Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Can a restaurant get any more comfortable than this, maybe so, but it's our home away from home in Bologna with down to earth, yet elegant cooking. Da Nello does feel a bit cramped at times, but that's only before the meal arrives, then your attention is totally placed where it should be, entirely on the food.
Don't bother with the basket of pane or crostini or whatever they call it; it's dry as dust and will take up precious room in your stomach, room better filled with what you've ordered. Antipasti range from cold cuts such as salami, prosciutto di Parma, prosciutto di San Danielle (more moist than that produced in Parma), culatello (like prosciutto only better), mortadella, and parmigiano cheese drizzled in balsamic vinegar, all the way to fiori di zucca (fried zucchini flowers). They also serve a variety of salads.
Pasta is king at this restaurant, so good in fact, that I make a point of ordering the specials so I don't miss anything. The gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce are light as a feather. The lasagna verde Bolognese has to be tried to be believed, it practically melts in your mouth. On our last trip in May 2007 I tried the tortellone pictured above. It was made with spinach pasta and the filling was primarily chicken. The sauce was laced with fresh porcini, which reminds me of my favorite secondo or entree.
The veal in truffle sauce (I know porcini and truffle are not the same, but I get a heady fragrance from both and they are both harvested in the Fall) is spectacular and I would encourage anyone to try truffles or porcini mushrooms if they happen to be in town when they are fresh during the Fall. This last photo is of a shrimp risotto that has been a favorite for some time.
The restaurant is located on via Montegrappa which is a small side street one block below where via Indipendenza dead ends in the center of town. Amusingly, it is just behind McDonald's (definitely "from the sublime to the ridiculous"). If you are going to Bologna on a day trip, it is closed on Monday, so be forewarned.
This photo alone should be enough to attract a food lover to this restaurant. Ristorante Diana has been written up in many travel books and cookbooks for that matter, but it wasn't until October of 2006 that we finally went to see for ourselves what a great dining experience this restaurant could offer. The trio of pastas is not a regular menu item, but the friends who took us to this restaurant are acquainted with the chef and we were delighted that he allowed us to order what amounted to a tasting menu.
Let's start with the first course. The Spuma di Mortadella was my choice since I had never seen it before. It was essentially whipped mortadella with ricotta cheese, very delicate in mouth feel as well as flavor.
Prosciutto di Parma was served with the most flavorful cantaloupe I have ever tasted. I ended up buying seeds for several different Italian melons in order to try and duplicate this taste stateside. The other antipasto plate was a selection of salami, prosciutto, mortadella, and if I'm not mistaken, a slow roasted porchetta.
After the pasta trio we were treated to a selection of roasted meats including pork, lamb, veal and turkey. Each and every one was roasted to perfection and succulent to the last bite. But back to that pasta...
Tortellini was sauced with a bechemel that was liberally laced with parmigiano cheese. The restaurant is well know for their tortellini (usually served with chicken broth) and I can understand why. The rich filling is made from mostly prosciutto, parmigiano, and mortadella. Tagliatelli Bolognese is another classic pasta of Bologna and this one did not disappoint with rich meat sauce and egg pasta. Lasagna Verde Bolognese is the best of the best. We've ordered it all over Italy but no one makes it better than home town restaurants and Diana has to be the winner so far. Each layer of spinach pasta is covered with a layer of meat sauce and kissed with bechemel, then dusted with grated parmigiano. The recipe is so labor intensive that I have personally only made it once, but it was worth the 5 hours of back breaking work. Please don't tell the chef, but at eight to nine euro per order, he's giving this away!
Don't think you can't find a vegetable here, the artichokes were tender and delicious sauteed in olive oil, finished with lemon, and sprinkled with parsley. The Veal Bolognese was a big hit too, covered in prosciutto and parmigiano with a dab of tomato sauce and pesto on top. The restaurant is located at 24 Via Indipendenza almost half way between the train station and the cathedral. Phone 231 302