Sweet ravioli, Bolognese pinza, rice cakes and more: beneath the Two Towers, one can also taste exquisite specialties of Neapolitan tradition and enticing contemporary-style desserts. Home to great names in the Italian baking art like Gino Fabbri, Bologna is a city that, amidst historical destinations and modern addresses, offers an immense choice for a fabulous breakfast, a delightful snack, or even a lunch break, thanks to a high-quality savoury offering. Here are the must-visit spots according to the Pasticceri & Pasticcerie 2024 guide by Gambero Rosso.
The best pastry shops in Bologna
It's the specialties of Neapolitan tradition that have brought fame to La Borbonica, a project by pastry chef Antonio Russo in collaboration with his wife Anna De Falco. Among the must-try delicacies are the crunchy sfogliatella riccia and a babà that melts in your mouth, offered in various sizes and also without alcohol. Also noteworthy are the Sicilian classics like cannoli and cassatine, made with great skill. On the long, colourful counter, there is plenty to choose from, including brioches, maritozzi with cream, classic petits fours, single portions, and mousses. The house desserts stand out for their great attention to aesthetics and excellent balances, as evident from tasting the red fruit and chocolate semifreddo or the lemon delight. It's also a pleasant stop for lunch and for an aperitif. Since last year, there has been a branch on via Mazzini, managed by the couple's son Enzo Russo.
La Borbonica - via Riva di Reno, 110B - pasticcerialaborbonica.it
Located just a few steps from the city centre, this pastry shop thrives on Italian tradition as its strength. The artisanal workshop attached to the shop churns out quality sweet and savoury treats every day, offering an extensive range from morning till evening. The breakfast is well-tailored, thanks also to the excellent coffee service, providing a good selection of soft and golden pastries, such as layers with custard cream and seasonal fruit, and apple turnovers. The cakes are delightful and well-executed, from the Saint Honoré to the fluffy Mimosa; for lovers of traditional sweets, there are no shortages of tarts, jam-filled biscuits, and tea pastries. The petits fours are carefully crafted, especially the cream puffs, appropriately glazed and well-balanced in flavours. The outdoor seating is perfect for sunlit days.
Delis Pasticceria - via Toscana, 30b - delispasticceria.it
Gino Fabbri Pasticcere
Among the most renowned figures in tricolored pastry, Gino Fabbri is a top-notch professional, always open to dialogue and discussion with young talents. In his pastry shop, which he runs together with his family, the fun begins at breakfast with expertly crafted croissants, Venetian pastries, cream-filled brioches, a superb cream-filled bun, and the ever-present savoury calzone, worth the trip. Apart from textbook cream puffs and excellent small tarts, it's impossible not to be tempted by traditional sweets like the ring-shaped cake or the renowned Mattindor, accompanied by high-quality cakes, starting with the typical 'tagliolina'. Unmissable are the holiday sweets, from large leavened desserts to Epiphany 'galette des rois', sweet ravioli with mustard and various other tempting fillings, to Carnival fritters. Excellent options are available for savoury snacks during lunch or aperitif.
Gino Fabbri Pasticcere – Via Cadriano, 27/2a - ginofabbri.com
Among Italy's Historic Establishments, Gamberini is a true institution, located under the arcades of the vibrant Via Ugo Bassi. It's a place of classic taste, where visitors are greeted by uniformed staff ready to cater to the many who frequent the establishment from early morning for a fabulous breakfast, choosing from fragrant leavened pastries and aromatic croissants filled with creams and jams. The highlights are the single-portion pastries and cakes, mostly in a classic style, a rich and well-curated assortment including beautiful fruit tarts, mimosa cakes, meringues, and Red Velvet cakes. Fans of savoury treats and aperitifs won't be disappointed either, as they can rely on tasty sandwiches, finger sandwiches, and excellent club sandwiches. Other locations are available at Bologna Centrale station and in Florence. Under the same management is the historic Taveggia pastry shop in Milan.
Gamberini - Via Ugo Bassi, 12e - gamberini.eu
Bakery and pastry shop, it's a long-standing sign highly appreciated by the people of Bologna. It stands out primarily for its classic specialties and local traditional offerings, from sweet ravioli to delightful rice cakes and Sacher tortes. The croissants are perfectly golden and filled with delicious creams, mousses, and semifreddos that impress with their combinations and execution. Completing the picture are fresh bread and a range of savoury items spanning from pizza by the slice to savoury snacks, from baked Bolognese crescentine to fried crescentine. They also sell fresh pasta. Under the same ownership is Ristò Pallotti, located at Via Irnerio 17/a, where one can also stop for lunch to enjoy dishes from the Emilian tradition.
Forno Pasticceria Pallotti – via del Borgo di San Pietro, 59 - fornopallotti.it
Regina di Quadri
Among the great names in the art of sweet treats in the city, Francesco Elmi in the noble city of Via Castiglione in Bologna capitalised on his talent and experience gained through his solid professional journey. His establishment is a recommended spot for breakfast, offering croissants filled with various fillings, krapfen brimming with cream, delightful cream-filled buns, and pastries with fresh fruit. Elmi's sweets are indulgent and expertly balanced, even in their sugar content. The lemon delight is very pleasing, as are the cannoncini, éclairs, lemon tarts, delicious Sacher tortes, 'tagliolina' cakes, and apple pies. The savoury offerings are also enticing, ranging from savoury finger foods to finger sandwiches, focaccias, filled brioches, and "crescia marchigiana".
Regina di Quadri - via Castiglione, 73a – Instagram
Pieruigi "Gigi" Sapiente was a pastry prodigy. After training with prestigious names, he won the World Pastry Stars in the under 35 category in 2019. His concept of pastry is personal and innovative, telling the story of the territory and Italian culture in a unique way. An example is the single-portion dessert 'Emily': crunchy praline pistachio, Sicilian pistachio Bavarian cream, raspberry confit, and vanilla cream. Also worth trying are the delightful cream-filled puffs, baked cakes, and savoury treats. For breakfast, the croissants and Venetian pastries are excellent. Among the most popular desserts is the pistachio cake, but the daily and seasonal production consistently delivers delightful surprises.
Sapiente Bologna - via Pizzardi 44/b - sapientebologna.it
In a central location, under the arcade of Pavaglione, Zanarini has been a point of reference for the people of Bologna since 1930. Today, it is owned by the Antoniazzi family, pastry chefs based in Bagnolo San Vito, offering a truly extensive and high-quality selection. Every shelf and display case is a true temptation, featuring macarons, a rich variety of biscuits, traditional cakes (the sbrisolona is excellent), mustards, jams, and chocolates. The petits fours and single-portion pastries stand out for their attention to detail, such as the refined chocolate cheesecakes, strawberry tartlets, and the fresh and citrusy 'Sole di Sicilia'. The breakfast pastries are also very good, complementing their coffee selection, which includes croissants, Venetian pastries, sfogliatelle, and pain au chocolat. Noteworthy is their panettone, available even in summer.
Zanarini - piazza Galvani, 1 - antoniazzi.biz/shop