Tastes of Europe – The Grocer of Bologna


Roberto Trentini is a food grocer with a small shop in the streets behind Via Saragozza in Bologna, Italy. Despite the presence of a nearby mini Carrefour, he gets his fair share of custom and has his regulars who come to him for their basics and the pick of his range of fresh produce, fruit and vegetables at the front of the shop, cheese, cured meats and delicatessen items in the cold units at the counter where he spends his day.

Bottled and canned foods fill the shelves, bags of legumes and nuts sit near the front door. Those who are familiar with Roberto‘s style of shop-keeping know where he keeps the items they desire. You only have to ask him for something special that you need and it will be ordered and presented as soon as he can have it delivered.

There is no mystery. Small shops like Roberto‘s proliferate throughout Italy. In Bologna, where all the food of Emila-Romagna and beyond is collected for distribution, these shops are still integral to community because every type of traditional product is available. It is hard to compete with tradition, so Roberto and his like survive and even thrive if they are able to offer specialist produce, which are wont to do.

The people of Bologna know this better than anyone, which is why they are celebrating their food culture with the FICO project – a meeting place for those who love food!

Roberto‘s Mother‘s Ragù


The commercialisation of this sauce has taken the shine away from the original, as popular as ever in Bologna where the homemade version is still revered. This is one such version, courtesy of Roberto Trentini‘s mother in Bologna.

1 litre white wine 
500 g beef, minced 
400 ml passata (sieved tomatoes) 
250 g carrots, chopped 
250 g celery, chopped 
250 g onions, chopped 
100 g pancetta / bacon 
1 beef / vegetable stock cube 
15 ml olive oil 
Salt, pinch 
Water, for loosening the sauce

In a deep, wide frying pan sauté onions and pancetta in the oil over a low heat, about 15 minutes. Add carrots and celery, sauté for five minutes. Turn up heat, put in meat, add wine a little at a time until the meat softens. Add passata, a little water, a stock cube and salt, cook covered over a low heat for an hour.