Genoa – Amari in San Lorenzo
To the north of San Bernardo (see the two previous posts), on the other side of Via San Lorenzo, you will find the busy tourist zone surrounding the stunning San Lorenzo cathedral that was the heart of the city in medieval times. For the purposes of this blog post I have defined the other borders of this parish as Via degli Indoratore to the north, Via David Chiossone to the east and the harbour to the west.
Romanengo (Advanced A), 74r Via Soziglia romanengo.it/en (closed Monday morning and between 13.00 and 15.15 daily)
Considered by many to be the finest sweet maker in Italy, this must-see shop can count several European royal families as their customers. Romanengo has been making sweets since 1780, and the business is currently in the hands of the seventh generation of the family. This is the place to come for your candied violet petals and rose syrup, the Arab influenced processes for which are described in this interesting article.
There are many other delights to be seen in the window, such as candied strawberries and kiwi. I resisted temptation without too much difficulty, partly because of the high prices and partly because I already had a kilo of chocolate (my true love) from Turin in my suitcase. They have another shop on Via Roma.
Gran Cafe Pasticcheria Fratelli Klainguti (Advanced), 98-100r Piazza Sozglia (a few doors down from Romanengo on the same side)
Their most famous customer was Giuseppe Verdi who liked to get his pastries here, and perhaps also his Pandolce, the Genovese equivalent of Panattone (from Milan).
The recipe for this fruit cake includes dried raisins, candied lemon peel and of course pine nuts, the quintessential Genoan ingredient. There are two types, the original Pandolce Alto and a simpler version utilising baking powder called Pandolce Basso, which is known as Genoa cake in the UK. Sadly I didn’t have time to go in to try their wares so just peered in the windows.
After coming home I found this blog which has info on other old shops in Genoa.
A Rough Guide pick, I got another unsmiling ‘welcome’ here. The cellar has huge stone pillars that appear to be propping up several floors of masonry above although the snooty queen who served me said many had just been installed for appearance’s sake. He told me the room was once the water storage tank for the Squarefico family who lived on the floors above.
Like many places here, the menu was again trad meets modern. Wanting most to try the former, I went for Mandilli al Pesto, which was served on a cold glass plate, a pet hate of mine. Tastewise it was ok (B) but the thin local pasta seemed overcooked and the pesto no better than my own, even though this is the city that invented it.
Next Branzino alla Ligure; seabass stuffed with tiny black taggiasca olives and pine nuts as is the Ligurian style. The fish was small but very tasty (B+). The small cubes of roast potato it came with were delicious (A+) but short in supply.
A decent (B) Pigato (Fontanacota 2012) was a good match with the food if rather overpriced as is often the case in this tourist town.
To finish I ordered a tris of desserts; Crema alla Menta con Scoglie di Cioccolate Fondente (a mint cream ‘jelly’ with chocolate flakes that tasted like After Eight), Tarta al Cioccolato Fondente and a bowl of strawberries. All very nice (B).
I had this with a local amaro, San Maria di Monte, (A) which contains 36 different herbs and spices, including aloe, myrrh, rhubarb, saffron, absinthe, cardamom and cola nuts. How could it not be good for you?
Total cost €55, pointedly reduced from €62 (a free amaro?). An atmospheric place with good food but I wasn’t keen on the service or value-for-money so I don’t think I’d go again.
Ombre Rosso (Intermediate), 20r Vico degli Indoratori, Tel. 010 275 7608, open lunch and dinner except Sunday evening.
A Gambero Rosso recommended place. The inside is quite cosy but I opted for a table in the atmospheric garden opposite where a PACE flag was flying. It was slightly chilly on this evening in late May, even for a Norwegian, but I can imagine it would be a great spot on a warm summer’s night. It’s primarily a wine bar so the menu is quite limited, only four choices per course, and quite avante garde with dishes employing cous cous and basmati rice. The wine list takes up most of the menu. It seems to just be a two person operation with the chef helping out the friendly English speaking waiter (or owner?) with serving the food.
I went for the traditional Chicche al Pesto, tiny gnocchi of three different colours; plain, red (with tomato) and green (with parsley and basil). It was very good (B+) but I still prefer my own more powerful version made with the sharper garlic we get in the Asian shops in the UK whereas the locals prefer it to be milder.
To finish a complimentary glass of Amaro Camatti, another local bitter favoured by the sailors and dockers of Liguria. It’s a bit softer than the San Maria di Monte mentioned above , and tastes even more like cough syrup than usual (B).
Although they didn’t have any in for me to try, the waiter told me that grappa is made from the local Vermentino and Pignato grapes too, although the best ones come from Piedmonte and Veneto rather than Liguria.
According to my research, this is one of the best places to eat focaccia in a city famed for the stuff. You buy it by weight, just stipulating whether you want a large or small slice. I had an onion one which was fine (B) but I know it would have been even better if it had just come out of the oven.