pasta in Bologna, Italy

By Jenoa Matthes. This guide to Bologna cuisine contains affiliate links to trusted partners!

Are you wanting to try the best food in Bologna, Italy?

Then you’re in right place!

Bologna is the capital of Emilia Romagna and is a prime destination for foodies looking to experience some of the best cuisine Italy has to offer.

With a wide range of traditional dishes, classic restaurants, and buzzing food markets, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this vibrant city. 

We hope you’re hungry, as below you’ll find a comprehensive guide to eating in the food capital of Italy — including the best foods, restaurants, and markets in the city.

Pro tip: One of the best ways to explore the delicious food in Bologna is through a food tour, cooking class, or meal in a local home. You can book all of the above through EatWith.

An Introduction To The Food Of Emilia Romagna

The beautiful region of Emilia Romagna in northern Italy is known as Italy’s food valley. Some of the most beloved Italian dishes and foods are from this region. 

From traditional dishes like lasagna, tortelloni, and ragù to classic Italian foods like prosciutto, balsamic vinegar, and Parmesan, there is so much to discover and taste in Emilia Romagna. 

Each city in the region is known for a special dish or type food. For example, Modena is home to traditional balsamic vinegar where you can learn about the years-long process of making this staple and even taste some yourself. 

Parma is home to the heavenly Parmesan cheese. It’s also the only place in the world that can produce Parmigiano Reggiano because of its protected status. 

In Ravenna, you have to try a piadina, which is a flatbread sandwich filled with cheese and meat. 

No matter where you visit in the Emilia Romagna region, you’re sure to eat well while savoring some of the best Italian cuisine possible!

Bologna Food History 

towers in Bologna
The towers in Bologna. Photo by Giacomomo from Getty Images via Canva Pro.

Bologna’s traditional cuisine includes homemade egg pastas like tortellini and tagliatelle, hearty pasta sauces like ragù, and cured meats like mortadella and prosciutto. 

Tortellini is one of the most popular foods from the region and is said to date all the way back to the Middle Ages, during the height of Bologna.

Another staple from Bologna is ragù, which dates back to the 16th century. Apparently, ragu was traditionally eaten as a second course and wasn’t eaten with pasta (as a first course) until the 19th century. This is what we now know as tagliatelle al ragù.

To most people outside of Italy, tagliatelle al ragù is known as spaghetti Bolognese, which does not exist in Italy. Make sure to properly order when you’re in Italy — Italians are very particular about their pasta!

Food In Bologna You Must Try

Now that we’ve discussed the dishes of the region, let’s go over the foods you absolutely must eat in Bologna.

Tagliatelle al Ragù

Tagliatelle al Ragù from Bologna in Italy
Tagliatelle al Ragù. Photo by timbudd from Getty Images via Canva Pro.

When it comes to what to eat in Bologna, tagliatelle al ragù is the most famous and iconic dish from the city.

It is made with tagliatelle, which is a long, flat egg noodle. In order for the pasta to be considered tagliatelle, it has to measure 8 millimeters wide once cooked — very precise!

The ragù sauce usually consists of a variety of meats, such as pork, beef and veal. It simmers for several hours with tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery, and spices to create a complex and flavorful dish. 

Almost everyone in Bologna claims that they have the best version of tagliatelle al ragù, which is usually passed down from their nonna (grandmother), so it’s fun to try out a variety of ragùs around the city. 

Want to try some of the best pasta in Bologna? Check out Trattoria Anna Maria to try a traditional ragù in Bologna!

Tortelloni

plate of food in Bologna featuring  tortelloni with mushrooms
Tortelloni with mushrooms. Photo by Robertobinetti70 from Getty Images via Canva Pro.

Tortelloni is a popular stuffed pasta from the region and is the “big brother” to tortellini.

This hat shaped pasta is traditionally filled with a combination of ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, and nutmeg. My personal favorite is when it’s stuffed with pumpkin — a local specialty during the fall. 

