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25 Best Bologna Restaurants: The Ultimate Guide by...

25 Best Bologna Restaurants: The Ultimate Guide by a Local

Wondering where to eat in Bologna? Look no further – check out this list of the best Bologna restaurants, cafes, pizzerie and more written by a local. This is not the usual guide to ultra-touristy places!

This is a guest post from Haley, an American who’s been living in Bologna for a long time – she’s had enough time to try all the best restaurants in Bologna! Even if I was born and raised in Bologna myself, I haven’t lived here for the last few years.

In this new series about Italy, I want to bring you the best information available – and who is better than a local who’s currently living in the city? In these articles, you won’t only find the touristy places in the city center, guaranteed!

Italy as a whole is internationally famous for its cuisine, but Bologna, a city located just one hour by train from Florence and that can be easily added to your north Italy itinerary) has a special “foodie” reputation even by Italian standards. Everywhere you turn, you will find shop windows full of handmade pasta, endless pizza options, and every flavor of gelato possible.

This strong food culture, combined with the fact that a large part of Bologna’s population consists of university students, has created a particularly affordable restaurant scene that allows everyone to enjoy a good meal whatever their budget at one of the many restaurants in Bologna city centre and outside.

This list will get you started on your culinary adventure with examples of traditional Bolognese cuisine, as well as a number of favorite local hangouts that you definitely want to insert in your Bologna itinerary.

Food you’ve got to try in Bologna

A quick note: while pizza, pasta, and gelato can be found in every Italian city, every region will always have its own special spin on each dish as well as local delicacies that are specific to local tradition. In Bologna, your visit will never truly be complete unless you get a taste of these basic staples from the region:

  • the world-famous Parmigiano Reggiano (and don’t forget its cousin, Grana Padano)
  • authentic Balsamic Vinegar, a syrupy and tangy delight that has nothing to do with the watery stuff at the supermarket.  
  • Prosciutto Crudo (a delicate, cured ham) and Mortadella (which will make it impossible to ever eat commercially produced “Baloney” ever again)
  • a plate (or two, or five) of traditional hand-crafted pasta with every filling and sauce imaginable. The classic meat-filled tortellini in cream sauce is definitely a must-try, but don’t limit yourself!

READ ALSO: The Ultimate Bologna Food Guide by a Local

Best restaurants in Bologna, Italy

Osteria Le Sette Chiese

Image by Osteria Le Sette Chiese

This charming little osteria is a great place to start your introduction to Bolognese cuisine. The menu focuses on local specialties and good wine. If you can, go with a group of friends so you can order one of everything to pass around the table (because you will want to try every dish on the menu). You may be tempted to skip the appetizers to make more room for pasta, but you shouldn’t miss their “Crostini misti”, a toasted bread appetizer with gourmet toppings. 

Reservations are recommended for weekend dining. 

Address & Opening Hours:
Via Borgonuovo, 6
Open every day from noon to 3pm and 7pm to midnight

Va Mo Là

Image by Va Mo Là

This osteria offers a variety of classic Italian recipes as well as typical Bolognese dishes, including an excellent example of traditional Lasagna Bolognese: green pasta (colored with pureed spinach), generous layers of Ragù and Béchamel cream sauce, and cooked until a fork can slice through all the layers without the help of a knife. They also make their own wonderfully minty herbal liqueur.

Address & Opening Hours:
Via delle Moline, 3
Open every day from noon to 3:00pm, and 7pm to 11:30pm

Sfoglia Rina

Image by Sfoglia Rina

If you love handmade pasta, this is the perfect place for you, as here you’ll find some of the best pasta in Bologna – which is saying a lot! Large chalkboards present two menus: a standard selection of classic dishes such as tortellini in broth and tagliatelle al ragù, and another menu that changes weekly to showcase creative combinations you won’t find anywhere else, like black “cappelletti” with cauliflower cream, hazelnuts, and sunroot chips.

There is no cover charge for the table, and the price of the pasta includes a small vegetable side, a bread roll, and water. On your way out you will also have the opportunity to purchase your favorite uncooked handmade pasta from a large display case next to the register. 

Sfoglia Rina is very popular, and unfortunately does not take reservations. Your best chance of avoiding a long line is to go outside of traditional meal times (for example, if you have lunch at noon you’ll avoid the rush of Italians who typically eat at 1pm).

Address & Opening Hours:
Via Castiglione, 5/b
8am to 8pm every day, 9am to 8pm on Sundays

Cluricaune Irish Pub

No one can deny that Italian food is amazing, but after eating pasta and pizza non-stop for days you might need a palate cleanser. This classic Irish pub has the best-priced cheeseburgers in town and has recently branched out into a full menu including traditional pub fare such as fish and chips. So please, if you’re craving a burger and fries, skip McDonald’s and come here instead. If you want to keep up with your team’s latest match, this is also the go-to pub for all televised sporting events, with huge screens set up in each seating area. Be warned though, when an important match is on, the place can get pretty packed and seating may not be easy to find.

