La Buca di San Matteo (High Intermediate B+), 5r Via Chiossone, (the next restaurant along the street from Trattoria San Carlo below), Tel. 010 236 2389, www.labucadisanmatteo.it
A random selection, I came here because it was raining and I’d liked the look of the menu when I’d walked past on an earlier night.
Service was variable, perhaps due to having a table downstairs. The silly young waitress assigned to my table didn’t have a clue about the food and wine served in her restaurant and had to keep asking her colleague, the excellent English-speaking Elmondo to serve me.
I had a bottle of Vermentino Riviera Ligure di Ponente (Durin) which was pretty good (B+).
Next the Gran Misto di Pesce alla Griglia, comprising of a huge plate of swordfish, crayfish, squid, prawns and seabass as well as strips of courgette and slightly under cooked aubergine. I was excited by the wrapped silver parcel in the middle of the plate. A seafood surprise perhaps, or maybe some roast garlic? How disappointing then to receive a small stone cold potato! The rest of the plate managed to get a B+ though.
I tried two grappas, the first a plain chardonnay by Fuoriclasse scored just a B, and the second, a barrique gran moscato by Bocchino, got an A. I saw the latter in Makro the other day so it must be a popular one.
The final bill of €70 was about right given all the seafood.
I came back another night to try their one off Menu Campano, which ought to have been great as their chef is from Campania. A printing error on their leaflet advertising the special evening led me to believe I’d get four courses but there were in fact only three.
First a pasta course of Mezzo Pachero di Grangnano con Fiori di Zucchine Glassate al Cognac, or ‘slaps’ of big pasta from the Campanian town of Grangnano with courgette flowers glazed in cognac, which was just ok (B).
With this a bottle of Cinque Terre which I can’t remember anything about, sorry.
The main was Guanciale di Maialino da Latte Brasato al Greco di Tufo con Arance di Sorrento e Nocciole Tostate, or cheeks of suckling pig braised in Greco di Tufo white wine, oranges from Sorrento and toasted hazelnuts, which sounded fantastic but again was also just alright. (B)
I had this with a glass of Sicilian Zibibbo which I thought I’d swapped for my glass of wine due to me as part of the deal but which still showed up in my bill.
Enoteca Migone next door at 4r Piazza di San Matteo is I think the oldest wine shop in the city. The old chap was very helpful when I went in.
Trattoria San Carlo (Intermediate B), 41-43 Via David Chiossone (just up the street from La Buca above), Tel. 010 2534 294, www.trattoriasancarlo.it
Gleaned from the Guardian’s now defunct ‘Been There’ site.
On my first night I didn’t get out till about 9pm so I came to this place as it was the nearest place on my hit list that was open. The dour owner was not particularly welcoming but I managed to get a thin smile out of him towards the end of the night after a constant barrage of niceness.
It’s a modern place with only a couple of traditional dishes on the menu. Forgot my camera though, sorry. My antipasti was four saltcod fritters, Fritelle di Bacala, which were beautifully fluffy and white inside, although they needed salting (B+).
Craving seafood and not wanting to have the stereotypical pesto with green beans and new potatoes, I went for the non-local Maltagliate con Calamari, Gamberi e Zucchini for my primi which again needed a good shake of the salt pot to bring the taste out. The seafood, two huge prawns with chopped up squid, was great but the courgette was just uncooked decoration and I could only score it a B. Generally I found the menu a bit misleading here.
The portions were small but the prices were low (compared to Milan and Turin where I’d just come from) so I had a secondo of Orata alla Ligure, baked guilthead bream with potatoes, tomatoes and black olives. By rejecting the fish fork, which is unusable for me, I did learn a new phrase; ‘sono mandino’, meaning I’m a leftie (used for both hand and foot).
The local white wines though were a revelation though. I started with a glass of slightly effervescent Lumassina (Colline Savonese) and followed with Vermintino “Terre di Luna” from Colli di Luni. Both wines were delightfully light and fruity and went down worryingly quickly (B+).
I was still hungry (rather worryingly, I think I’m now at maximum capacity after just ten days in the country!) so I finished with a slice of pineapple, strawberry, blueberry and kiwi tart (B+), helped down with glass of sweet Passito. I had asked for a local digestif but this sweet raisin wine was all they had, but I wan’t complaining (B+).
Total cost €64, not too bad for 4 courses and 3 kinds of wine with good bread and a bottle of water. The food was fine but I wouldn’t come again. There must be more atmospheric traditional places around here somewhere…
Nabil (Intermediate B+), 21r Vico Falamonica (off Piazza de Ferrari), Tel. 010 247 6114, www.arabonabil.it closed Sunday and Monday
Much as I love Italian food, after three weeks of nothing else I really needed a change. I stumbled on this place in a vicolo just walking around and the great smell of the cooking just drew me in. As usual being a single diner I got the worst seat in the place, a hard chair on a table in the corner while everyone rested their bums on soft cushions. It’s probably best to reserve if this matters to you (as it does to many of my colleagues who spend the day sitting of substandard school furniture) and also because it is a pretty small place.
I went for the six dish mezze or ‘masat saghir’ to start, consisting of the usual suspects; hummus (B), ‘mtabbal’ or smoky aubergine pulp (B+), falafel with yogurt (B), diced tomatoes with tahini sauce (B) and ‘kiar ma laban’ a puree of cucumber with natural yogurt and mint. All very refreshing, and perfect if you are a veggie.
For the main ‘cous cous ma giaj’; some nicely steamed semoule (B+) with a chicken and vegetable soup stew (B+) which I boosted by requesting a small dish of harissa to give it some oomph. Knowing how quickly it swells up in your tum I ate it quickly without drinking too much, although I had a mezzo of vinegary house red (C) to hand which stood up well to the chilli.
For dessert some rather dry baglawa (baklava) (C) and a couple of shots of grappa ‘a moda mio’ or in the style of the owner who I presumed to be Libyan Italian. He told me that he wouldn’t divulge his secret grappa recipe as other local places had already pinched his ideas for infused grappas. It was ok (B), I liked the notes of cardamom, but I’m not sure the quality of the alcohol was that good.
The bill came to a reasonable €38.50. You could get even cheaper North African food along Via di Pre if you’re willing to make the trek.