BUON APPETITO

A FOOD PLAY­GROUND IN BOLOGNA DE­VOTED TO SHOW­ING OFF THE MAR­VELS OF ITAL­IAN PRO­DUCE AND COOK­ING, BRING­ING THE FA­MOUSLY PAROCHIAL RE­GIONS UN­DER ONE BIG ROOF, HAS AM­BI­TIONS TO AT­TRACT SIX MIL­LION VISI­TORS A YEAR.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - MOTORING - LUKE SLAT­TERY

Rome might be the famed Eter­nal City, and Venice upon her la­goon La Serenis­sima, but the cen­tral Ital­ian town of Bologna en­joys three equally apt monikers. It is La Grassa (the fat), on ac­count of its calorific cui­sine; La Rossa (the red), in hon­our of its roseate brick and stucco medieval streetscapes; and for the depth of its eru­di­tion, Europe’s old­est univer­sity town is lau­reled La Dotta (the learned). It is also, on the mid-De­cem­ber night I ar­rive, with the tem­per­a­ture nudg­ing zero and an icy up­land wind bar­relling in from the Apen­nines, La Fredda (the cold).

On my first visit, more than half a life­time ago, I wan­dered be­neath the city’s cov­ered walk­ways – catch­ing only a slice of Bologna’s un­par­al­leled 40km net­work of por­ti­coes – in a state of wide-eyed won­der­ment. I’d never seen a culi­nary dis­play of such splen­dour. It wasn’t just the sump­tu­ous pasta and risotto dishes beck­on­ing me from the win­dows of the gas­tronomie. On dis­play were plat­ters of ver­dant leaf, alarm bell-red toma­toes, slightly doughy spheres of white bur­rata, plump grey-green olives, slices of vi­brant orange, translu­cent shards of sliced fen­nel sea­soned only with cracked pep­per and olive oil. The pro­duce was in a state of ripe and preened perfection.

But that was a sum­mer long ago. In win­ter, as I dis­cover when I stroll into the old quar­ter for a morn­ing cof­fee and cor­netto at a lo­cal bar, the dis­play win­dows of the Quadri­latero mar­ket are brim­ming with heav­ier fare. There are shanks of crusted pro­sciutto and bol­lard­sized balls of mor­tadella – a lo­cal spe­cialty, all pink and white and stud­ded with pep­per­corns. Vast tureens are filled to over­flow­ing with homemade tortellini and capel­letti, fet­tuc­cine for ragù (the ori­gin of our spaghetti Bolognese). Sausages sprout like tu­bers from win­dow dis­plays dec­o­rated with Christ­mas touches: pine cones, fake red cher­ries. The cen­tre­piece is in­vari­ably a wheel of aged of Parmi­giano-Reg­giano cloven by a mighty blow to re­veal its fine gran­u­lar tex­ture. I’m putting on ki­los just look­ing at this stuff.

Bologna’s in­dis­putable rep­u­ta­tion as Italy’s food, or at least pro­duce, cap­i­tal made it im­pos­si­ble for Os­car Farinetti, founder and head of the global Eataly chain, to look past the fat city when schem­ing up his lat­est, and most am­bi­tious, culi­nary em­po­rium. The re­sult is FICO: Eataly World. Twenty min­utes from the his­toric quar­ter on the FICO shut­tle, this sprawl­ing 100,000sqm Food­land is a kind of per­ma­nent Easter show with class. FICO stands for Fab­brica Ital­iana Con­tad­ina, and it

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