Turkey in Bologna?

Turkey in Bologna?

How we pulled off Thanksgiving in Italy!

Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

We are residing in a small apartment in the Saragozza neighborhood of Bologna. The area is just a short 15-minute walk from Bologna Centrale. It was our second time visiting this year. Our local bar, Cafeone, is a favorite stop in the evening before dinner. Over the past year, we have become friends with the bar owner Salvatore Urso and his lovely girlfriend, Claudia Protasi. Sal speaks some English, while Claudia is more versed in English than the average Italian.

About a week ago, Darcy and I mentioned that this would be our first Thanksgiving outside of the US. Claudia said, “do you want us to see if we can order a turkey?” Salvatore smiled and said, “Yes!”. After making some calls, Sal found that the local butcher had a connection to order a turkey from a local farm. We had to estimate how much to order. At first, Sal said we would have to plan for a total of twelve guests as he prepared to invite eight good friends and customers. But this number quickly grew to eighteen after his friends gasped at an opportunity to taste an authentic American Thanksgiving meal! We estimated that (1/2 lbs. per person and with leftovers), that we would need a ten to twelve-pound turkey. We ended up with a 9 kilogram/ 19.84 lbs. Turkey!

Darcy and I have been ardent believers of brining our poultry for years, using Chef Thomas Keller’s recipe as published in his Bouchon cookbook. Brining for twenty-four hours makes the turkey juicier, enhances flavor, and helps boost the browning process. Finding some of the ingredients for Chef Keller’s brine was difficult. But after visiting multiple grocery stores and asking Sal to check with his restaurant friends, we were able to procure all of the ingredients.

Trying to figure out the names of the spices in Italian was fun. It taught us to learn Italian words faster! Salt=Sale, Pepper=Pepe, Honey=Miele, etc. Google translate on my phone was a vital tool.

For Thomas Keller’s Turkey Brine Recipe Click Here:


Claudia offered us her apartment to cook everything in. She hardly uses it anymore. It is located just a half-block away from the bar. The kitchen had a great gas stove and large refrigerator for keeping the turkey and other foods. We made the brine and have the pot chilling down in the frig!

Our Turkey was beautiful but had a higher amount of feather stubs in its body and legs than most Americans are used to. We spent about an hour plucking out feathers and cleaning the turkey before adding it into its brine bath. We left the turkey in the brine for thirty hours.

Our Thanksgiving Menu

  • Roasted Almonds and Walnuts with Honey and Cayenne spice
  • Baked Brie with Raspberry, Ginger and Pomegranate Glaze
  • Devilled Eggs
  • Roast Turkey
  • Yams in Honey with Brown Sugar, cinnamon  
  • Scalloped Potatoes with Asiago and Garlic
  • Darcy’s homemade stuffing (bread, sage, onions, celery, chicken stock & butter)
  • Luxemburg Dressing (Beef, onions, celery, sage, cream & butter)
  • Assorted Italian cookies and miniature desserts

Paired with Moscato, Chardonnay, and Sangiovese 

Aperitif: Barrel-aged Aquavit

We cooked the turkey at Salvatore’s café. He had a commercial stove with convection in the basement. We decided at the last minute not to stuff the turkey with the stuffing. This reduced our projected cooking time by an hour. We started the turkey at 4:30 pm. Using a recently purchased digital thermometer (with dual settings for F and C), we were able to monitor the turkey’s internal cooking temperature. We hit 168 Fahrenheit at 7:15 pm. We removed the turkey from the oven and covered it tightly with aluminum foil.

The seventeen guests arrived by 8:20 pm and were given a welcome glass of wine while they ate our appetizers. The nuts and brie were a big hit. The devilled eggs were devoured quickly. This was not an appetizer that most Italians were familiar with.

Salvatore brought up the turkey at 8:30 pm to a standing ovation. None of the Italians in the room had ever tasted turkey before. The whole café had a pleasant Thanksgiving day smell.

Claudia dished out plates of turkey and sides to all of the quests. All of our guests had seconds that night. The party lasted to well past midnight when Sal disturbed platters of dessert with shots of Aquavit.

The exhaustion was worth meeting new friends and seeing their look of enjoyment!