There are also many other variations of this classic dish that can include ingredients like spinach, mushrooms, prosciutto, sausage, and more. 

It’s most often served with a sauce like butter and Parmesan with sage or with mushrooms during the fall. 

To try a variety of tortelloni dishes, check out Sfoglia Rina in Bologna where they serve handmade pasta daily. 

Tortellini in Brodo

eating bowl of Tortellini in Brodo in Bologna, Italy
Tortellini in Brodo. Photo by bonchan from Getty Images via Canva Pro.

Tortellini in brodo is one of the most delicious dishes from Bologna. It consists of small, hat-shaped pasta filled with pork and veal and then is simmered in a meat-based broth. 

Top it off with some fresh Parmesan cheese and you have one of the most simple and perfect meals, especially on a cold day.

Check out Altro? when you visit Bologna to try a tasty bowl of tortellini in brodo. 

Lasagna Verde

Lasagna Verde, or green lasagna, is a staple in Bologna and is one of my personal favorite dishes. You can never go wrong with a hearty slice of lasagna.

The lasagna pasta is made with spinach to give it the signature green color. It’s then layered with homemade ragu and bechamel sauce to create the perfect trifecta of flavors. 

Check out Le Golosita di Nonna Aurora for some of the best lasagna in Bologna.

Crescentina / Gnocco Fritto

a plate of food in Bologna showcasing gnocco fritto with prosciutto
Gnocco fritto with prosciutto. Photo by ceschi73 from Getty Images via Canva Pro

Crescentina, also known as gnocco fritto, is a popular appetizer or street food from Emilia Romagna.

The dough is made of flour and water that is fried in pork fat until golden and crispy. 

It is often served with a variety of toppings, such as cured meats and cheese. You can also eat it in the morning with your cappuccino, which is surprisingly delicious! 

When eating in Bologna, check out Trattoria Da Me to try their homemade gnocco fritto. 

Mortadella

slices of mortadella
Mortadella slices. Photo by Frederique Wacquier from Getty Images via Canva Pro.

Mortadella is a type of Italian sausage that is from Bologna and is popular throughout the world.

It’s also known as “bologna” in the United States, but the version from Italy is much better than what you’ll find in the states. 

Mortadella is made from cured pork, pork fat cubes, spices, and pistachios. It doesn’t sound super appetizing describing it, but trust me, you’ll want to try it. 

It’s used in a variety of ways. Most commonly, you’ll eat it with bread or gnocco fritto as an appetizer, though it’s also used to stuff pasta like tortellini. 

One of the best ways to eat mortadella is in a sandwich. Try Mo Mortadella Lab in Bologna and get one of their famous mortadella sandwiches. 

Parmigiano Reggiano

slabs of Parmesan cheese
Parmesan cheese. Photo by studiodr from Getty Images via Canva Pro.

Parmigiano Reggiano is the king of all cheeses in Italy! It’s used in so many typical dishes throughout the country and always adds that perfect level of savoriness to foods. 

You can take a day trip from Bologna to a Parmigiano Reggiano factory to learn how it’s made and to do a tasting.

The cheese must be aged for at least 12 months before it can be labeled as Parmigiano Reggiano, but typically it is aged anywhere from 18 to 36 months. My personal favorite is 24 months. 

In Bologna, you can purchase this cheese from many shops in the Quadrilatero — a bustling market area in the city — or you can do a tasting with a charcuterie board at Salumeria Simoni Laboratorio

Gramigna alla Salsiccia

a bowl of Gramigna alla Salsiccia at a restaurant in Bologna, Italy
Gramigna alla Salsiccia. Photo by Claudio Caridi from Getty Images via Canva Pro.

Gramigna alla salsiccia is a lesser-known pasta in Bologna. This dish consists of curvy pasta cooked with sausage, a tomato sauce, and Parmesan cheese. 

It is a delicious combination of flavors, with the richness of the sausage balanced by the acidity of the tomatoes and the saltiness of the Parmesan cheese.

