History, luscious food and wine – and fewer crowds than the nearby city of Florence – are just a few reasons to add Bologna to your must visit city list. Known as la dotta (the learned), la rossa (the red) and la grassa (the fat), Bologna is famous for its sfogline (skilled homemade pasta makers) and luscious mortadella. If you are a stuffed pasta lover there’s no city quite like it. The sfogline hand-roll tortellini, tortelloni, and tagliatelle with generations of expertise and ease.

Meat-stuffed tortellini are what brought me to the capital of the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. A quick 2 hour high speed train ride from Rome landed me in Bologna where I was on a quest to find the best for an American documentary on food and culture. What I discovered was gorgeous pasta and warm and hard working pasta makers who are proud to share their stories. Here are a few of my favorite spots for talking with shop owners, the people behind the counters, and where to buy tortellini, mortadella and other delicacies to go.

Le sfogline – Sisters Daniela and Monica run this tiny shop with love, dedication and care. Loyal clients and visitors seek them out for classic tortellini made with high quality ingredients. Buy a box of tortellini to prepare at home and a slice of torta degli addobbi (rice cake) which is available around the Easter holidays.

Bottega dei Portici – Located under the portici (covered walkways), this modern designed bottega sells hand-rolled pastas including tortellini, tortelloni and gnocchi. Unlike most pasta shops, it offers casual outdoor seating where you can enjoy tortellini in brodo (tortellini in broth) or tortelloni con burro e salvia (tortelloni in a brown butter and sage sauce), tagliatelle al ragù (tagliatelle in a meat sauce), dessert and espresso coffee at reasonable prices.

Paolo Atti & Figli – The window display, packaging and signs that date back to the 1800’s draw people into the historical Paolo Atti & Figli shop located on Via Drapperie and into the newer location at Via Caprarie in the center of Bologna. The family owned shop prides itself on its fresh pastas, breads and cakes, all made on location with carefully sourced ingredients. Enjoy a drink and snack at the Via Caprarie location or order a gift box of tortellini and a vacuum sealed mortadella from Salumificio Pasquini & Brusiani. You’ll be happy that you did.

Salumeria Simoni – Silvana Simoni opened Salumeria Simoni in 1969 to sell pasta, cured meats and local cakes. It quickly became a point of reference and Silvana’s family joined her in the business. Visit the shop on Via Drapperie where you’ll find Silvana’s grandson Davide. Here you can purchase fresh pasta, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Salame Rosa (cooked salami made from prime cuts from the shoulder) and traditional desserts, or visit the Simoni bottega at Via Pescherie Vecchie, 3/b where you can sit and enjoy a plate of mixed cheese and salumi, salads, sandwiches and more with a glass of wine. 

Ceccarelli Amedeo – Located on the lively picturesque Via Pescherie Vecchie, Ceccarelli is a small family run deli that sells not only tortellini, tortelloni and lasagna but also cooked and cured meats like mortadella and prosciutto, balsamic vinegar and cheese such as Parmigiano Reggiano. Tortelloni filled with ricotta cheese and parsley are delicious served in a fresh tomato sauce.

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