Some destinations are known for their great food; others were put on the map by the likes of food personalities, chefs, and influencers like Anthony Bourdain. Italy’s Emilia-Romagna is a bit of both: anyone who loves good ingredients likely knew the region long before Bourdain visited, but his visit certainly helped spur a wave of new food tourism to the region too.
Bourdain visited Emilia-Romagna while filming season 9, episode 12 of No Reservations; it was the only time he visited this region during any of his shows. On his visit to Emilia-Romagna, Bourdain is joined by Chef Michael White, an American-born and Romagna-trained chef. Together they race around the region in a cherry-red Ferrari, stopping only – it seems – to eat increasingly indulgent meals before returning to the town of Imola where White worked as a chef.
Through this episode, it’s clear that Emilia-Romagna is a food-lovers destination, and it’s easy to see why you might want to follow in the footsteps – and fork-fulls – of Anthony Bourdain in Emilia-Romagna. Read on to discover each of the places that Bourdain and White ate on their journey around the region.
1. Restaurante San Domenico
As Bourdain is guided through Emiliga-Romagna by Chef Michael White, who was trained at Restaurante San Domenico, it’s no surprise that they dine here together – twice, in fact. The first time, Tony goes shopping with White and his mentor Gianluigi Morini from San Domenico, then White prepares an iconic dish – oval raviolo – by hand.
This unique pasta dish is filled with ricotta, parmesan, egg, spinach, and truffle, and is served with a light brown butter and morro mushroom pan sauce, topped with shaved truffle. They enjoy it right there in the kitchen before setting out to explore other parts of Emilia-Romagna.
White and Bourdain return to San Domenico at the end of the restaurant to both enjoy the hospitality of this famed institution restaurant. They have a multi-course meal, including tonno fagioli e cipolla (tuna with borlotti bean puree); turbo confit with fresh asparagus and adriatic clams; spagetti de granano with calamari, sea urchin, mussels, shrimp, and bottarga; gnocchi with largo from Tuscany, fresh fava beans and black truffle.
The grand finale is canard a la press – which is rare roast duck, where the breasts seared in the pan atop the duck press while the remainder of the carcas is pressed into sauce and reduced with cognac before drizzling over the duck breasts – and served with veal and parmesean stuffed tomato, asparagus, and roast duck liver. Is your mouth watering yet?
The episode could probably end here – even Bourdain notes that this is a once-in-a-lifetime meal, but there’s a lot more that Tony and Michael discover in the region, and other places they eat.
2. Antica Corte Pallavicina
Next, Bourdain tries something a bit lighter – though no less indulgent. He visits Antica Corte Pallavicina, the hisoric site where culatello is made in a cellar that dates back over 700 years. After learning about the process of aging culatello in said cellar, he and White purchase their own and hang it to begin the curing process, then sit down to enjoy a light meal of the delicious cured meat with wine and fresh Focaccia.
3. Unknown Cafe (Bologna)
In Bologna – The Red City or La Grassa (The Fat City) – Tony and Michael set out in search of a Negroni. They end up at an outdoor cafe that goes unnamed in the episode, so unfortunately I am not able to share it here.
I can share that they sit outside, enjoying very healthy-sized negronis, and enjoying mortadello sandwiches. It’s a distinctly Romagna meal, if nothing fancy.
Should you choose to try and follow Bourdain in Bologna, I recommend strolling the streets until you find a cafe with al fresco options – then order a negroni with whatever food you choose.
4. Trattoria Fita
In the town of Borgo Tossignano, Bourdain and White dine at Trattoria Fita which is famous for their Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a three-inch deep t-bone cut served with salt, oil, goleta, and crazy sausage (which uses many of the internal organs).
While their huge chunks of meat are cooking, they have several other courses, including pecorino and home priscuitto; ficattola and squacquerone cheese; goat cheese tortelli with butter and sage; and gnocchi with ragu of stinging nettle and sausage, served with a squacquerone cream sauce.
How they fit in any meat after multiple courses of pasta, cured ham, and cheese is beyond me – that was obviously one of Bordain’s superpowers!
5. Acetaia Pedroni
In the town of Modena, another famous foodie stop in Emilia-Romagna, Tony and Michale visit Acetaia Pedroni, a maker of traditional – and really, really good – basalmic vinagrette. The foods they eat are relatively simpler – but are topped with the vinagrette which takes them to another level; tortellini, braised chicken thights in lambrusco, slow-cooked spare ribs in white wine with cipollini onion, fritata, and a Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese dish to finish.
6. Tre Montei Vineyard
Finally, any episode about Emilia-Romagna would be remiss to not mention the winemaking in this region. The final place Bourdain and White dine before returning to San Domenico (as mentioned above) is Tre Montei Vineyard. After walking the vineyards with the winemaker, they enjoy a demonstration of hand-made tagliatelle, served with Pomodoro sauce and San Genovese wine at a table among the vines.
As Bourdain puts it in this scene, it is literally living the dream.
Food Tours in Emilia-Romagna
If you don’t plan to rent a Ferrari and drive yourself all over Emilia-Romagna, there are still ways to enjoy the great food you can find in this region. Here are some food tours I love that you might consider as substitutes or additions to your Bourdain-inspired trip.
Have any other questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Emilia-Romagna? Let me know in the comments!