You can find this at many restaurants throughout the city, though one recommendation is La Bottega Di Via Montegrappa.

Cotoletta alla Bolognese

Cotoletta alla bolognese is a traditional meat dish from the city.

It consists of a thin cutlet of veal, lightly breaded and pan fried in butter and olive oil. The meat is then topped with prosciutto (or Parma ham) and cheese and is cooked to perfection. 

This dish is a favorite among locals and is definitely worth a try. It’s quite heavy, so it’s best paired with a lighter first course and wine. 

Try the cotoletta alla bolognese from Trattoria Collegio di Spagna in Bologna. 

Gelato

traveler holding a cone of gelato up while exploring the food in Bologna, Italy
Gelato in a cone. Photo by jfarango from Getty Images via Canva Pro.

Bologna is known for its delicious gelato and, in my opinion, has the best gelato in all of Italy.

With over 100 gelaterias located throughout the city, you have a lot of options to choose from. 

Why does gelato stand out here? The texture of the gelato in Bologna is soft and smooth, the ingredients are fresh, and the flavor is powerful. It’s truly the gelato of dreams!

If you’re looking to try the best gelato in Bologna, then look no further than Cremeria Santo Stefano. After having been here countless times, it always ranks #1 for flavor, consistency, and texture. 

Restaurants In Bologna 

Now that we’ve gone over some of the traditional food in Bologna to try, let’s discuss the local restaurants. Here are some of the top places to eat in Bologna, Italy:

Da Cesari

Da Cesari is a fantastic Bologna restaurant to check out if you’re looking to try a variety of pastas. They have an array of seasonal dishes like tagliatelle with mushrooms in the winter and tortellini with pumpkin in the fall. 

Address: Via de’ Carbonesi, 8, 40123 Bologna BO, Italy

Mò Mortadella Lab

Mo Mortadella only makes one type of food and they do it very well: mortadella sandwiches. With an offering of over 19 different varieties, you have a lot of options to choose from. My personal favorite is the #13 with balsamic vinegar and grana cheese. 

Address: Via de’ Monari, 1c, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy

Altro?

Altro? is a higher-end restaurant in Bologna serving classic and modern dishes. Their tortellini in brodo is very good; but if you want something a little different, try their tortellini in a creamy Parmesan sauce. It is heavenly. 

Address: Via Ugo Bassi, 23, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy

Homemade pasta. Photo via Macarena Moraga for Unsplash.

Osteria Boroccaindoso

Osteria Boroccaindoso is a small restaurant serving traditional Bologna cuisine. Try their passatelli or lasagna (only served on Sundays). Make sure to save room for dessert because their tiramisu is possibly the best in Bologna. 

Address: Via Broccaindosso, 7/a, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy

Vagh in Ufezzi

Vagh in Ufezzi is a hidden restaurant in Bologna with a seasonal menu that changes every day. It’s located outside of the main center, so you’ll usually only find locals eating here. 

Address: Via de’ Coltelli, 9c, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy

All’Osteria Bottega

All’Osteria Bottega is quite possibly the best restaurant in Bologna. It serves traditional Bolognese food, but the quality and flavor is on another level. You can’t go wrong with anything on their menu. Make sure to reserve in advance to get a table. 

Address: Via Santa Caterina, 51, 40123 Bologna BO, Italy

Mozzabella

Mozzabella is a delicious pizza by the slice (or square) restaurant located inside of the Mercato delle Erbe (market). They always have unique flavors and it’s a great place to go for a quick and cheap meal. 

Address: Via del Pratello, 65b, 40122 Bologna BO, Italy

fresh produce at a food market in Bologna
Food market in Bologna. Photo by Chris Arnoul from Getty Images via Canva.

Bologna Food Markets

No Bologna food guide would be complete without discussing the city’s top markets. If you want to shop for fresh produce, quality meats, fragrant cheeses, and typical Bologna food specialties, don’t miss:

Mercato delle Erbe

The Mercato delle Erbe is Bologna’s covered food market. Also located in the city center, this market offers a wide range of products from fresh produce to meat and fish. 

