When you’re off to a known foodie destination and your research throws the names of certain restaurants into the mix several times, you know you’re onto a winner. Even better when these places are noted for not breaking the bank and for being favoured by locals. Osteria dell’Orsa in Bologna is one of these places.
Clearly the word of Osteria dell’Orsa’s reliable excellence has spread, as tourists from all over were waiting patiently for a spot to eat during my visit, but this hasn’t put off the locals, who still flock to the restaurant in hordes. Despite the Osteria’s popularity with tourists, it remains authentic with a menu fully in Italian, leaving me to use a translation app with only moderate success and a renewed resolve to learn the language with the help of Duolingo (and I bet you can guess how well that is going). The staff are extremely busy and this is a casual, local place, so don’t expect a great deal of patience with explaining each dish on the menu – ask about each section and expect a rushed reply, but it’s not too hard to muddle your way through, and they will advise if you’ve ordered too much.
And at these prices it really is hard not to over order; there’s a €6 dish of the day, their famous tagliatelle al ragu Bolognese, along with a €8 dish of ravioli and the traditional Bolognese dish Totellini in brodo (broth) for €10. Desserts are €4 and the drinks are just as holiday fund friendly, with aperitifs putting you out of pocket a mere €3 and excellent local wine comes in at just €7 for a litre. The prices alone are enough to appeal to anyone, and though you may be fooled into thinking that the prices are representative of the quality of the food, you’d be wrong. Very wrong.
Despite my strong affinity toward tagliatelle al ragu Bolognese, I’d had a perfect dish of it for lunch earlier that day, and in interest of sampling as much of a variety as I could fit in during my time in Bologna, I landed on the ravioli con pesto genovese. The break between pouring over the menu and eating provided the perfect time to people watch: everyone animatedly enjoying their food and chatting away in different languages. After a short wait a generous portion of yellow pasta arrived in front of me, smothered in plenty of fresh homemade pesto and stuffed with creamy ricotta. Washed down with a cold Aperol spritz (€3), I eyed up my neighbour’s platter of meat and cheese whilst I ate, already planning my next course.
Determined to try more food, I ordered a selection of cheeses with walnuts and honey to round the meal off, along with an excellent glass of red wine for two euros. Two euros! The atmosphere and communal tables make Osteria dell’Orsa a great place to eat solo, but with those portion sizes and the sheer desperation to try everything you see everyone else eating around you, going in a group would be handy so you can share a few things. Either way, make sure you track down Osteria dell’Orsa whilst in Bologna – it’s a true gem.
Via Mentana, 1, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy