Brussels Express readers voted for the best 2017 restaurant in Brussels and chose the italian Osteria Bolognese (51% of the votes). This review, by Kaja Hengstenberg, was published in June 2017
Dinner at home. Well, not literally at home, but once you enter Osteria Bolognese you feel as if you’re about to enjoy self-made food with an Italian family somewhere in Italy. Bologna to be precise. Giacomo, the owner of the place, opened the restaurant in 2014, his brother Luca joined him shortly afterwards from the European Parliament. The two owners are happy to advice you one wine, food and other important things in life. Francesco is another important part of the team and together, the three of them are one of the most welcoming hosts one could imagine.
If you get here on a Wednesday evening (the day when they don’t take reservations), you’ll spot the place from far away when walking down rue de la Paix. A line of people is waiting to get a table, which is not surprising, considering that to save yourself a spot here during a weekend’s evening you’ll need to book 2-3 weeks in advance. Yes, this place has it.
I’ve been here twice, just to make sure I would like it as much the second time as I did the first. Like that I can recommend it to my friends (and you) without feeling unsure about it.
The first thing that either Luca, or Giacomo, or Francesco will explain to you when you sit at one of the wooden desks, covered with red and white checked table cloth, is that there is no such thing as Spaghetti Bolognese. No, it simply doesn’t exist for people from Bologna. Bolognese (or: ragu) is served with Tagliatelle, exclamation mark.
Food here is simple, no trumpets when it arrives, no flowers, nor foam, nor golden particles on the plate. Just simple and delicious food that doesn’t need to be perfectly assembled, because the taste does the whole job. The ingredients are always fresh, partly being imported from Emilia Romagna, partly coming from local suppliers. The pasta is hand and homemade by Pastificio Dal Fiume in Bologna, which is a bunch of very lovely ladies, who put a lot of love into the process of making it.
What did we have? The first time, I took my friend Vic -who was here visiting-, Judith and my colleague Greg to that place I’ve always been passing by but hadn’t managed to enter so far. Also, Vic is quite demanding when it comes to food. This means that if she liked it here, you will most probably like it as well. We first went for the fried polenta with ragu as starter. As the main dish we ordered some kind of meat roulade with a white sauce, which didn’t look too appealing, but man! it was delicious. We also shared the Tortellini with truffles, which made my truffle-loving belly very happy. We finished the dinner with the delicious homemade Tiramisu and one, two, or maybe it was three shot glasses of Limoncello. After we took a group Polaroid photo for their photo wall, together with Giacomo, Luca and Francesco, we headed off to our next destination on that Friday night.
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The second time was more of a date evening, again, with my dearest friend Judith. Giacomo greeted us with a glass of Prosecco and brought us an extremely mouth-watering antipasti platter: Mortadella, cheese, a creamy spread made from Mortadella and Parmesan, Salumi (from Salumeria Simoni in Bologna) and a tomato stuffed with breadcrumbs accompanied by Gnocco fritto, little, salty Italian puff pastries and fresh baguette. Already very happy about this first delight, we ordered two pasta dishes as main and got a glass of Sangiovese wine each (Their wine selection is based on native wines produced from local grape varieties, so don’t hesitate to ask for different ones!). In theory, they were out of Tagliatelle al Ragu, but thanks to Francesco we got hold of a last plate filled with the delicious traditional pasta dish. Just one condition he said: ‘Don’t cut them with a knife’. Apparently a big no-go in Italy. First thing Judith said when the plate arrived in front of her was that she felt the strong urge to cut the pasta with a knife. Those Germans. The other pasta dish was Garganelli with lemon zest and Parma ham. Sounds like a simple dish, but again, the fresh taste of the lemon, together with the slightly greasy ham and the delicious homemade pasta, where you could taste taste the eggs it was made from, was a very lovely and tasty dish. Basta!? Not yet! We shared a creamy dessert, made from Mascarpone and beaten egg white, topped with caramelized almonds and drizzled with chocolate.
After this delicious dinner, Giacomo showed us the spot that will open TODAY, in the afternoon (08th of June). Bottega Bolognese, a bar/deli shop just next to the Osteria will be selling cheese, ham, Mozarella and other small and delicious Italian dishes. You can enjoy them at the spot, together with a glass of Prosecco or wine, or simply take something home.
Enough the talk, go, try the place and let the guys tell you all you want to know about the Emilia-Romagna region and Italian cuisine.
Good to know:
Prices: Around 25-35€ for a whole dinner, a pasta dish is around 15-18€
Rue de la Paix 49, 1050 Brussels; check out their website