You’ll find a butcher inside, even one selling horse meat, and you’ll also find a fish market in the mornings. 

This is a great place to shop on a daily basis for your fresh ingredients, as it’s open 6 days a week, rain or shine. There is also a food hall located next to the market where you can grab a glass of wine, a slice of pizza, or some fresh pasta. 

Mercato Ritrovato

Mercato Ritrovato is a modern market that has been around since 2008. It has over 50 vendors selling an array of fresh produce, artisanal goods, and traditional Italian dishes. 

The market is open only one day per week — on Saturdays during the fall and winter, and on Mondays during the summer — so make sure to stop by if you’re in Bologna on market day.

Quadrilatero

The Quadrilatero is the oldest food market in Bologna. Located in the center of town, this market has been around since the Middle Ages. 

It features vendors selling all sorts of traditional gourmet delights, from local cheese and meats to fresh fruits and vegetables. 

You can also find a wide range of shops selling regional specialties like mortadella, Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, and other Bologna famous foods. 

This is also a fun area to stop and try a charcuterie board with cured meats and cheeses. It can get busy during lunch, so it’s best to either beat the lunch crowd or wander through for a late afternoon snack. 

Visiting this market is one of the top Bologna food experiences that you’ll definitely want to add to your tasty itinerary!

Seafood at the Quadrilatero market in Bologna, Italy
Seafood at the Quadrilatero market in Bologna. Photo via Thurtell for Getty Images via Canva Pro.

Food Tours In Bologna

One of the best ways to savor Bolognese foods is on a culinary tour of the city. A few top rated Bologna food tours include:

Click here for a full list of Bologna food tours.

Best Cooking Classes In Bologna

If you’re looking for something more interactive that goes beyond tastings, here are also some top-rated cooking classes where you can learn how to make the food of Bologna for yourself:

For a full list of Bologna cooking classes and dining experiences in local homes, visit EatWith.

cooking class showing people how to make traditional food in Bologna like pasta
Take a cooking class or pasta making class to learn how to make traditional food in Bologna. Photo via karandaev from Getty Images via Canva Pro.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bologna Food Specialties

When it comes to traditional food in Bologna, a few common questions include:

Q) Is Bologna worth visiting?

Absolutely! Along with being home to delicious food, Bologna is full of history and culture to explore. You can visit museums like the Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna and the Museo della Storia di Bologna, sip coffee in the many charming squares (piazze), visit impressive churches like the Basilica di San Petronio, and more.

Q) What food is famous in Bologna?

There are many famous foods in Bologna, like tagliatelle al ragu, Parmigiano Reggiano, mortadella, tortellini in brodo, and cotoletta alla bolognese, to name a few.

Q) What is a famous food street in Bologna?

If you’re craving street food in Bologna, make sure to order a piadina — a flatbread sandwich filled with cheese and meat. Yum!

Q) Is Bologna the food capital of Italy?

Yes. Due to its range of delicious high-quality traditional dishes and world class restaurants, Bologna is considered Italy’s food capital.

Q) Is there a food market in Bologna?

There are a number of food markets in Bologna, like Mercato Ritrovato, Mercato delle Erbe, and the Quadrilatero.

Final Thoughts On Food In Bologna

If you’re looking to book a culinary-focused trip, Bologna Italy food is some of the best in the world.

Known as the food capital of Italy, you can try delicious dishes across top-notch restaurants, markets, and food stalls around the city.

Whether you’re craving local produce, handmade pastas, cured meats, or pungent cheeses, Bolognese dishes combine a passion for fresh, high-quality ingredients with a respect for timeless tradition.

In short, you certainly won’t go hungry while visiting Bologna, Italy!

What would you add to this guide on food in Bologna?

About The Author

Jenoa is a travel writer based in the United States. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe and shares all of her insider tips on the best destinations, eats, and hotels in Europe on her blog, The Travel Folk. You can also follow along on Instagram and Pinterest

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