Address & Opening Hours:
Via Zamboni, 18
Open 4pm to 1am on Monday, 4pm to 2am Tuesday through Friday, noon to 3am on Saturday, and noon to 1am on Sunday

To Steki

Not everything in this list of Bologna best restaurants needs to be about Italian food. To Steki is a family run business and one of the top Greek restaurants in town. It is surprisingly affordable for such a classy establishment, and you will leave feeling much fuller than you might expect. Even if you’re bursting though, you simply have to make some room for their amazing desserts and a glass of Mavrodafni (Greek dessert wine).

Reservations are recommended for weekend dining.

Address & Opening Hours:
Largo Respighi, 4E
Open every day from 11:30am to 11:30pm

FICO

The world’s largest food park with over 100,000 square meters of restaurants, markets, and food labs, FICO is a must-see for all fans of the Eataly chain and Italian food in general. Entrance is free, though they will naturally attempt to shepherd you towards welcome desks where you can purchase tours and activities. There is also has an extensive supermarket/gift shop and even a post office so you can ship souvenirs and gifts home. As with most things, the weekends are particularly crowded, but weekends are also your best chance for free samples from the various food vendors that set up booths throughout the park. 

Note: due to its size, the park is on the outskirts of town and difficult to reach on foot. However, there is a FICO shuttle bus with various stops throughout Bologna (see the FICO website for pricing), and there is plenty of parking for those arriving by car (the first two hours are free).

Address & Opening Hours:
Via Paolo Canali, 8
Open 11am to 5pm every day, 10am to 11pm on weekends

Osteria dell’Orsa

When someone foreign asks me where to eat in Bologna, I direct them here, to a classic tavern-style restaurant at the heart of the Bologna social scene. One fun aspect of this osteria is that they still follow the tradition of seating people wherever there’s room, even if it means sharing a large table with strangers. In addition to locally produced wine and typical Bolognese dishes, this is also a good place to try mixed platter of cold cuts with the popular fry bread known as “gnocco fritto” or “crescentine”. I don’t know if it’s the best trattoria in Bologna, but it definitely is one of the contenders.

Address & Opening Hours:
Via Mentana, 1, 40126 Bologna BO
Open every day from 12:15pm to 11pm

Pappare’

Image by Pappare’

This all-day bar has one of the most mouthwatering display cases in Bologna. If you’re looking for the best breakfast in Bologna, this one is a strong contender! The first thing you will notice upon entering is the selection of gorgeous sandwiches and pastries overflowing with fillings (the cornetto with chantilly cream comes highly recommended), but they also have a menu with excellent options for sit down meals.

Reservations are recommended for large groups.

Address & Opening Hours:
Via De’ Giudei, 2, 40126 Bologna BO
Open every day 07:30-23:00 (except Monday, when it closes at 22:00)

Zerocinquantino

This is a local chain that takes its name from the Bologna area code for fixed phone numbers (051). Here you can enjoy Bologna’s quintessential light dinner (or pre-dinner snack): a glass of wine and a basket of “tigelle” flatbread paired with a tray of mixed cold cuts and cheeses. If you don’t feel like assembling the tigelle sandwiches yourself, they also have a list of classic combinations they can prepare for you.

Address & Opening Hours:
Via Pescherie Vecchie, 3/e, 40124 Bologna BO
Open every day from 12:30 to 3pm and 6:30pm to 11:30pm

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Signorvino

The food and wine are certainly good here, but the one thing that really makes this place stand out is the location. They are clearly aware of this because huge glass windows and plenty of outdoor seating ensure that nothing will block your view of Bologna’s most famous piazza. The staff is happy to recommend wine and food pairings, so don’t be shy! If you fall in love with a particular bottle, they conveniently have a shop right next door so you can take one home.

Address & Opening Hours:
Piazza Maggiore, 1/C, 40124 Bologna BO
Open from 11am to midnight every day, 10am to 1am on weekends

Fast and Cheap Eateries in Bologna

Pizzeria Altero

Image by Pizzeria Altero

Fans of the legendary Lucio Dalla may recognize this name from his song “Dark Bologna”. The famous musician was known to love this local chain, and it’s not hard to understand why. When their large trays of cheesy pizza are pulled fresh out of the ovens, it is basically impossible for anyone passing by to resist stopping in for a quick slice, plus it’s one of the most famous cheap places to eat in Bologna.

