A Feast in Bologna

Saint Stephen square in Bologna Italy

I went to Italy to eat and Bologna was the place to be. However, when I arrived I was exhausted from travel, and I paced up and down the same street for two hours trying to find the only an internet café in town. It also didn’t help that I visited the city on a Monday, when many places are closed. I was also really hungry because the recommendation was to come to dinner with a very large appetite, as Bologna is known for gluttony; a place where a buffet of delicacies arrive at the table for you to pick and choose what you please like a queen.

So, there I was sitting on the stoop of a small family owned trattoria called Da Silvo’s at seven o’clock; my stomach was growling and the restaurant didn’t open until eight. Rats. There was no chance that I was going to get up and wander around for fear that I would never find my way back. I was half asleep when the front door finally opened. I picked out a small table in the back corner of the restaurant, trying to hide away from the pending crowd’s arrival as I was not in the mood to make conversation- I wanted to be alone and I came here just to eat.

First, as instructed by the waiter, I ordered only the appetizer and sweet courses because he said it would be enough food for me- but, I thought, he doesn’t know how much I can really pack it in! And, I couldn’t refuse the tantalizing fresh pumpkin tortellini with browned butter listed on the seasonal menu. I was in Italy and my waistline came second, not first.

But then, thinking I could handle it all being as famished as I was, the madness began. There was absolutely no sense in trying to hide. I was eating at the restaurant alone, yet the waiter proceeded to fill my tiny table with enough food for twenty people. I looked ridiculous. The couple sitting next to me actually laughed at me, well I guess with me, because there wasn’t even enough room to put my fork down, the table was crowded with so many large platters of food and bottles, yes bottles, of wine. They bring the buffet your table here so you can choose whatever you want and leave alone what you don’t like. Now, that’s royal treatment!

First, came an assortment of lightly fried zucchini, grilled eggplant and peppers. Then, marinated olives and crusty bread. Then a plate of shaved meat that looked oddly familiar. Firm, pink in color. Looked like deli meat from school lunch circa 1987, but fancier, on a pretty plate, shaved like ham. Smelled like…oh my god! It was bologna! I was eating bologna in Bologna!

I kindly asked the waiter in a sweet voice, “Excuse me, Sir, what is this?” pointing at the infamous forcemeat. I was desperate for him to say it, to say the word, but then, “This meat? It is pork meat.”

All the getting lost and waiting around and all I wanted was for him to humor me and say “Bologna!!!” But, in reality he wouldn’t ever call it bologna, because we were in Bologna. And it is a delicacy there, with tradition, fresh and made-in-house, unlike the overly processed bologna I know in America. In Bologna, it is has style, like most things Italian, with the special name of Mortadella.

The insanity continued and I grew saucier. More and more arrived- then the desserts! Bowls of panna cotta, homemade pies, ice cream and cakes filled my table once again, along with an entire carafe of limoncello. I was as stuffed as a tortellino when the table was cleared and I could finally put my fork down.

My heart was content. I had the best night sleep that night, dreaming gluttonous dreams. I had accomplished in Bologna what I had set out to do- I had opened the gates to food heaven. And, the buildup was oh so grand.

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