Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mama Mia! Mealtime Magic with Anna Maria!

It was, by far, the most memorable meal we had in Italy; in fact, the most memorable we’ve had in some time.  And we attribute it to the serendipity of circumstances that can so unexpectedly happen when you travel. . .

It was the night we met Anna Maria Monari; the night we experienced Trattoria Anna Maria.

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The serendipity began weeks before our Italian trip. I’d written, BolognaWelcome, the  city’s tourism site for some information. 

Enter Giorgia Zabbini, (pictured to the left). She works for the Municipality’s tourism office and became our source of information both before and during our visit.



She was guiding us on a winding path through the city’s famous arcades, when several blocks from the tourist-filled 13th Century Piazza Maggiorri, she stopped before an unmarked store front so that we could note the pasta being made inside.

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The ladies were more than gracious in granting my request to photograph them as they kneaded and rolled out pounds of pasta, that we learned would later be served to diners at Trattoria Anna Maria.

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Anna Maria’s is one of those places that all the locals know about – the kind of place that serves ‘real authentic Bolognese food’ Giorgia said, adding that we ‘might want to try it’ while in town.

 Understatement! Within minutes we we at the restaurant securing  reservations for the next night. . .

Mama Mia! That’s when the fun began! 

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We’d hoped to meet Anna Maria  as she made the rounds that evening, chatting with guests, checking on customer satisfaction – as she does each evening.  But what we didn’t expect was a full-blown visit with her.

We’d barely been seated when Laura Bizzari, (on the left in the photo above) introduced herself and said that Anna Maria would join us shortly and Laura would serve as our translator.

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The wine was poured. The antipasti plate with omelet squares, bruschetta and mortadello (the meat for which Bologna is famous) arrived and we met this delightful 72-year-old restaurant owner.

Trattoria Anna Maria began 24 years ago in a smaller location a few blocks from its present site. Back then, Anna Maria was both waitress and chef, serving menu items created from her mother’s recipes.

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The restaurant may have changed locations, but recipes have stayed the same.  Tortelloni en brodo, those wonderful stuffed pasta pockets served in broth was our first, ‘first’ course.  It, like the pasta used in lasagne, tortellini, and the long thin strands of tagliattelli, is hand-made daily by the ladies pictured above. (They had used 136 eggs the day we visited – which should give you an idea of quantities produced each day).

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Our second ‘first course’ was tagliattelli in Bolognese, the famous meat sauce of the area. My mouth waters at the memory of these thin, near-translucent noodles that melted in our mouths.

Anna Maria sources as many of the products as she can from nearby farms and producers. She’s worked with some of them for years and was practicing that culinary ‘farm-to-table’ philosophy long before  it became trendy.

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Yes, this lasagne was the third ‘first course’ and I hate to admit that it was so good that I forgot I was taking photos of each course until half way through it.  We did declare a stop after this and didn’t sample any of the items on the extensive ‘segundi’ or second, main course list. (Okay in full disclosure, we shared a home-made gelato and fruit for dessert.)

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The restaurant was jam-packed by the time we left, several hours after our arrival.  Anna Maria was making her rounds, obviously enjoying her guests. Her earlier comment, when we’d asked about retirement plans, came to mind: 

“I am here every day.  Where else do I have to go? This is the party.  . .Mama Mia!”

If You Go: Trattoria Anna Maria is at Via Belle Arti, 17/A, Bologna. Information at www.trattoriaannamaria.com Credit cards accepted and is English spoken.

In full disclosure: We didn’t know until we asked for the bill, that we were Anna Maria’s guests that evening.  That wasn’t our intention in going there.  (I will add that going back to this restaurant is high on our list of reasons to return to Bologna. The pastas were incredible.)

This is our contribution to Travel Photo Thursday.  You’ll find more photos at Budget Travelers Sandbox.

26 comments:

  1. Tortelloni en brodo, how devine. Never have I had tortelloni in a broth. I would like to savour each spoonful.

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    1. I'd not heard of it either, until I read in a Frances Mayes book about it. Then noticed it on menus here and in Tuscany. It is a fantastic dish and I reasoned, without sauce had to have less calories. Ha!

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  2. How lucky for you to have such a great foodie experience and to dine with the owner. I love these small restaurants and your dinner sounds and looks delicious. It was a bit hard reading that right before bedtime. :)

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    1. As I was writing the post I have to admit my mouth started watering when I got to those pastas. Hope you grabbed a snack before bed and after reading this.

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  3. What a fabulous dinner. The food looks delicious and meeting Anna was obviously a highlight. I'll be book marking this one thanks Jackie!

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    1. It really was one of the best pasta dinners we've ever eaten. And we do recommend it highly. . .(and as I said, now are trying to figure out how to fit a return visit to Bologna into our future travels. . .just to eat here if nothing else)

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  4. Oh la la! Fantastic! The stuff dreams are made of...what a special evening.

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    1. It was in deed. As we left Anna Maria and I started to shake hands but in seconds we were enveloped in a large bear hug. It had felt that warm and welcoming the entire evening.

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  5. I've always wanted to know how to make pasta from scratch. I'm so in awe of the people who do still do things by hand. I felt like I was right there with you, Jackie. I could even taste the food.
    Cooked with love!

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    1. There's a cooking school just down the street from this restaurant where you can learn such techniques as making pasta from scratch. Next time I am giving myself time to head to it as well.

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  6. Yum. What a mouthwatering meal. And I have never seen one solid piece of pasta as shown in your photo. Looks like it could make a monster lasagna.
    I am also terrible at remembering to take photos. I don't know how many times I have dug in and then gone - Oh NO.

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    1. I've tried making homemade pasta and it always looks and feels like a small rug; I couldn't imagine working (successfully) with that much pasta; these ladies are true professionals.

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  7. How nice it is that you have documented how they make pasta! Am super hungry for that Bolognese tagliattelli. Just had pasta for dinner, but it's only with tuna and soya bean :(

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    1. Yes, such an amazing process and more amazing end result.

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  8. This is such a tantalising post - and mouthwatering photos. Yum! Have a great weekend F

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    1. Francesca, hope you have a pasta perfect weekend as well. J

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  9. What a treat. Everything sounds so simple and delicious.

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    1. It was just that: a treat! Thanks for visiting Sophie.

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    2. I think, I would have had 5 'first' courses. What a wonderful place.

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  10. What a perfect dining experience! I want to go to Bologna just to eat in this restaurant!

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  11. It is 8 am here and this post is making me HUNGRY - the experience sounds amazing - one that stays with you for a lifetime. Thanks for sharing it with us and thanks for linking up!

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  12. I just want to hop a plane right now for Bologna. we finally found one good Italian place in Penang, Malaysia, but I'm sure it doesn't hold a candle Trattoria Anna Maria. Do you think my girl would get a discount since her name is Maria Anne?

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  13. that looks like a really fun visit!

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    1. It was a beyond-fun visit! We'd go back in a nano-second! Thanks for stopping by today Noel. . .

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Glad you stopped by today and took the time to leave a note. Hope we'll hear from you often!

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