All’Osteria Bottega opened in 2005, situated in a tiny street a little off the most central part of the city. This is an informal restaurant, with outside tables on the street in addition to the main dining room, where the tables are closely packed. There are no tablecloths, but there is a detailed list of the food suppliers, showing where the emphasis is here: on the food rather than the surroundings. This is very much a carnivore’s restaurant, with not a single fish or seafood dish, and barely a vegetarian option.
The front of house is managed by Daniele Minarelli, who is attentive and seems ever-present. The head chef is Daniele Bendanti, who was a graduate of the ALMA culinary school in Parma. There is no written wine list. Instead you discuss your preferences with the staff, and a bottle is brought for you to try. We drank the very enjoyable La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino 2014, at €70 compared to its retail price of €57.
You are encouraged to begin your meal with a plate of ham, or cheese, or both. Don’t miss out on the top-notch ham. I really enjoyed the Padero Cadassa three year aged culatello from Parma, a producer that has been making fine ham since 1780. This came with a little Parmesan and a few slices of apple. This was really top of the range ham, having gorgeous, delicate flavour. Sure, the kitchen has not directly intervened here, but this was top-notch sourcing. The local cheese was also excellent.
I began with a signature dish here, tortellini stuffed with meat, resting in a capon broth. The stuffing was a mix of veal, mortadella, egg, prosciutto and Parmesan. The clear broth had plenty of flavour and the pasta was very good (14/20). Even better was tagliatelle with caramelised onion with sprinkled Parmesan on top. The pasta was superb, and the onion was sweet and went really well with the Parmesan. This was a really classy dish (16/20).
Aubergine Parmigiana was baked aubergine layered with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese, the aubergine and tomatoes having very good flavour, the cooking accurate (14//20). I had tagliatelle ragu, the pasta itself very good, the ragu a mix of beef and pork leg that had been cooked over an open fire. This had plenty of flavour but was a little dry to my taste (14/20). As a side dish, Bolognese potatoes were stunning, slices of locally grown potatoes with lovely flavour and bold seasoning. They could perhaps have been a touch crisper but I was really impressed by their flavour. It takes some skill to raise the humble potato to this level (16/20).
By now we could barely manage a dessert, but shared a strawberry sorbet. Even this dish exceeded expectations, the fruit having great flavour, and the acidity precisely balanced with just enough sugar (easily 16/20). Coffee was from a local roaster called Leonardo Lelli and was very good.
Service was charming, the staff being helpful and friendly. The bill came to €99 (£88) each, but if you shared a modest bottle of wine then a more typical cost per head might be £55. I loved this place, which was completely packed out with a mix of locals and visitors. There was a real emphasis on ingredient quality, and several dishes showed classy technique. The whole evening here was a joy, with simple but superb food and a genuine sense of hospitality. If this was anywhere near where I lived I would dine here every week. If you are in Bologna then don’t miss it.