Showing posts with label Italian pasta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian pasta. Show all posts

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 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.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pasta, Patate e Pane: Ciao D2G!

That title means, “Pasta, Potatoes and Bread: Goodbye to our “Diet 2 Go” – at least while in the city’s whose nickname is “la grassa” – the fat.

Diet 2 Go is the eating style we’ve adopted to keep from gaining weight on our travels (or at home for that matter): no bread, no pasta and no potatoes.
Well, for this week anyway, the D2G is on vacation as well.

We have been most pleased with our stay here – in fact have concluded that we could have spent a week and not seen everything. . .or eaten all that one could eat. Bologna is known for its food. Its restaurants. Its markets. Sigh. . .its temptations.

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Bologna is the birth place of tortellini, those little stuffed pockets of pasta, that as the story goes were created by a short-sighted innkeeper in the 1500’s who wanted them to look like navel of Venus. It also is where tagliette those long narrow noodles were created in 1487, patterned after Lucrezia Borgia’s hair.

Bolognese, the minced meat and tomato based sauce, is named for this town. (And let me make it very clear here: there is no dish called spaghetti bolognese here. . .that was an American invention and it is never ordered here without giving away your nationality!)

Add to that, we arrived in the middle of its Potato Festival. The potatoes grown here are so special they carry the mark of certification: Patata di Bologna D.O.P.   (And the festival, is in its 7th year).

And so it was that we began eating after a trip to the store in the photo above.  But I have to admit, it has been a sinfully fun week at the table and in the kitchen. Let me show you:

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“Mamma Mia!” as they say here.  


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