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“It’s not your fault!” she laughed.

I had just walked in the door of my hotel, clutching my stomach in a bit of a panic, unable to fit in another morsel of food, no matter how small or appealing. Halfway through my 10 day eating trip through Italy, I felt like a plump, overstuffed ricotta-filled cannoli, bursting at both ends. I told the woman at the front desk at my hotel that I could not eat one more bite of anything, or I would surely die.


“It’s not your fault.” she told me, “The food in Bologna is too good!”

And indeed, she was right. We’d eaten very well, from simple trattorias, slurping up Tagliatelle al Ragú and Tortellini with Ricotta and Zucchini Blossoms floating in brodo, to filling up on pizza bianco, stuffed with everything from roasted potatoes and fragrant rosemary to gooey, stringy Italian cheese and thin-sliced prosciutto. Although I could easily point a finger at the restaurants for the gustory overload, I did have a role in the matter, since between all these meals, I consumed a rather indecent amount of gelato. So I’ll share the blame, mezzo-mezzo.

Fresh-churned Gelato di Cioccolato

Eating gelato in Italy is a national pastime. Like Americans who tote oversized paper cups of coffee wherever they go, Italians walk around lapping up cones of gelato instead. You never hear anyone complain about their weight, calories, or anything like that. They just love their gelato and its enjoyment is an integral part of life in Italy. And as they say, “When in Rome…”
(A theme which began a few days earlier, when we actually were in Rome. But it’s not so pretty to say, “When in Bologna, do as the Bolognese do.” Is it?)

But one thing that is pretty incredible is the gelato that’s churned up in Bologna.

Gianni Figliomeni of Il Gelatauro

Just a short walk from the center of Bologna, is where you’ll find Il Gelatauro, where Gianni Figliomeni makes what many consider the best gelato in Italy. Although I think the cookies deserve an award as well, and just looking at the picture makes me wish I hadn’t been so polite when they offered me a bag to take back with me.
Stupid Boy! What was I thinking?

Krumiri cookies and Mondorletti al Cioccolatto Fondente

Above are the chewy, excellent cookies that I had from Il Gelatauro. The krumiri are vibrant-green cookies made simply of pistachio paste and honey mixed together and baked. But what pistachio paste that is! Unlike ordinary, dull-flavored pistachios, Bronte pistachios from Sicily are brilliant-green, and not-so-delicate, filled with intense pistachio flavor. You simply can’t make cookies like these without them, nor can you make Pistachio gelato without them as well, so don’t even bother. The other cookies, Mondorletti al Cioccolatto Fondente, are made by mixing ground nuts with rare manna syrup (when Gianni can find it), then dipped in sublime Amedei Chuao chocolate from their plantation in South America.

Most gelato has less fat than regular ice cream, but it’s denser since less air is whipped in while churning, generally just 20-25%.

But what I came here for was the gelato, which not only didn’t disappoint, but after eating gelato non-stop the previous week in Rome, I wasn’t prepared for how special these gelatos are. Il Gelatauro uses mostly organic ingredients, so when you order a cone of Creme (and they have glutenfree cones), you can taste the fatty, golden-yellow egg yolks used to enrich the gelato base. And although it would take a rather big Italian dude with lots of muscles and a crowbar to pry me away from my beloved Cioccolato gelato, the Yogurt gelato had the fresh tang of yogurt combined with the slippery, lickable texture of gelato. It was the best, freshest-tasting Yogurt gelato I’ve ever had.

Once the gelato is scraped from the machine, chunks of cake crumbs are scattered over and soaked with liquor, then mixed in.

Other flavors included Principe di Calabria, scented with bergamot and Calabrian jasmine flowers, rich Mascarpone, Zucca e Cannela, made with squash and cinnamon, and Semi di Finocchio, a gelato flecked with sugared, candied fennel seeds, which were originally given to pregnant women to increase milk production. Since I’m neither pregnant, nor lactating, I’ll have to take their word for it.

But it’s not just esoteric or the unusual that tempt, delight, or whatever they say in Italian (Hey, lay off—I’m having enough trouble with French…let’s not toss Italian into the mix.) His Chocolate-Brownie gelato was an amazingly right-on recreation of an all-American idea, although that should come as no surpise since his wife is American artist Angela Lorenz,whose artwork is shown on the walls of the gelateria. Perhaps she also had a hand with the creation of the Baked Apple and Cinnamon gelato and Caki, or the creamy, autumnal Persimmon gelato with a soft orange hue as well. If so, I suggest they revoke her American passport so she has to stay in Italy.

