One of the best meals I had in Italy this year was at Caminetto d’Oro in Bologna. Francesca Gori is a sommelier to watch!

Whenever people ask for recommendations on where to eat in Bologna, my answer is always the same: there’s great food in Bologna but the best expressions of true Emilia cuisine are found in the countryside.

I stand by my position on this issue.

But I’d like to amend it: I enjoyed a bunch of great meals this year in Emilia but one of the best — one of the best meals I had in Italy this year — was at Caminetto d’Oro in downtown Bologna.

Those are the tagliatelle al ragù, above. (In Bologna they’re not called tagliatelle alla bolognese; they’re just called tagliatelle al ragù).

One of my best friends and clients, Paolo Cantele, and I had carved out time for a “working dinner,” so to speak. And he suggested we go there.

I’d actually been there once before, many years ago, with my dissertation advisor and the leading food studies scholar in Italy today, Massimo Montanari. But that was back in the days when I parsed hendecasyllables for a living and only gave a second thought to salumi and giardiniera (above).

I can’t think of a friend in Bologna (and I have many) who would opt to take you out to a restaurant for dinner instead of inviting you to her/his home for tagliatelle fatte in casa (and at the risk of sounding sexist and chauvinist, I have to point out that it’s always tagliatelle fatte dalla mamma).

But, man, the meal at the Caminetto d’Oro (the golden fireplace) was phenomenally good. And the white tablecloth setting didn’t detract one bit from the experience.

But the thing that really took it over the top for me personally was the wine list.

And here’s where the experts will disagree: most would contend that the true Emilian meal is paired exclusively with Lambrusco. And I mostly agree with that supposition.

But when sommelier Francesca Gori appeared with a bottle of Vigne di San Lorenzo macerated Albana (above), I thought I had died and gone to heaven. We opened a number of bottles that night (including a 2012 Bartolo Mascarello, thank you, Paolo!). But the stars of the meal where the Albana and Vigne di San Lorenzo’s stunning Sangiovese (one of the most original and most enjoyable wines I tasted this year in Italy).

Man, why is no one bringing these wines to the U.S. yet? Importers, please get on it!

Francesca also runs the wine and beverage program at storied restaurant’s newish wine bar next door, Twinside.

If I lived in Bologna, I’d be there every night (and Saturday nights in the main dining room).

What a great restaurant and what a great evening in Bologna! Francesca, thank you so much for sharing so many groovy wines.

And of course, no evening in Bologna is complete without a stroll sotto i portici, a walk under the porticoes, one of the city’s defining architectonic features.

When in Bologna, check it out. I highly recommend it (but be sure to reserve, especially for the main dining room).

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