It turns out that Modena is right next to Bologna (only 30 minutes away by train). And Bologna is not only home to spaghetti bolognese (though that is already reason enough for me), but it is apparently also quite a foodie hub in general. People from all over the world come to eat and learn. So we couldn’t resist but stop by to eat and learn as well.
We have alway wanted to “take an Italian cooking class in Italy,” and Bologna seemed like the perfect place to do it.
My friend took the helm on this one and we ended up taking a private cooking class with the #1 ranked Carmelita. She’s not cheap, but she’s flexible on timing. Her work space was also quaint and very welcoming. She’s also Italian British, so was very easy to understand.
Being a novice cooker (i.e. I think putting food in a bowl of water and boiling it is cooking), I was kind of expecting the “in the interest of time, we have already prepared….” type of cooking class that we are used to here in Hong Kong. But this is actually a VERY SERIOUS type of cooking class. When Carmelita says we are making 4 different types of pasta from scratch, she means FROM SCRATCH! Though sadly, we didn’t make bolognese. But I guess it takes a LOT more work. I hear it has much less tomato sauce than I thought.
I won’t go into the sordid details, but not only did we made our own pasta, we also cut our own spinach, grated our own cheese and made our own sauces and fillings. She kept the four of us B-U-S-Y. My legs were dying. We had no time to sit down. I have a new respect for chefs!!
My conclusion from the class was that I am not a cook, and I do not like to cook. Despite my lack of talent and disinterest, Carmelita did ensure that we our finished products (4 hours later) were delicious.
So would I recommend Carmelita? Yes, to serious cooks who loves cooking. But if you are like me and barely cook? Then probably not. Carmelita is a very serious cook. Lessons can be quite straining, and she can get a bit frustrated (though I can tell she tried really hard to hold it !). We had to take a hour nap after the lesson to recover.
One of the best things Carmelita did (in my opinion), was introduce us to my favourite gelato store on this trip.
My friend once told me, “I am not normally a gelato person, but somehow in Italy, gelato just seems to taste better”. I was skeptical at first, but now I am akin whole hearted agreement. I made it a point to try to have one everyday in Italy. I quickly found my signature flavour as chocolate and pistachio (I didn’t used to be a pistachio person either).
Not all gelato are equal though. The most famous store in Italy is a chain store called Grom. You can find it in almost all major cities in Italy. And it is always a safe choice.
But my favourite was definitely Cremeria Funivia at the Piazza Cavour in Bologna. I cannot pinpoint exactly why, but out of all the gelato I had in Italy during this trip, this gelato still sticks with me. The flavour, the texture was perfect! There’s a huge line there for a reason. I would definitely come back!
Ps. I just read in an article that Bologna also happens to be the “gelato capital” of the world. Maybe ALL gelatos in Bologna are awesome, and we should’ve had way more!
Trattoria Anna Maria
When a friend heard that we were going to Bologna she immediately recommended Trattoria Anna Maria where she had “the best pasta of her life.” How can we not try under such recommendation?
Anna MariaTrattoria is the quintessential family owned family style Italian restaurant. The interior and style reminded me of Fat Angelo’s in Hong Kong or Maggiano’s in Chicago (the association should probably be the other way around). The concierge helped us make a reservation, but surprisingly it wasn’t really needed (guess the competition is high in Bologna).
The menu is simple and inexpensive. I don’t even remember if we ordered appetizers. But we all definitely ordered pasta. I got a tortelloni (the other signature dish) and my bf got a tagliatelle with meat sauce. I remember regretting not just getting a tagliatelle myself. The tortelloni was good, but it was too heavy for my taste. I much preferred the tagliatelle which was delicious. The tagliatelle was the thinnest we have had in Italy (in our opinion, definitely a 5 in the pasta making wheel thing!). It reminded us of Chinese noodles (which is probably where they got the idea from to begin with). And we loved this Italian version!
So is this the best pasta we have had in our lives? I wouldn’t quite put it that far, but the tagliatelle is definitely one of the best!
Since we only had one day there, we only had about a hour or so to explore the city. But while the city is big, the old town is not that big. According to the postcards/magnets I saw in souvineer stores, the key landmarks appears to be the two towers and the fountain of neptune (which is in a huge piazza, which I assume marks the center of the old town?). Carmelita also showed us a glimpse of the hidden canals of Bologna.
We had a busy day in Bologna, but I think we managed to do and eat all the key things. I didn’t fall in love with the city exactly, but I definitely wouldn’t mind coming back to eat.
Bologna Train Station
Just a little tip for people taking trains in and out of Bologna. Turns out that the Bologna train station is HUGE. And not only are the platforms labelled by numbers, they are labelled by directions too. So there could be more than one platform 1! We didn’t know that and was wondering why our train still hadn’t arrived at our platform yet 15 minutes to departure. We only realized 5 minutes before departure that we were at the wrong platform. We then rushed down and up flights of stairs with our many suitcases, but only managed to catch the tail of our train. Luckily, we bought the ticket from Trenitalia (the more expensive but privately ran train company in Italy) and the service was excellent. The staff was able to immediately put us on the next train to Florence.
Considered yourselves warned!
Read about the rest of my Italy trip here!