If you want to look like a real local eating on the run, ask for two slices to go. They’ll stack two squares of pizza together, cheese facing in, and wrap them in wax paper to create the best sandwich of your life. 

Address & Opening Hours:
Multiple Locations: Via dell’Indipendenza, 33 | Via Ugo Bassi, 10 | Via Caprarie, 3
Open from 9am to 12:30am every day, with later closing times on Friday (1:30am) and Saturday (2:30am)

Bombocrep

Though crepes aren’t typically considered Italian, this student favorite is the perfect place to satisfy an attack of the midnight munchies. The menu has a staggering list of options, both sweet and savory, but ordering is greatly simplified by just reciting the number listed next to your chosen combination (I can’t imagine how long it took them to memorize the whole list). 

Address & Opening Hours:
Via delle Moline, 4/a
Open from 12:30pm to 1:30am every day, 12:30pm to 4am on Friday and Saturday, and 4pm to 1:30am on Sunday.

Pizzeria Due Torri

If the thicker dough used at Altero isn’t your preference, then this is the place for you. Don’t be intimidated by the huge slices, the crust is stretched thin to achieve the maximum surface area for yummy toppings. However, you will need both hands free to ensure nothing ends up on the ground. Situated right across the street from the entrance to the Asinelli Tower, this is the perfect way to quickly gain back all the calories you burned from climbing so many stairs.

Address & Opening Hours:
Str. Maggiore, 3
Open from 10:50am to midnight every day, and 10:50am to 2:15am on Friday and Saturday

Best Pizza in Bologna

Pizzeria Spacca Napoli

Among the best places to eat in Bologna, we need to list some pizzerie – and wait, not all pizzas are created equal. Sicilians enjoy a heavier crust, Romans prefer an extra thin crust, but if light and fluffy is what you’re looking for, then Spacca Napoli is the solution. Don’t be put off by the narrow entryway; they have another dining area in the back. However, this place is so popular that they have to pack the tables and chairs as closely together as possible, so try to avoid taking bulky purses or backpacks.

Reservations are recommended for weekend dining.

Address & Opening Hours:
Via S. Vitale, 45/A
Open every day from noon to 2:30pm, and 7pm to midnight

Il Veliero

Bologna is nowhere near the sea and doesn’t have a harbor, but this restaurant will make you feel like you’re dining on the deck of an elegant ship. I assume the nautical theme is a reference to their seafood, but I’ve never made it past the pizza part of the menu. This will be the largest pizza you will ever eat during your time in Italy, guaranteed. Just trying to cut a slice requires you to push half of the pizza off your plate and onto the tablecloth (don’t worry, it’s very clean!). Not only is it delicious, but it makes for a seriously impressive photo to show off to all your friends back home. Feel free to get a whole one just for yourself though, the crust thins out towards the center so don’t let anyone pressure you into going halfsies.

Reservations are recommended for weekend dining.

Address & Opening Hours:
Via Milazzo, 11/A
12–3PM, 6:30PM–1AM every day

Il Sellaio

The name of this pizzeria means “the saddle maker”, which makes much more sense when you see the extensive collection of horse-themed décor. The pizza crust here is wonderfully dense yet also fluffy, making this the perfect solution when you’re particularly hungry. There’s just one problem, if you don’t pace yourself you may not make it to dessert. A true tragedy because they have the best mascarpone in Bologna: a deceptively plain-looking cup of fluffy Italian cream cheese with chocolate shavings.  

Reservations are recommended for weekend dining.

Address & Opening Hours:
Via S. Donato, 31, 40127 Bologna BO
Open from noon to 2:30pm and 7pm to midnight every day, closed for lunch on Saturday.

Best Aperitivo in Bologna

Caffè Zamboni

It is generally understood that Caffè Zamboni sets the standard to which all other Aperitivo’s are measured. It was one of the first to offer such a wide selection of food at its buffet (even sushi!) and remains a favorite for many locals. The Aperitivo scene has gotten pretty competitive in recent years, but you can be sure that you won’t leave hungry after an evening here.

Address & Opening Hours:
Via Zamboni, 6, 40126 Bologna BO
Open from 7:30am to midnight every day (to 2am on weekends). Aperitivo from 6:30pm to 11pm.

Lab 16 

This one hasn’t been around as long as Caffè Zamboni, but it has quickly become the latest aperitivo “hot spot”. In fact, if you ask any given local which aperitivo has the best price/quality ratio, Lab 16 will likely be one of the first mentioned.

