The BBC recently published an article on vegetarian eating in Bologna. The article is entitled “Where vegetarianism is an exotic illness” written by Dany Mitzman who lives in Bologna and is a a long term vegetarian. After reading her article, here at Emilia Delizia, we felt that we should write back an open letter to this author on our website for everyone to read.
First of all the article gives a stereotyped images of Italians as short-sighted and meat hungry people with no respect for vegetarians and animals. Is it so difficult to find vegetarian restaurants in Bologna the capital of the Mortadella pork sausage?
The short answer is do not expect to find vegetarian options on the menu of a TRADITIONAL TRATTORIA, as the words imply the cooking is based on the tradition. Back in the days people had to get by with what they had and pork fat was often the only option to get the calories that they need to sustain themselves. So these menus are not designed to be vegetarian friendly, and non-meat eater should not expect to find meatless dishes at a place proudly serving the traditional fare.
This does not exclude that in the tradition there are no vegetarian dishes, just to name a few you can have Tigelle (bread) with some local cheese or pinzimonio which is a selection of raw vegetables (crudity). Also you can have maltagliati e fagioli, they are the trimmings of tagliatelle making served with beans, just ask the waiter if they used pancetta to flavour the sauce.
Most restaurants in Italy will be more than happy to customise their dishes for you. Even if it is not on the menu you can ask to have pasta and tomato sauce. These days they are quite accustomed to being asked for variation due to diet restrictions of their clients. Such as gluten intolerances, food allergies vegan or vegetarian options are welcome as they want you as a customer. In fact Italian are fussy eaters and it is quite common to hear in restaurant a customer to ask for a customised pasta dish or pizza.
Did you know that Italy and the Mediterranean diet is vegan friendly?
If you are in Bologna and you are vegetarian or vegan, remember that you are in Italy home of the Mediterranean diet. You can easily find a pizzeria and order Pizza Marinara. This pizza is just the base, olive oil, and garlic. It is tasty, cheap, healthy, and filling and of course it is vegan friendly. Now many pizzeria also cater for gluten intolerant people and it is common to find Kamut pizza, or even totally gluten free varieties which are normally prepared in a separate kitchen.
Continuing we can also mention other dishes such as spaghetti aglio, olio and peperoncino. A simple spaghetti dish made by stir frying garlic, and chilli pepper in extra virgin olive oil. Especially dishes from the south tend to be made with wheat, vegetables, olive oil and not much more, above you just have some ideas, I am sure you can figure out more combination of vegetarian and vegan dishes in Italy.
Italy as the home of modern vegetarians.
With so many sausages, cured meats, salami and prosciutto is hard to believe that Italy is now home of 7 millions vegetarians. In fact according to a research by Eurispes now more and more Italian are giving up meat for vegetables making it the most vegetarian country in western Europe. If this trend continues there will be 30 millions vegetarians in 2050 in Italy.
It is also worth to mention an organisation called “UN PUNTO MACROBIOTICO” which has restaurants in many major cities including Bologna. The not-for-profit charity promotes healthy eating via veganism. I believe Dany Mitzman has been a little short-sighted to write an article where the Bolognese are picutured as hungry meat eaters. In our opinion she should do more research about the place where she is living her life at moment.