Genoa – Old and new in the Porto Antico

At the southern end of the Porto Antico is an area called ‘Il Molo’, meaning ‘the pier’.

Lots of local families and tourists come here at the weekend to go to the aquarium or eat at one of the many restaurants in the converted warehouses.

However the old restaurants on side streets off the ancient Via del Molo are probably the best places to eat.

Eataly, 2nd floor, 15 Via Calata Cattaneo (in a modern building very near the aquarium)

Eataly is the retail operation of the Slow Food Association and as such is a great place to shop for good quality ingredients. You can also get local wines here.

I came in just for a nosy but ended up with a bag full of groceries including three kinds of salt, two kinds of dried porcini, two kinds of honey, and a half kilo of chestnut trofie.

Eataly also looks like a good place for an unfussy lunch although sadly I didn’t have time.

Vico Palla (Intermediate A+), 15r Vico Palla (off Via del Molo), Tel. 010 2466 575, closed Monday.

A famous place amongst the locals. Knowing this I popped in to reserve when I happened to be passing on a Sunday afternoon and saw that it was open. It’s a good job I did because others who turned up on spec later that the evening were turned away.

When I arrived, as a lone diner, I was given the worst seat in the house (with my back to the main thoroughfare between the two rooms), but the service from the young English-speaking Jonathan and the hospitality of Attilio Capurro the owner more than made up for it. The staff here are all multi-lingual when it comes to food. The decor is old Genoa with menus written on blackboards.

After nibbling on some still warm fresh foccacia (B+), I had the well-known local dish of Cappon Magro (B+); a ‘fish salad’ made up of lightly vinegared shredded fish (whatever fish they happen to have in) mixed with green beans (fagiolini), and carrots on a ship’s biscuit, or in this case bread. The tower of fish was topped with a slice of rapa rosso (beetroot), salsa verde (a local mix of parsley, bread and pine nuts) and a large prawn, encircled by a brace of steamed mussels still in their shells.

The second course was another local special Seppie e Totani in Zemino (B+) or chopped squid and cuttlefish in a soup of carrots, green beans, chickpeas (ceci) and chard (bietole). Apparently there was gelatine and vinegar in there too.

A decent Vermentino (Colombiera 2012) went well with the seafood (B).

Dessert options were unappealing except for the specialty of the house Latte Dolce Fritta, or ‘fried milk’ heaped with caster sugar, which satisfied my sweet tooth (A).

To go with this I was dying to try the local sweet wine Sciacchetra but they’d run out and were waiting for a delivery. Instead Attilio offered me a glass, and later another, of Moscato Rosa (Tramin 2006) from Alto Adige which was wonderful (A), and sadly unobtainable online.

After this I was ready to go but Attilio insisted I try his homemade (facca a la casa) Limoncino (A). with a couple of dry Cantucci biscuits (B).

Attilio told me the limoncino (aka limoncello) was made with lemons from the local town of Albenga. He went to the cellar and brought back two jars full of lemon zest infusing with alcohol. It was still a couple of weeks from being ready but he ladled out another glassful for me to try. It had a much softer and less alcoholic flavour but was very interesting (B+).

After trying to feed me yet more titbits, Atillio finally released me after I begged him to stop. Whether this show of hospitality was down to me writing down and photographing everything I ate I’m unsure but he showed the same generosity to others in the room. I think the fact that I came with a list of local specialities to try probably also helped, as did the fact that I was from Yorkshire and his son has a restaurant in Harrogate. Whatever, this was one of my best culinary experiences in Genoa and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back. The bill came to €59.50 which I felt was good value for what I got.

This experience inspired me to try making Limoncello myself when I got home. It’s very easy to make as you can see from this recipe. Vodka is expensive though so I later bought two bottles of pure 95% spirit from a supermarket in Florence to take home. To be completely authentic the lemons should be Feminello St. Teresa lemons (aka Sorrento or Sfusato lemons) but really you could use any citrus fruit.

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