«What are you giving me for free?», asks the man with socks into his slippers as he enters Bar Maurizio on a lazy august morning. «Have a croissant». «I’d like that pasta actually», nonchalantly replies the hungry man, pointing to a large bowl of just cooked pasta. «Sorry, can’t give you that». Then Maurizio waits a second and adds: «But if you pass in an hour or so I’ll give you the pasta».
He gets the croissant, for free that is, and leaves. Maurizio looks at me: «I wouldn’t like to be in his shoes. We are talking hunger here. I have a soft heart».
Bar Maurizio, hidden in Via Guerrazzi near the glorious Portico dei Servi but discretely located, not too much on display, is more an institution than a bar. Small, unpretentious, woody. As well as incredibly trendy for a certain Bologna. You can meet young hipsters in the evenings, lounging by the platform and drinking cheap Spritz in front of the adjacent art library.
But, in my opinion, it’s in the morning that it gives its best. Maurizio has a beard and a frank smile and actually laughs if you say a funny joke: an honest laughter, not a bar owner’s fake kindness. The place is incredibly tiny but the croissants are good, so are the little crunchy crescentine with salami or rucola, and everyday there’s a pasta coming straight from a massive bowl and being served in plastic plates: fanciness isn’t at home here.
You can always meet the same faces: some freelance journalists from the local papers, some artsy students, residents of the quite upmarket Santo Stefano-Rialto area, who appreciate a more casual place to hang around. A real institution within the institution is actor Leo, master of quick replies and intrepid courtships:when not on a set, he is there all the time and, if you’re a woman, he will always make you feel like you’re the most intoxicatingly desirable creature in the world (but beware: if you don’t like being approached in a candidly touchy manner, no matter how funnily done, that is not an exchange for you). And there is a team of bizarre characters that often make your coffee time worth its while, unless you hope to work.
Tiny Bar Maurizio, with its microscopic wooden mezzanine that incredibly hosts occasional gigs, its always packed happy hours, its morning crowd of regulars that all seem to have something interesting just waiting to happen, and its fame among Bologna’s radical chics, has been there for ages. For quite a long time I was suspicious, kind of reluctant to get into something looking like a non-said secret circle. But it ended up capturing me in its morning version, as one of those places when you feel at home. Your home? Certainly not. Even if that massive saucepan filled with unpretentiously cooked pasta suggests something very close to it.
Not home but a place where you feel cosy and surrounded by that kind of weirdos that you actually feel very much at ease with. And in a town that is suddenly becoming a factory of bars and restaurants for tourists, it is a great relief to have something so genuinely local. Pay a visit, spend a morning there reading newspapers, say hello to Leo and don’t take advantage of Maurizio’s soft heart. And let me know.