Friday, 23 January 2009
Cheese and Biscuits on tour - Drogheria della Rosa, Bologna, Italy
Saturday night, and another exhaustively researched Trattoria in a breathtakingly pretty part of Bologna. Drogheria Della Rosa is notable for two things, other than the food of course. Firstly, it's housed in an old shop, and the tables and chairs are crammed into the unlikeliest of nooks and crannies, some wildly unsuitable. We were shown to a table perched precariously close to the top of a flight of stairs in a hilariously narrow corridor to and from the busy kitchens, but we were by no means the worst off that night. One poor couple attempted to enjoy a meal in the tiny holding area where diners waited to be seated, the frigid Bologna winter air blowing in every few seconds and with excitable Italian staff arguing animatedly just above their heads. They looked thoroughly miserable. I half expected to find a table for four set up in the gents when I went for a pee.
Secondly, Della Rosa is more than a little renowned for the ebullient service, thanks to the larger-than-life character of Emanuele Addone. Being a repressed, up-tight Englishman who would run a thousand miles rather than have to put up with that in-your-face TGI Friday's style false bonhomie, I was a little unsure at first, but fortunately there's nothing in the least bit forced about Sign. Addone's style and he just came across as genuinely friendly and welcoming. He also gave us a free bottle of wine to send us on our way after the meal, and how can you dislike anyone who gives you free wine?
So to business. Antipasti was a plate of mortadella and Parma hams and a few fluffy little balls of buffalo mozzarella. All brilliant - especially the mozzarella which were sweeter and more creamy than any I'd had before.
My starter of fresh artichokes and cheese-stuffed tortelloni (tortellini/tortelloni being a speciality of Bologna it seems) were stunning, the artichokes blindingly fresh and sweet and the homemade pasta silky and deep in colour from good egg yolks. This is the kind of dish you dream about eating in Italy, and now that I have I will dream about it even more. Superb. Also of note amongst the starters was a cute little lasagne with veal mince, again a big hit.
My main course had a huge amount to live up to after that starter, and only just fell short. The beef jus was perfectly seasoned and the roast veg - endive I think? Or a similar bitter vegetable - were also cooked perfectly. But the meat itself wasn't of particularly high quality and despite being cooked rare was quite dry and tasteless, which was a shame. Still, another diner had the same dish and declared it the best steak he'd ever eaten, so maybe I just had the last of a poor batch.
Desserts of panacotta, a fruit cake and ice cream and chocolate sauce were comforting and unpretentious, classically Italian in as far as they were simple dishes made using good ingredients and not mucked about with too much. Along with these came a huge plate of fruits and nuts - a lovely way to show off seasonal ingredients with minimum fuss, and again typical of the pride and confidence Italians have in their own produce. And as if all these freebies (the plate of hams and the fruit & nuts were unbilled and unannounced) wasn't enough, we were given a free bottle of delicate, caramel-y dessert wine to wash the cakes and puddings down with.
The bill came to around €40 a head, and although not super cheap thanks to the bloody awful exchange rate, it felt like a bargain once we'd polished off the free bottle of dessert wine and considered all the antipasti and other freebies. And then of course another bottle of wine was forced into our hands on the way out by Sign. Addone and all things considered it's hard to come up with a bad word to say about the place. Perhaps if I'd been sat by the front door and eaten my dinner shivering under the armpits of the waiting staff I would have come away with a different impression. Then again, if I had been served the same food, maybe not.