Oh fish, I do love it. Even if bolognese cuisine is a lot meaty, I have no doubts if I have to pick. Unfortunately Bologna has never been famous for its fish restaurants but this mood is changing very fast. Bologna is quite close to the sea, Adriatico is just 1,5h far, so fresh fish don't lack and you can find in some of our best markets. Maybe in the past we missed skills and creativity but Bologna has always been a city of transitions and now if you love fish, it's the right time to be in town.
Here are my 4 best fish restaurants in Bologna.
1. Scacco Matto
Do you believe in love at first sight? Enter this small restaurant in the beautiful Via Broccaindosso, watch the frames with vintage card games on the walls and enjoy Mario Ferrara's cuisine. I recommend the fish menu (50€) with 5 different dishes because it's the best way to discover the different sides of Scacco Matto. The chef is from the south of Italy (Basilicata) and arrived in Bologna 30 years ago after inspiring travels in Japan and Brazil. This open mind is reflected in his dishes with the usage of unusual ingredients (like raphanus) and combinations (gnocchetti with squid artichokes and periwinkle were amazing). Gelato is made by Andrea Bandiera of Cremeria Scirocco, one of my best gelato in Bologna, what to ask more?
My favorite dish: raw fish antipasto with squid, prawns and sardine
Via Broccaindosso, 63, 40125 Bologna
Open everyday but Monday lunch
2. Osteria Bartolini
It's the newest of the list and already a reference. The renovated Dondini Ghiselli palace hosts more than 200 people and in spring you can eat in a wonderful terrace on the shadow of a old plane tree. The owner, Andrea Bartolini, already has a Michelin star fish restaurant in Cesenatico (La Buca) but here the concept is slightly different. Simple dishes of maritime tradition with daily fresh fish only of Adriatico sea. Their fried fish, absolutely with no lemon!, is a must-try but if you prefer pasta, spaghetti alla chitarra with clams will do for you. Grilled sardines or shrimps always in the menu or daily dishes like rumble fish or sole, according to fishermen's catches. Wines list is not wide, most of the selection comes from Emilia Romagna, like pignoletto or albana, but you can find a few Franciacorta brut or rosè. Reservation is not allowed but the place is huge so I'm sure you can find a table.
My favorite dish: cartoccio of Adriatico sea fried fish
Piazza Malpighi, 16, 40123 Bologna
Open Tuesday - Saturday 7:30pm - 10:30pm. Closed on Sunday, Monday
3. Banco 32
Inside Mercato delle Erbe, one of the landmarks of our food tour in Bologna, stands this small bistrot that reminds me the mood some stalls of Barcelona's Boqueria market. The few tables are just in front of the market's fish stall where the french chef chooses everyday the best fish to cook. Menu changes everyday and has a short and selected list of fish dishes which usually includes salads, like octopus with potatoes and olives, a few pasta like scialatielli with palamita, confit tomatoes or fish lasagna and some secondi like rolled swordfish with aubergine. The cuisine has different influences, from France to Sicily, and the using of spices and herbs is perfectly balanced. British chef Rick Stein, quite an expert on fish, followed my suggestions and fell deeply in love with this place and their stuffed squid with spinach and capers. Arrive there early otherwise you have to queue, especially on weekends.
My favorite dish: hard to say, go with the daily pasta and you won't be wrong
Via S. Gervasio, 3/A, 40121 Bologna
Open Tuesday - Saturday 12:30pm - 2:45pm and 6:30pm - 11pm. Closed on Sunday, Monday
4. Il cantuccio
Salvo has owned "Il Cantuccio" for 25 years. The style is kind of retrò, imagine to enter one of the classic fish restaurant on the
beach in the south of Italy with boats on the walls, except that you're just 2 minutes from Via Indipendenza. No menu, you will be in Salvo's hands that, according to season and daily market, will bring you lots of antipasti like seared tuna with pistachios, fried cod, shrimps with beetroot cream and so on. If you'll still have some space you can go on with primi or risotti or grilled shrimps to end.
My favorite dish: fried calamari and artichokes on leeks cream
Via Volturno, 4, 40121 Bologna
Open Tuesday - Sunday 8pm - 2am. Closed on Monday.