As they walked me through the gelateria and the spotless laboratory I learned much about his gelato-making techniques. Many gelaterias make just one base, then add flavors to build them up. But at Il Gelatauro, each base is made separately and to certain specifications, then frozen at the start of each day. All Gianni’s gelatos are made with fresh, organic cream and milk, unrefined cane sugar, and a touch of the highest-quality powdered milk to increase the milky-smooth flavor and mouth-feel without increasing the fat. He confided in me that many of the thick gelatos we taste at other places have added vegetable fat to make them thicker and smoother. But there’s nothing like that done here, and as I watched and tasted a spoonful of each and every flavor they had to offer (how could I resist?), I finally made my way back to my hotel.

To do—what else? Make plans for dinner!

Il Gelatauro
San Vitale, 98/b
Tel: 051 230049

(More food photos of my trip to Italy are here.)

Other Gelato in Bologna


Via Galliera, 49/B
Tel: 051 246736

Sicilian-style granite, or shaved ice. I can’t imagine anything better in the summer (or even in the winter) than espresso and chocolate granita piled into a cup.

la Sorbetteria
Via Castiglione, 44
Tel: 051 233257

Rich, thick gelato in flavors such as ricotta with caramelized figs, dulce de leche, and chocolate-studded straciatelle. Make sure to visit their chocolate shop, il Coccolato at Via Castiglione, 44/B, just down the street too.

Restaurants in Bologna

Trattoria Tony
Via A. Righi, 1/B
Tel: 051 232852

Simple basic Bolognese fare. Great pasta, tortellini en brodo, and bollito misto. Friendly service, but the food requires a grappa chaser afterwards if you plan to sleep that night. Seriously.

Trattoria Anna Maria
Via Belle Arti, 17/A

Angela from Il Gelatauro was so rapturous about the barely-there, super-thin strands of tagliatelli that I knew if I didn’t go, I’d regret it for the rest of my life. I followed my Tagliatelli Ragu with roasted, fork-tender Guinea Fowl. Be sure to reserve.

Enoteca Italiana
Via Marsala, 2/b
Tel: 051 235989

Lovely, lively wine bar with an amazing selection of Italian delicacies for sale as well, including well-stocked shelves of Domori, Slitti, and Amedei chocolates.

A.F. Tamburini
Via Capriarie, 1
Tel: 051 234726

Glorious shop featuring all sorts of cheeses and salumi. Casual cafeteria if you wish to sample their fare on the premises.

Hotels in Bologna

Two reasonably-priced hotels in the center of town, just a 10 minute walk from the train station, and just minutes from all the gelaterias listed above!

Hotel Paradise
Vicolo Cattani, 7
Tel. 051 23179

Hotel Metropolitan
Via dell’Orso, 6
Tel: 051 229393



    • matt

    I suppose if you didn’t stuff yourself with so much amazing food I would be a bit miffed, I’m glad to see you indulged yourself with all that amazing food!

    • Kalyn

    When I went to Italy I was struck by three things: the beautiful architecture everywhere, the wonderful food, and how handsome all the men were. What a wonderful place. (I want to go again ASAP.)

    • AlliK

    Yummy! You didn’t lead us astray with Paris recommendations for earlier this year, so I’m excited to hear your Italy recommendations now too. We’re heading to Rome in November so I’ve been combing through your old posts and eagerly awaiting some new ones from this latest trip. Does anyone even use guidebooks for this stuff anymore? I trust your judgement better!

    • Charlotte

    Dammit, David! I don’t have time to make my own tagliatelle and ragu today. Now, I have to reschedule everything. Do you know how long ragu takes to cook?!

    • shauna

    Oh my god.

    I’m so damned jealous. Especially if they have gluten-free cones! Wow!

    Okay, too many exclamation points.

    However, if I ever get to Bologna, I am going to that place first. I may never leave.

    Thanks, David.

    • Tana

    How I wish I’d known you were going to Rome. A friend just left there, and had not properly researched his food. He was pretty disappointed, overall—because he expects the best.

