Ristorante Rodrigo (Italian) – Bologna, Italy

There was no question about Rodrigo not making it to the Bologna restaurant shortlist when I did my research about two months ago. My father-in-law loves this restaurant and still reminisces about the mashed potato with Parmesan that he had – so simple and satisfying. My husband had also planned to go there with his friend on his last eating trip to Bologna, but missed the reservation because of a delayed train. So we were determined to visit it this time, and booked a month in advance. see also : Ristorante Montegrappa da Nello (Italian) – Bologna, Italy

As opposed to a trattoria, which is less formal and usually less expensive, Rodrigo is a ristorante, and has been serving its customers for over fifty years. Inside, it’s elegant and yet intimate, as the dining room is not that large. The walls are wood-panelled and lined with bottles of wine, rare whisky and spirits, and the chandeliers are stunning. When we arrived at 8pm, the restaurant was practically empty, save for a lone Italian gentleman. After 8.30 though, wealthy Italians started to occupy the tables. No tourists. We felt very comfortable there, despite its slight air of formality. Our waiter, who has probably worked there for many years and who was a little stiff to begin with, became much friendlier and relaxed as he got used to us, and I even got a wink from him about half-way through dinner.

It was our first evening in Bologna, and we’d arrived less than two hours earlier, so I was exhausted, and not that hungry. To then be confronted with a large menu in Italian only was somewhat overwhelming. Although my husband’s Italian is good, he’s not familiar with all the descriptions on a menu. There were over forty items in the meat section alone. So I did what I normally never do – ask the waiter what he recommended, after stipulating that I was a meat-eater. And I was so glad I did it.

What we ordered:

He suggested the costata di manzo Robespierre – T-bone steak cooked rare, then thinly sliced and rubbed with rosemary, salt and pepper, before it is grilled on one side only. It is normally for two people, but I got to have a single portion (18 Euros). Vegetarian husband insisted on having the taglioline al tartufo – white truffles – as it was still the season for truffles. Even though it was a heart-stopping 50 Euros for a primo piatto, he had to have it, but as a secondo piatto. Rodrigo is renowned for its white truffles, so it was the right place to have them. The waiter ordered antipasti of mixed vegetables for us to start (16 Euros). And we had some Guarini, a Sangiovese local wine, which was medium bodied and slightly peppery.

Visitors to Italy will know this already, but for newbies (it was only my second trip to Italy), bread is not served with either butter or olive oil.

The antipasti was good – simply grilled fresh vegetables, and an excellent way to start the meal. But the taglioline was sublime. The heady aroma of the white truffles wafted over as it arrived. It really was superb, and we had no regrets about spending so much for it. Everything is served on trolleys by the way, a lovely traditional touch.

My T-bone was so flavoursome, so even though I didn’t have much of an appetite, I soon finished it. Rare on one side, grilled on the other, and served simply in its juices, carnivores will appreciate this dish. It didn’t come with any vegetables though, and I did consider ordering some. But luckily I didn’t…

The waiter, by now super friendly, suggested some cheese to finish the wine with, and brought over some large, delicious chunks of Parmesan. It tasted very different to the Parmesan we get in London, and was incredibly cheap too (5 Euros). It felt rather extravagant to be eating all that cheese that we would normally be quite precious about when grating it over pasta back home!

Then it was time for pudding. The semifreddo was home-made, so the waiter said we should try it, as it’s a Bolognese speciality, and so we did. For those who haven’t had semifreddo (it was my first time), it means half-cold and resembles an ice cream cake, with a mousse-like texture. Ours came with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. I wasn’t so sure about it, but my husband who doesn’t usually eat puddings, devoured his. Of course, I managed to finish mine too. By now, we were seriously full, when the waiter served us a plate of home-made Christmas biscuits on the house, filled with fresh fig, to have with coffee!

The verdict?

The bill was 135 Euros (to break it down – 2 covers 11.00, wine and water 16.00, 2 antipasti 16.00, 1 primi 50.00, 2 secondi 18.00, 1 formaggi 5.00, 2 dolce 10.00, 1 espresso 2.50, service 6.50). It was the most expensive meal of the trip, and our first, but it certainly set the standards against which we would measure every subsequent meal in Bologna (lunch next day was at Ristorante Diana). The service was efficient and friendly and we never felt rushed. The restaurant wasn’t noisy, so that we could have a proper conversation, and the atmosphere was relaxed. Rodrigo is highly recommended and we will most definitely go back.

Have a look at the summary of our trip and other restaurant recommendations in Where To Eat In Bologna

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