May 21


FCI 005 – Eating Well In Bologna With Sarah Dowling

By Rick

May 21, 2015

sarah dowling eating well in bolognaBack in 2008 I had my first long-term, “non-vacation” stay in Italy. No, I wasn’t in Rome, or Florence, or Venice. For some reason, I wound up in Bologna where I spent 3 months in small apartment on the edge of the historical center. I studied Italian during the day, and at night I explored the bounty of trattorie, enoteche, and ristoranti.

Admittedly, I didn’t really have much guidance and I could have used a friend like Sarah Dowling back then. She takes her passion for regional food culture seriously, and in the process has become an expert in Bologna’s rich offerings.

I used the word “rich” on purpose, because Bolognese cuisine isn’t known for its adherence to any sort of low-fat philosophy. In fact, quite the opposite, hence its nickname, “La Grassa,” the Fat One.

DSC_0267Sarah is an English teacher by day and blogger by night. She moved to Italy out of passion for the culture and love of the Italian lifestyle. Her blog Italy Project 365 speaks about the moving to Italy experience, as well as Bologna travel tips. It was nominated for the 2013 and 2014 Italy Magazine Blogger Awards.

Sarah has also published an authentic Italian recipe book called “Inside the Italian Kitchen,” and is planning to release “A Foodie’s Guide to Bologna” in the upcoming months. When Sarah is not writing, she is most likely getting down and dirty in the Italy Project test kitchen.

Eating Well in Bologna

During our conversation, I quizzed her about some of the dishes that, when we think about “Italian food” in the US, don’t exactly align with what one finds in Bologna. For starters, we sometimes refer to a type of deli meat in the US as “Bologna.” In fact, it has been further corrupted into something called “Boloney,” which in my schoolboy days, found its way into my lunchbox more often than not. (I don’t know who Oscar Meyer is, but he should be put to death, in a slow, painful way.)

Of course, this abomination is supposed to approximate mortadella. (In Rome there’s this salumeria in the tourist center—not far from Campo dei Fiori—that displays an enormous mortadella, roughly the size of Fiat 500, in their display case out in front of the shop. Great photo op, if you’re in the area.)

The other dish that has suffered international abuse is “spaghetti alla bolognese,” which most people will tell you does not exist (at least not in Italy). In its hometown of Bologna, the “Bolognese” sauce is merely called ragù, and it’s always served with the broader tagliatelle, and never with a skinny little spaghetto.

Sarah Dowling

This podcast episode is full of tasty bits of advice for any serious foodie who is considering a trip to Italy. Forget the diet and do yourself a big favor: put Bologna on your itinerary.

I would like to give a big “GRAZIE” once again to Sarah for sharing her knowledge of La Grassa with me today.

And click the link to check out other episodes and see my list of the best podcasts about Italy.

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About the author

Living in the Caput Mundi and trying to decipher Italian culture for the English speaking world.

  • Interesting to hear about Bologna, a city I’ve paid no attention to (I know, I need to remedy this. I just can never tear myself away from Florence) She surely meant Communist and not Fascist?

  • Ciao Rick, Loved your Podcast with Sarah Dowling about food in Bologna. I will be returning to Bologna for a month in September and will definitely be enjoying the food. My favorite is Tortellini in Brodo, it is delicious.
    Looking forward to your next Podcast

      • I will be attending ARCA language school, visiting Verona to attend the opera Nabucco, hopefully visiting Dozza for the mural painting and maybe take a day trip to Florence. Other than that enjoying lots of food and wine.

  • Pleasant interview. However Ms. Dowling seems to mix up parties and colors. Black has long been associated with fascism (oamicie nere), while red relates to communism (Bologna city government has been led by the left for years, hence the other meaning of “La Rossa” nickname).
    Also it is “La Grassa” (the fat one), not “La Grossa” (the big one).
    As for your feelings towards Oscar Mayers: I agree that what he did to bologna/mortadella is horrible, but he died in 1955. So…let’s boycott Kraft Foods (now Kraft/Heinz 😉

    • I think that’s why some foreign (American) tourists are reluctant to try mortadella. By appearance, it’s much too close to that lamentable cold cut found in school lunchboxes. I think only Spam is more “mysterious” in its ingredients.

  • I am definitely enjoying the podcasts Rick, keep ’em coming! Oh and by the way, I couldn’t agree more about Oscar Meyer and that lunch “meat” of his!

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