Yet further to the north of San Bernardo and San Lorenzo you will find another UNESCO designated area that’s very popular with the tourists; Via Garibaldi, and its extension Via Balbi, both of which are famed for the beautiful palazzi that line them.
Such was their renown that Dickens mentions them in his travelogue about Italy and Rubens published writings about them which helped spread the Genoese architectural style to Northern Europe, in particular to his hometown Antwerp.
Today the palazzi are now museums and galleries but I wasn’t a big enough fan of baroque to want to spend valuable food money on getting in to them (although you can get some kind of joint ticket that makes it cheaper).
I did however take a peek at a couple that were free to get in. Please click on these photos for maximum appreciation.
Gaia (Intermediate A), 13r Vico dell’ Argento (off Via Cairoli, at the end of Via Garibaldi), Tel. 010 246 1629, closed Saturday lunch and Sunday.
This is Rough Guide’s top pick and hence attracts a fair few tourists, including myself. It was half full as soon as it opened on a Monday night so it’s probably best to reserve towards the weekend.
Located in an old cellar with painted walls it’s nice enough but other places have better ambience. I got a lovely welcome from the young waitress but the older guy (owner?) didn’t interact at all.
The suggested Antipasto ‘Gaia’ involved seven goblets of assorted local delicacies including Torta di Riso, two ripieni (a stuffed courgette and a red pepper), something like a drop scone with a basil sauce, artichoke tart and a couple of other things I couldn’t distinguish, all orbiting a central flan of egg and pecorino (most B, some A).
The waitress’ recommended red, a Riviera Ligure di Ponente 2011 from Laura Aschero for €17, was ok but not as good as I’d hoped (B). The local grape it is made from is called Rossese, so named because the wine looks halfway between a rose and a red, or so I was told.
The local classic that you will see on every menu in every restaurant is Testaroli (or another local pasta) in Salsa di Noci. Here it took the form of parallelograms of wholemeal pasta in the typical cream and hazelnut sauce which was ok but unspecial (B-). I preferred the stuffed pansoti I’d had with the same sauce at La Buca di San Matteo (see following San Carlo post).
I’d come here for the Tomaxelle (veal meatballs, a personal favourite) but sadly they were no longer on the menu. Instead I went for the Coniglio alla Ligure (rabbit in a sauce of pine nuts and black olives, as is the Ligurian style) which was the nicest preparation of bunny I’ve ever had (A).
Finally a dessert of Zuccotto (white chocolate mousse with candied fruits, topped with dark chocolate sauce and a couple of soft biscuits to scoop it up with), not typical but made on the premises (A) and a glass of lower grade Sciacchetra (B) courtesy of the house.
Final bill €55. It’s a good place but not my favourite. Maybe you’ll make better choices than me though and enjoy it more.
I Tri Merli (Upper Intermediate B+), 26r Vico Dietro il Coro della Maddelena, Tel. 010 247 4042, www.tremerli.it
Recommended by Gambero Rosso, this is part of a small chain of quality restaurants with a focus on local dishes. This branch is just off the main tourist drag along Garibaldi so I can imagine it would be packed in high season. It has two sides, a cheaper bistro type room (paper tablecloths) and a more expensive restaurant (linen tablecloths). After a bit of negotiation they let me have the bistro menu in the more atmospheric restaurant as I was the first customer in.
I had a tris of mussel flavoured starters which were all very good; Farinata (A), deep fried savoury dough balls (I think they were called Zeppole but this usually means a sweet doughnut) (B+) and a slice of pie (B).
Next the dish whose appearance on the menu had pulled me in in the first place, Burrida di Seppie, a famous Genoese soup stew. It’s usually made with different kinds of seafood but just used cuttlefish in this case. Other ingredients were potatoes, peas, a little red pepper and some large croutons to soak up the wonderful stock (A).
I had this with a quartino of house white which was drinkable (C) but I much preferred the half bottle of Vermentino Colli di Luni ‘Tre Merli’ 2010 (B+) from vineyard (Zangani) associated with the restaurant.
At the end, a typical dessert Panera vegia Zena, a parfait of semifreddo with a base of coffee and vanilla and a sauce of melted bitter chocolate, similar to tiramisu in appearance.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality (B+) of the Golfo del Tiguillio Grappa di Moscato (Pino Gino, the same vineyard as the dessert wine) but the Grappa Recioto (Masi) was marginally the better of the two (A).
With water and cover the damage only came to €45, very good value I felt. I also liked the décor (nice ceramics and lots of wood) and the staff were very helpful so I’d definitely go again.