Trattoria Leonida. Bologna

This was the first “nice” restaurant I had been to in Bologna. Nice as in white table cloth, clean atmosphere, and multiple servers. I came for lunch with some colleagues I had just met and was immediately swept away by the old school Bolognese character of the place. The logo of the devil clinking his feet over fire serving food looked to be a good sign. It is located on one of these tiny curved alleyways that thoroughly confuse someone who is new to the city. These streets can completely overturn whatever internal compass one has. After living here for a bit, at least personally, getting around gets very easy once you realize that the city has a circular, grid-like footprint, once described as a bicycle wheel design. It is next to Ruggine, a Berlin-esque cool spot serving vermouth drinks; but the two populations couldn’t be further apart.

Upon entering, there is the cold area where vegetables are stored with a plethora of wine bottles and adorned with seemingly huge, jeroboam-sized bottles of grappa. A rabbit being prepared in full view was another positive confirmation. Having already been crossing Bolognese staples off my list, I jumped on getting Riso al Barolo. Was it the wine in the dish that grabbed me? Obviously, yes. As it was lunch, we split a ½ bottle of Rosso di Montalcino, recommended to us since it would be cheaper than buying 2 glasses of nameless red. The dark contrast of the lack of huge markups at an on-premise compared to what I was used to in the US excited me. While the rice dish was great, my friend got Tortelloni with Ricotta, which made me envious. I cannot forget how it was served, with even more ricotta thrown on top, but it wasn’t even cheese at this point, it was air; it was lighter than a feather.

About 9 months later, I went back on an impulse with the GF hoping there was an open space. Dinner time, peak hour and packed, but we got seated immediately. Interesting to note that at least in Bologna, sometimes when I have called to make a reservation I am told it is completely booked, but upon simply showing up, we are instantly seated at a table for two in the corner. We came for a quick bite, but I think this place would be great to do a full courses session. However, Bolognese food sort of makes that impossible. The straightforwardness of Emilian cuisine is much of what I love about it. They have the best single product, and don’t muddle it down with all these other random quinoa additions that mean nothing and provide zero value. Passatelli in Brodo, wow, Tagliatelle al ragu, perfect. So I tried tacchino al balsamico, a perfect melange of turkey “tips” in a balsamic forward richness. What makes the restaurant experience for some, and especially in Europe, where the face time with the waiter can be fleeting, is that you sometimes have to order on your feet. When asked what I would have it with, I simply replied “What is available?”. The waiter thought and said roasted onions, sure, ok. It was only till the bill came that I realized I was paying for a whole extra plate of roasted onions. Very good ones, but yet it was an accompaniment I didn’t realize was not part of the plate. Regardless, the experience was great. A nostalgic view of what top restaurants with local vibes are like. Overall the service was great with multiple servers checking up, humor being produced, and what seemed like the owner, personally taking interest in everyone’s experience. A must try for premodern fine dining, located right in the center, but just off enough to avoid the worst type of tourists.

Trattoria Leonida

Vicolo Alemagna, 2, 40125 Bologna

Hours:  Mon-Sat 12-2:30, 7-11pm, Sun 12-2:30

Ruggine  

Vicolo Alemagna, 2/C, 40125 Bologna

Hours:  Mon-Sun 6PM–1AM

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