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Menus in restaurants in Emilia-Romagna:

  • What should we order after we go through such a delicious long menu list
  • How can we get a salad
  • Do we have to get the entire menu from Appetizer to Dessert
  • Is doggy-bag allowed

The most typical questions my guests ask me. To be polite, to eat the must-try local dishes and not to offend anyone if they fill full after the Pasta.

First, you are not supposed to order everything from Antipasto to Dessert, unless you are having a tasting menu set with 6/8 dishes for example.

Italian Gastronomy, contrary to Greece or Israel or Mexico or Japan has a fixed order for food to be served on your table. First of all, let us say regarding Gastronomy, as the relationship between food and culture, requires us to mention Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin author of Physiologie du goût published in 1825, celebrated for his culinary reminiscences and reflections on the craft and science of cookery.

Now let’s see the items in a classic menu you’d find on your table in Emilia.

Antipasto: the Horse D’Oeuvre, Appetizer, Starter, Entrée

This is normally something light… Ehmm….Sorry, not really sometimes.

If you are in Bologna or Modena a typical Tagliere of local pork-based charcuterie “Salumi” including Mortadella, Prosciutto crudo, salame nostrano, Coppa, Pancetta, Ciccioli, Salame Rosa would be very classic in a typical and not fancy Trattoria restaurant, accompanied by Gnocco Fritto and Tigelle or Crescentine ancient local bread, which already fills up some room in your stomach.

However more refined restaurant may have instead a small portion of the Chef’s creative recipe. Locally it could be a Tortino (baked flan) made with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, pumpkin, or seasonal vegetables, but always something cooked, maybe light, kind of decorating your plate, but please do not expect a salad. Salad will be mostly served as side dish of the second course.

Primo piatto: first course

Fresh egg pasta, the so called “sfoglia emiliana” is the Pasta in Emilia.

Tortellini in brodo on top, served with capon broth, like the pourist say the classic recipe and the perfect complement all seasons. Tortellini can be tasted both in Modena and Bologna, your call to say your preference. Locals would answer at my mom’s, very easy question. The two bordering towns have always to argue somehow, they just love to compete on which makes the real and best ones…We will tell you in person!

Emilia is the land of stuffed egg-pasta, you can also find Tortelloni (big and with vegetable filling), now they’ve become very creative both in the filling and in the dough – and they follow the season. For examples, Tortellini stuffed with pumpking are quite common in September/October, though the town of Ferrara may come up with Tortellacci, and these are huge!

Bologna is the undisputed land of Lasagne and the original ones are green-dough based. 8 layers of supreme Bologna’s gastronomy, as if you were on the best lookout in town or enjoying the most beautiful experience in your life.

Emilia’s food culture is rich and has a long history behind. The intrinsic rule is that every single flavor has to be tasted in a recipe. Rich cuisine, but healthy because the use of preservatives in the production of Parmigiano, Prosciutto, for mention a few, is zero.

Once it is clear that each single region in Italy has its own foodie recipes and important traditions, as a results of the climate and the different cultures, please taste classic T-bone Fiorentina in Florence or Tuscany, and enjoy Lasagne Verdi in Bologna.

Lasagne Verdi for example have such a long preparation and must be made with top-quality ingredients, and they can be very filling, considering Pasta and Bolognese ragù is in it besides Parmigiano Reggiano and béchamel. Please, imagine how much passion and creativity it took create the best balance among its diverse ingredients!

So, first course or simply PASTA is what we’d call the Must-try local food. Please enjoy each single bite because it’s worthy and again, not sure you can find the authentic recipes again abroad.

The eat-local concept is 360° true. Modena and Bologna are the place to taste Tortellini! PLEASE join us!

Second piatto: second course

Here comes a sort of dilemma. Meat (cooked meat) is bonded to the past, to the Renaissance cuisine where there was lot of game, wild poultry, and preparation was so much longer and complex. Modena’s MUST nowadays is Beef Fillet with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, Cotechino or Zampone cooked pork sausage if you have not had enough pork with the variety of Salumi, charcuterie.

However, several chefs are creating lighter versions, creative recipes incorporating vegetables and meat. though Bologna’s  Cotoletta alla Petroniana” or Cotoletta alla Bolognese for those who don’t know is really good.

Impress the waiter and say “Petroniana” you’ll be treated like a kind or queen for showing such a knowledge.

Contorno: side dish

Here’s the salad you were looking for maybe after 4 days in Emilia! Baked potatoes, cipolline (little onions soaked in Balsamic Vinegar), grilled or grilled vegetsbles will finally appear!

Friggione is long-cooked onions with tomato sauce. It seems too simple, but it’s delicious!

But if a big salad as an appetizer was your idea, we suggest looking for casual bistrot or nice cafés displaying panini, sandwiches and big bowles of salad with tuna, eggs, tomatos, mozzarella, to keep light!

Dolce or Dessert

What is essential is that you read “della casa” homemade. Then, we’ll leave it to your taste.

Modena’ bests are Custard Cream Gelato with drops of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar or Crostata alle amarene (sour-cherries) or Torta Barozzi with Mascarpone. Bologna has Tenerina chocolate cake on top, Zuppa inglese, and different Crostata pies are very common.

After having your mouth watering and having found no main course in the Emilian menu, feel free to have an Antipasto and a Second Course, or Pasta and dessert. The order is important but no need to force yourself to have it all! Unless you do want to!

If you say “Per Favore” at the start of the sentence, everyone will try to help you as much as possible even if you don’t speak Italian.

Last but not list, Pizza is something we do love to take away on Sundays, but Pizza is very strict in its topping and you can’t ask for ingredients other than those mentioned in the “aggiunte”.

Pizza Margherita is always a guarantee, Quattro Stagioni, Capricciosa, Bufala and Pomodorini are some of the most famous ones. Not possible to joke with pizza ingredients, you may face quite a interrogative look by the waiter. In parenthesis, the best Pizza will always be in Naples. No point.

Last but not least, feel free to do “scarpetta” i.e. clean the plate with bread not to leave that tasty sauce ending up in the dishwasher. Eventually, if you left some food in your plate, yes, you can finally ask for a doggy bag. Italy has finally said YES, APPROVED!  Thank you Italy!

Bon Appetit!

Katia, Founder of Emilia Storytellers