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Once Upon A Block
Sandwiched between Bologna’s busy main road, Via dell’Indipendenza, and Piazzetta della Pioggia, Via de’ Falegnami is a one-block wonder that you might not read about in popular Best of Bologna articles. With over fifteen shops and restaurants packed into its four hundred feet, this is how to shop my pittoresco street.
It’s Raining Candy, Hallelujah!
The large shop windows of Drogheria dalla Pioggia stop children in their tracks with kaleidoscopic displays of candy and cookie boxes. Inside, stacked from floor to ceiling, are jams, sauces, all manner of confections, candied fruit, housecleaning items, bottles of wine, olive oil, aged balsamic vinegars, and Italian and international condiments. They sell quality chocolate for baking, and I have been known to come back home with Sorelle Nurzia nougat, mango chutney, oversized lollipops (think Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory), coconut milk, muscovado sugar, and specialty mustards. And when I’m feeling nostalgic for the taste of American breakfast or dinner, a bottle of maple syrup or BBQ sauce hits the spot. Much of Luca and Stefano’s selection is hidden from view, so get up your courage and talk in Italian if you want a particular ingredient or a special wine you don’t see.
Il Forno Di Un Chicco
Squeeze into this bakery’s small space teeming with bread, cookies, grissini, cakes, and pastries in less than ten square meters. The heat from the ovens in the back greets you as soon as you open the door, along with the heady perfume of biscotti, sweet ravioli, or some other delectable morsel baking away.
Un Chicco is a new generation of Italian bakery with a focus on lievito madre, or sourdough, locally milled flours, unusual grains and pastry, including vegan takes on traditional and not-so-traditional cookies and cakes. Some hits at home are Kamut streghe, potato-based sandwich bread, and their hamburger buns (not what you think of while in Italy, but we’ve used them for all of our patty inventions, and they are so much better than the industrial version you get at grocery stores here). For a quick lunch, one of their filled focacce or savory muffins will do.
You might need a knife to cut through your pane rustico from Un Chicco, so mosey on down to Casa Chic. The scooter-shaped pizza cutters and ice cream cone funnels reflect the owner’s eclectic sense of humor, but you’ll also find kitchen utensils, pots and pans, cutlery, and table top items. I have long had my eye on the colorful glasses that line the shopfront window case, but my first purchase was, alas, far more practical — a cooking thermometer.
Just two doors down, Merceria Daniela can kit you out for lazing indoors. Pick up a pajama or nightgown, robe, and cozy socks. If you really want to show off your Italian skills, you might ask for a maglia della salute, aka an undershirt. You wouldn’t want to catch a cold from a colpo d’aria.
If hunger strikes you while pounding the pavement of Via de’ Falegnami, stop off at Twinside, Caminetto D’Oro’s bistrot. Open from 12:30 to midnight, it’s one of those rare places in town where you can eat (well!) between 3 and 6. This casual dining venue will surprise you with its sophisticated menu and wine list of over four hundred wines. As the offspring of one of Bologna’s most important restaurants, Twinside’s staff happily share their knowledge about food and spirit combinations.
They have a changing seasonal menu along with daily specials. My most recent feast for one: whole wheat maltagliati with mussels and potatoes, a glass of Friulian sauvignon and yogurt pudding with a pumpkin and ginger compote.
With its beautifully designed interior, soul-warming fare, and intimate atmosphere, it won’t be long before you feel your spirit rise.
When you walk out of the Drogheria, just turn the corner and you’ll hit another local institution: Macelleria della Pioggia. Giancarlo Montanari has been cutting up cows, chickens, and pigs for almost seventy years, and he is something of an institution himself. He took over this historic butcher shop across the street from Santa Maria della Pioggia in 1977, but it dates back to 1244! And like so many places in Bologna, rumor has it that even Annibale Carracci worked there in the late 1500s.
The history of il bollito may or may not go back to the 16th century, but Giancarlo will happily provide you with every cut required by tradition. Capon for your Christmas tortellini in brodo or turkey for your Thanksgiving, guanciale for a proper amatriciana or tripe if you’re brave — all part of this butchery’s long, faithful service to homes and restaurants across the city.
The Little Street That Could
This tiny avenue is by no means the most important street in Bologna, but you have to admire how every morning shop owners and restaurant staff of Via de’ Falegnami tend to their section of the road, sweeping, cleaning, and getting it ready for its daily show. The fact that Via de’ Falegnami is almost entirely pedestrian also contributes to its charm and makes it easy to imagine what the street might have looked like when it was home to carpenter workshops some centuries ago.
Juggling nuance between Italian and English, Tatiana lights up her five-burner kitchen top with nostalgia for American food, Bologna-inspired fare and cross-cultural inventions. She and her husband endlessly debate on cooking with or without a recipe. Their son just hopes that dinner will either be plain or have chocolate in it.