meaty sauce was rich and hearty.
The night that I had tagliatelle alla bolognese, Sweetheart had tortelloni with panna and prosciutto. The combo of large, plump tortelloni, crispy prosciutto and cream was so good that I ordered it the next time we went.
A friend got penne all’arrabbiata that night too, which I also tasted (obviously) but didn’t get a photo of. It was divine, and actually had quite a kick to it. If you like a bit of spice, don’t miss it.
A similar pattern occurred on another visit to Trattoria della Santa, which was that Jeremy ordered something so delicious (again) that I convinced him to trade with me (read: whined until he said yes) so I could eat his meal. What can I say, he is a gifted orderer, and I am a jerk.
This was a dish I had never had or even heard of before, called tortellini al pasticcio. “Pasticcio” means “mess” in Italian, but sort of in a cute way. Two of my little students used to call each other “Ciccio Pasticcio” which essentially means “Chubby Mess.” Despite sounding like an insult from one of those barftastic “celebrity beach body” tabloid covers, it’s actually a term of endearment.
Pasticcio, when referring to food, is similar to a lasagna, but many Italians will assure you that they are NOT the same thing, or that a lasagna can’t be a pasticcio, but a pasticcio can be a lasagna, or there’s no difference between the two, etc. It’s a complicated subject. Yesterday, I learned that there is yet ANOTHER baked, layered pasta dish called timbale. Mamma mia ragazzi!
Note: If there’s an Italian reading this who wants to clarify in the comments, please do!
Anyway, this pasta dish is probably al pasticcio because it consists of a couple of different things which might not normally be served together all smashed into one delicious mess, namely, tortellini, ragù alla bolognese, and panna.
This is not to be missed if you’re a pasta person like me. It ties together some of the very best parts of Italian cuisine: al dente, cheese-stuffed pasta with thick, meaty ragù, all evened out by a bit of cream.
Hours, contact information, and website
You’ll find Trattoria della Santa at Via Urbana 7.
You’re going to want to book, especially for dinner on a weekend. Call +39 051 330415.
Here’s their website.
The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday from 12:30pm to 2:30pm for lunch, and from 7:45 to 10:30 pm for dinner. Most restaurants in Bologna aren’t open much past 10:30, so keep that in mind when you’re looking for a place to eat.
So there you have it. I’d recommend Trattoria della Santa to anyone who is visiting Bologna and wants to have an unforgettable meal in a local joint. Order the tortellini al pasticcio, and think of me as you eat it!
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