Life has a way of causing us all to swerve from time to time. Shay and I had both been looking forward to dinner at Al Pappagallo for weeks. A reservation made and outfits chosen. We were both a bit disappointed when the impending storms had forced us to change our bicycle tour to just before our reservation. Rather than arriving in style we would walk into a 100 year old institution sweaty and dressed down. Allora, the wait staff seemed to be un-phased by our grubby appearance. We are fifteen minutes early for our reservation. But, are seated swiftly in a room glowing with the light of two very large and brilliant chandeliers. I head to the ladies room to freshen up, and I’m happy to see a glass of Champagne awaiting my return. A sign from Dionysus that this is going to be a very good meal.
Al Pappagallo means “To the Parrot” in Italian. This restaurant has been an important food mecca in Bologna since 1919. After the first World War Giovanni Zurla a well known Chef among Italian aristocracy opened Al Pappagallo whether it was a tongue and cheek responses to his reputation for “playing the hits” of culinary fashion or if it was an ode to a popular humorist newspaper that closed that same year is a mystery. Either way I think it’s safe to say that Zurla knew what he was doing. In an industry where most businesses fail in the first six months, his has stood for 100 years.
After a careful peruse of the menu, I elect to eat Vegetarian so that we can each try more delightful dishes. We order the vegetarian lasagna with zucchini, and eggplant bolognese. We also order a risotto served in a cream sauce of thirty month aged Parmigiano Reggiano with a balsamic vinegar reduction. Dessert? That will require some pondering.
To begin toasted bread that has been brushed with extra virgin olive oil. Next a morsel of Parmigiano Reggiano with a spot of rich balsamic vinegar.
It is hard to know how to delicately eat the Parmigiano. At first I try cutting it in to smaller pieces, but the cheese has crystallized. I decide not to stand on ceremony, I dip the chunk of cheese into the balsamic vinegar, and take a bit. An explosion of flavor erupts on my taste buds. We import Parmigiano at my work, I have helped crack wheels of the stuff. But, I have never tasted anything quite like this in my life. It’s rich and buttery, but light and delicate. A symphony of flavors in a morsel of cheese. This must be magic.
Plates are cleared. It is now time for the main event. First the lasagna, with vegetable bolognese. In my quest for the perfect lasagna I have found that sometimes the vegetarian varieties are the best. Because the cooks cannot get lazy in regards to flavor. This lasagna is perfect. A little crispy on top is the way that I like it, so I’m assuming that was intentional. You can taste every herb, and every delicious layer of pasta. I think this must be heaven on a plate.
The piece de resistance is the risotto. The thirty month aged parmesan makes another appearance. This time as the cream sauce for the risotto. A drizzling of a balsamic reduction not only makes the plate look artistic it also sends the risotto into it’s crescendo. it’s light and fluffy. The rice is cooked perfectly so you get the textural effect of eating cheesey air.
Dessert and coffee are a must. The coffee menu boast all Arabica varietals. For dessert we have decided on Mascarpone with meringue crumble and dark chocolate chunks, and the og classic a chocolate lava cake on a raspberry compote. I order a single origin Ethiopia espresso.
My friend Neysa likes to keep the idea of a last meal request in her back pocket. Should the occasion ever arise she knows exactly where she would have her last meal. It’s safe to say that this would be mine.
Walking back to the apartment that night we are blissfully content. There is a car show happening in Piazza Maggoire. The owners of these dashing vehicles were dining with us at Al Pappagallo . After being on the road all day they were not dressed in their best, they looked about like us. Though they will return to their fancy Porches and Ferraris the next day. For one night only we are the same, just people having a really nice meal, in a beautiful restaurant on a perfect night in Bologna.