I spent the fall of 2004 studying in Bologna, and to this day, even so many years later, the mere mention of the city and its mothering region Emilia Romagna makes me slightly weepy.
Perhaps Giacomo Leopardi said it best, about the beauty of Bologna:
Io sospiro per Bologna…dove non si pensa ad altro che a viver allegramente senze diplomazie, dove i forestieri non trovano riposo per le gran carezze che ricevono, dove gli uomini d’ingegno sono invitati a pranzo nove giorni ogni settimana, dove Giordano mi assicura ch’io vivrò meglio che in qualunque altra città di Italia…in Bologna, nel materiale e nel morale, tutto è bello.
I sigh for Bologna…where one thinks of nothing but living happily and without diplomacy, where foreigners find no rest with the great many caresses they receive, where men of talent are invited to lunch nine days per week, where Giordani assures me that I will live better than in any other city in Italy…in Bologna, in materials and in morals,
everything is beautiful.
The view from my balcony on Via Bellombra
Afternoons after class I’d leave Via Zamboni, the heart of the sprawling Università, and amble along the city’s cobblestoned streets, perhaps stopping at the butcher, or at the vegetable stands on Via Drapperie, perhaps pausing a moment at the Piazza Maggiore to watch the world go by, perhaps downing an espresso, standing, at the counter of a corner caffè.
But — always — I’d stop just as I reached the historic porta at the end of Via D’azeglio, just before crossing out of the old town and taking the last few steps into the new town and to the magnificent park and my own little apartment on Via Bellombra, at Antica Bologna for a gelato. And I would always order the same thing: una coppa di due gusti, a cup with two flavors, with gelato di cioccolato e sorbetto di limone, rich, velvety dark chocolate gelato and its perfect pair, a bright, tangy lemon sorbet. It remains, to this day, my favorite pairing.
Bologna has been on my mind lately. Something about mid-March — the quietly sunny days, the leftover rain, the wanting so much to be able to walk home — leaves me dreaming of my other “B” city. And so, though the city itself is far away, I set about recreating my afternoon pausa in Brooklyn, churning up a batch of chocolate ice cream and digging into the season’s beautiful lemons (March is peak citrus season, after all) to make my own sorbetto di limone.
Both these recipes were, of course, culled from the pages of the Perfect Scoop. The chocolate I’ve made many times before. It is as perfect as chocolate ice cream can be. But the sorbetto — how quickly my first bite brought me back to the gilt mirrored walls of Antica Bologna! It’s just the right tartness, just the right texture for the chocolate and it is divine. A spot of brightness for the melty days of March.
sorbetto di limone.
adapted from David Lebovitz
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar (if you want yours sweeter, add an extra 1/4 cup here)
2 lemons, unsprayed if possible
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 6 large lemons)
1. In a medium nonreactive saucepan, mix 1/2 cup of the water and the sugar. Grate the zest of the two lemons directly into the saucepan. Heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, add the remaining two cups of water and chill thoroughly in the fridge.
2. Stir the lemon juice into the sugar syrup then freeze the mixture accordingly!