    I like the black and white Flickr photo of you. Would love to see the whole thing!

    Bon soir!

    • Robert

    Aw, geez. I got hungry just from reading your descriptions; the pictures are downright cruel. I don’t think any of it was your fault at all.

    • Jeremy

    Wow that looks and sounds delicious as usual David!

    • Leeza

    Lebovitz, I hope you realize what an incredibly lucky chap you are:)

    • Lucy Vanel

    David, your trip to Italy looks like it was really wonderful.

    • maryeats

    Yum, I just returned home from dinner, totally stuffed, but your post has be thinking there’s a little extra room for something chocloately. mmmm.

    • Matteo

    As an Italian from Bologna, thanks for saying such wonderful things, but I have to correct your spelling on two words:

    proscuitto should be “prosciutto”
    Tagliatelli Ragç should be “Tagliatelle al Ragú”


    • Maureen in Oakland

    I’m full after reading this, but also drooling. It isn’t pretty. What a wonderful post. I can’t wait to try the gelato next year when I am there.

    • Amanda

    I was going to say, you rave about gelato in Bologna but don’t mention la Sorbetteria!? Having lived in La Grassa for 6 months,
    I can only say how jealous I am that you got to visit. Next time you happen to be there: take a cab outside the city to Trattoria Gigina, share the affettati at 15, Mirasole (known only as Quindici), stroll in the giardini Margherita with a cone of Dolce Emma from the Sorbetteria (one must choose one’s favorite in Bologna– forget the Baskin-Robbins-esque Da Gianni, and leave the fancy flavors of Gelatauro!)…Bologna is an exceptional city, and one that I miss!

    • Karla

    Any chance you have some gelato recipes to share!??

    Your trip sounds absolutely fabulous! One of these times, maybe I’ll get to join your tour!

    • Melissa

    I was away too over the last few days, happily sampling all the delicacies Norway has to offer, but suddenly all that Aquavit and rømmegrøt are paling quite badly in comparison…

    • s’kat

    My husband and I were in Bologna last week, and stayed at the Hotel Paradise! Sadly, we were so tired by the end of a travel day/touring the Ducati factory, that we could barely muster up the energy to trump down the block for dinner.

    I’m even more sad about only trying two gelatos the entire time in Italy… I was too full from the wonderful meals!

    Ah well, there’s always- next year!

    • Brett

    You didn’t mention eggs in the ingredient list for gelati in Bologna. Do you know if they usually use a custard base or is it just milk, cream, and sugar? Will we ever see gelato recipes from Mssr. Lebovitz?

    • David

    For those of you lucky to have my book, Room For Dessert, there’s a killer recipe for Chocolate Gelato that rivals anything I’ve had anywhere in the world. It’s the best!

    Brett: Gianni only puts eggs in a few of his gelati. Most gelato-makers don’t add eggs, although Faith Willinger said that in the south of Italy, sometimes they use starch instead since it’s more digestable. He uses mostly milk, with some cream, sugar, and a touch of powdered milk. And Karla; look for several excellent gelato recipes in my upcoming book, due for release in the spring of 2007!

    S’kat: We were at the same hotel? Great coffee in the morning and they were so nice at the front desk.
    I also liked being near that shop just down the street– ’69 Sex Up Your Life’ that’s a name I bet makes the owner’s parents proud.

    Matteo: Thanks for the corrections. I can barely blog in French, so it’s no surprise I made an error, or two, in Italian. I outta stick to English. But you’re welcome, and I loved your city…prego!

    AlliK: Glad you found my suggestions were good.
    I just noticed a national newspaper also found some of my posts good too….good enough to ’emulate’.

    Amanda: I’m not a ‘fancy-flavor’ kinda guy, but that Yogurt Gelato at Il Gelatauro was incredible. Check it out when you go back. And get a few licks in for me.

    • Julia

    I stayed at the Metropolitan in June and I can indeed recommend it as well. The room was small but really lovely, so well-priced (I think around 60E a night) and the location simply cannot get any better.

    • Jeanne

    Oh stop, stop!! All this gelato talk is making me yearn for a warm climate and a tub of pistachio gelato! Your gastronomic tour sounds like tremendous fun & the zucca & canela flavour gelato sounds like something to put on my list of things to eat before I die…


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