Saturday, July 23, 2011

Trattoria di Gesso da Titi'

Address: Via Gesso 133/A, Zola Predosa (BO), Italy. 0517511550.

Review: This, sadly, represents the last of my meals in Italy. Since I'm actually back in Salt Lake writing this post, I'll begin this post with the end and end it with the beginning. After my meal at Trattoria di Gesso da Titi', I had planned on going to Da Romano, located on Burano in the Venetian lagoon, and eating a fish risotto I had heard wonderful things about. I had been looking forward to this for months. However, I ended up eating so much at Trattoria Titi' that eating anything else for about the next twenty-four hours wouldn't have been worth it, or possible. Okay, so that's the end at the beginning. Now, let's get back to the beginning at the end.

Trattoria Titi' is on the outskirts of Bologna, and, unsurprisingly, serves Bolognese food. (If you think you've never had Bolognese dishes, you simply didn't know what you were eating was from Bologna. Many famous Italian foodstuffs, like lasagna, tortellini, bologna, are directly derived from Bologna and its outskirts. There is no greater food culture in all of Italy than that of Bologna.) And Trattoria Titi' specializes in the old Bolognese recipes. For example, tortellini are made by hand, panna cotta is cooked long and low without preservatives, and the crescentine are freshly fried.

I began with a classic antipasto of crescentine (a fried dough sometimes called gnocco fritto); squacquerone cheese (a creamy and tangy cow's milk cheese); pickled shallots, mushrooms, artichokes, and olives; and slices of cured meats (pancetta, prosciutto crudo, mortadello, etc.). It looked a little somethin' like this:

As with all things Italian involving bread or pasta, the bread (in this case the crescentine) was the star. It's fried bread, but it was lighter than any other fried bread I've ever experienced, and it was perfectly golden brown. The squacquerone is a cheese that needs to be eaten to be understood. It's liquidy (about 60% water), but tangy and beautifully creamy. It's a perfect accompaniment to cut through the fat from the crescentine and the fatty meats. And speaking of meats, they were gorgeous. The prosciutto was wonderfully salty, and the little token-size salami never made it anywhere but my hand and mouth. The pancetta was great, but, honestly, the best meat of all was the mortadella. Mortadella is what we called bologna, but Bolognese mortadella is not a amalgam of crap stuck in a tube like it is in America. Bolognese take their mortadella seriously, and it showed in this meal. The pink flesh and tasty lardons running like fatty veins through the meat were the perfect accompaniment to the bread and cheese. Likewise, the pickled vegetables added lightness and a distintive tang to what would otherwise have been a very heavy antipasto. This antipasto was brilliant 200 years ago, and it's brilliant now.

Next up came the tortellini in brodo di cappone, or tortellini in capon broth. (Capon is a castrated rooster. Why castrate a rooster you ask, other than the obvious answer that it helps control population? Well, castration helps keep the flesh supple, since in non-castrated roosters it tends to become tough and hard over time.)

This dish looked so simple, and yet tasted incredibly complex. The capon broth was like the Captain America of broths in that it beats up all other broths. It was fragrant and strong, with poultry running throughout. And while the vegetables used in preparation rounded out the flavor, capon was the unmitigated star. Then there were the tortellini. The pasta was fresh made by hand, and it was all cooked to al dente. Inside was a meat filling, likely of mortadella, sausage, and maybe some other ground meat. These were entirely different from the broth, and yet you couldn't really ask for a better taste combination. Every element was distinct but harmonious on the whole. Again, an old recipe flexing its muscle and showing why it has been around forever.

I was so taken with the food I ordered two desserts. The first was a panna cotta.

Never had anything like this before. The cream didn't seem really gelatinized, but cooked until coagulated by natural processes. It was creamy and stiff and very good. Underneath the cream was a layer of caramel that was heated to just under the point of burning. This created an intensely flavored caramel with the full range of sugar taste, from sweet to almost carbonized. So interesting.

And lastly, the tortino bomba al cioccolato (chocolate lava cake, more or less).

This was heavy, abundantly chocolatey, and gooey. There was no light sponginess you get with chocolate lava cakes in America. Very satisfying, although nothing spectacular.

What a wonderful meal. Stunning food made from centuries' old recipes by people who care about legacy and who care about doing things right. This was Bolognese food in all its glory, and a fitting end to a great Italian vacation.

Rating: 9/10 (5/10 is average).


  1. The "Captain America" of broths? Or Captain Italia?

  2. Just got done watching "Captain America" when I wrote this review. It seemed like the right thing to say.