Address & Opening Hours:
Via Zamboni, 16/D, 40126 Bologna BO
Open from 7am to 1am every day, 7am to 3am on Friday, 5:30pm to 3am on Saturday, and 5:30pm to 1am on Sunday. Aperitivo from 6pm to 10pm

Osteria del Sole

Though they don’t actually offer any food, no list of local haunts would be complete without Osteria del Sole. This has been a popular Bolognese meeting spot since the 1400s, and the fact that no internet or cell signals are able to penetrate its walls is a point of distinct pride. As one of the barmen once bluntly stated, “this is a place for conversation, not texting.”

Since they don’t have a kitchen, everyone is welcome to bring their own food to enjoy at one of the ancient wooden tables, whether it’s a sandwich from home or Chinese takeout from across the street. The only rule is that you must purchase all your beverages from their very affordable bar. If you prefer to avoid the crowds that flood the osteria in the evening, they are also happy to pour you a generous takeaway cup to sip at as you stroll through the city.

Address & Opening Hours:
Vicolo Ranocchi, 1, 40124 Bologna BO
Open from 10:30am to 9:30pm every day, 10:30am to 10PM on Friday and Saturday, closed on Sunday

Best Gelato in Bologna (+ Chocolate!)

Gelateria Gianni

This popular gelateria is known for its extensive selection of flavors and prime location. The prices are competitive, servings are usually generous, and the display case is a delightful rainbow of color. Once you have paid, they are happy to give you free samples to help you decide on a flavor (though the unspoken rule is to limit yourself to just one or two freebies). It is standard to pick out two different flavors for each cup (even three or four in bigger servings), but this isn’t mandatory. 

Address & Opening Hours:
Via S. Vitale, 2a, 40125 Bologna BO
Open every day from noon to 11pm, except Wednesday when it closes at 10pm 

Cremeria La Vecchia Stalla

Image by Cremeria La Vecchia Stalla

The most important thing to remember when choosing a gelateria: if the pistachio gelato is bright green, it is usually a sign of an overpriced tourist trap. Italians are exceptionally proud of their pistachios, especially those from Bronte, and a dull muddy green is the surest visible sign of quality. Vecchia Stalla is proof of this. Though the gelato is hidden in deep canisters, you can trust that each flavor will sport the earthy tones of its natural ingredients… and their dull green pistachio is an epiphany of creamy goodness.

Address & Opening Hours:
Via Santo Stefano, 14/A, 40125 Bologna BO
Open from noon to 11pm every day, noon to midnight on Friday and Saturday, and 11am to 11pm on Sunday

Oggi Gelato

I must confess that this gelateria can be a bit skimpy on the serving sizes (a mortal sin according to most Italians), but it’s worth mentioning because of the exceptional flavors they offer. Each one highlights the quality of Italian ingredients, and it’s the only place I’ve ever found that uses Modica chocolate (a Sicilian chocolate with a unique texture) in their Stracciatella.

Address & Opening Hours:
Via Ugo Bassi, 25
Open from 11am to 10pm every day, and to 11pm on Friday and Saturday

Venchi

If it’s too cold out for gelato but you still want something sweet, hot chocolate is a great alternative. Most coffee bars offer a nice thick hot chocolate, but it’s usually made from a powder packet that’s mainly cornstarch. The result is a kind of hot chocolate pudding, which is tasty enough, but nowhere near as satisfying as real melted chocolate. So skip the powder packet and go straight to Venchi, where the chocolate flows thick and rich straight from a never-ending fountain. One taste and you’ll never be able to go back to instant cocoa. 

Address & Opening Hours:
Via degli Orefici, 23, 40124 Bologna BO
Open from 10am to 8:30pm every day, and to 11 pm on Friday and Saturday

Food Markets in Bologna

Mercato Delle Erbe

And finally on this guide to where to eat in Bologna, a couple of food markets, because locals looove to hang out here. Mercato delle Erbe is a bustling food market by day, lively social scene by night. The main open space is dedicated to stalls supplying local produce, meats, and cheeses, many of which are happy to provide samples. Meanwhile, the two side wings host a variety of dining options in a quaint courtyard setting.

Address & Opening Hours:
Via Ugo Bassi, 25, 40121 Bologna BO
Open from 7am to midnight every day, and to 2am on Friday and Saturday. Closed Sundays. 

Mercato di Mezzo

A visit to this indoor food market is a fun way to enjoy a variety of Italian specialties in a casual atmosphere with communal seating. Be sure to take a full tour of the options before making your choice. My personal recommendation: a beer from Baladin and a heaping plate of fresh pumpkin tortelli in sage butter. 

Address & Opening Hours:
Via Clavature, 12, 40124 Bologna BO
Open every day from 9am to midnight

To be perfectly honest, it’s hard to go wrong when eating out in Bologna. With this list though, not only are you sure to eat well, you will also get to enjoy a cultural experience that is an integral part of local life. If you are what you eat, then you’ll practically be an honorary Bolognese by the time you leave.


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