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Bologna: Grassilli

Via dal Luzzo 3 , Phone: 051.222961

Closing day: Wednesday/Sunday - lunch only

Reviewed by: decobabe from Italy, review #613

When: 2003

La bella figura in Bologna la grassa.

We read the menu at Pappagallo Verde near the two towers, choked on the prices of Bologna's best-known ristorante, and - based on my theory that there is always another good restaurant near a top restaurant - wandered down the street and around the corner and found Grassilli, with its small sidewalk cafe.

It isn't cheap unless you've been looking at the menu at Pappagallo Verde. It is, however, polished, professional, accommodating and, for me, a great glimpse into the famous cuisine of Emilia-Romagna.

My companion is a young actor with a day job. He doesn't eat in places like this, but has lived in Bologna since university days and it was interesting to share the experience with someone who lives there.

We started with a shared antipasto of terrina di anatra al pepe verde. Delicious; shows a smiling acqauintance with French cookery and the two slices were fine for sharing. Luca ordered tagliatelle al ragu because "Someone should, it's Bologna's best!" I ordered spaghetti alla chitarra alle verdure con fontina. I hesitate on ragu, because I have had too many with lumps of fat, that being the tradition and one I don't like. Luca's ragu was not like that at all, but very meaty, long-cooked and delicious. It had less nutmeg than I am used to, but didn't suffer for that. The pasta itself was homemade and perfect. My spaghetti was also homemade and perfect, and the sauce was one of those only possible in this season -- fresh, bright, light and well-spiced with basil. I loved it.

Neither of us wanted meat, so we ordered a plate of the vegetables that were being offered as contorni. They were all delicious. There was eggplant roasted with a slice of tomato on top, roasted disks of zucchine, fagiolini, tomatoes crumbed and roasted, and radicchio al forno. A salt grinder and a pepper grinder were on the table and enhanced that dish.

The bread was OK and consisted of baguette slices and a spidery specialty of nearby Ferrara which was as crunchy as grissini.

We shared a bottle of the local Sangiovese at about 11 and it was great after a few minutes of its opening. Luca had only caffe' after, since he had finished all my plates. I had a generous bowl of fresh raspberries which were served with three choices of sugar! Amazingly, one was the hard-to-find brown sugar. They didn't need any.

Luca was bowled over at the calm and generous demeanor of the waiter and said, "I have fallen in love with this waiter." He watched, open-mouthed, as the waiter used a soupspoon to crumb our table perfectly and wanted to know if there was a school for that.

He was similarly so entranced by the bathroom that he wanted to take me on a tour of both of them. It seems the men's room was occupied, so the waiter told him to use the ladies. That was so lovely, he checked the gent's as well. Luca's review: "I have feel I have now tasted exactly what Bologna has to offer when she is being good. Kindness, generosity, delicious food made with care for the food and the eater. I have never been visited by a cook at my table to see if I had a good meal before in my life. I am seriously in love with this waiter." (Luca is not gay nor, I think, is the fatherly waiter. This is a pure passion.)

My review: "Everybody ought to take Luca to lunch in Bologna. I liked this restaurant a lot and would make it my regular in Bologna as long as the money holds out. There is a lot of attention paid to the food and non-intrusive attention paid to the diner. The waiter is a true professional and the chef should be fatter because he cooks great. Even the water bottle was exceptional and designed by a great stylista."

The meal described cost 73.70 including gratuity, which was certainly earned if only for its effect on Luca. If you want to take Luca to lunch or dinner, just email me and it can be arranged!

That night Luca called his friends to tell them about his lunch. One of them said, "If you'd told me you had to eat downtown I would send you to Pappagallo Verde, because the owners are my family's best friends and they would have served you at half price." You know what? Grassilli is enjoyable at full-price. I'd rather give them the business, even if they haven't translated the menu into Japanese.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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