Archive for the Liguria Category

Genoa – Boccadasse

Posted in Boccadasse, Genoa, Italy, Liguria with tags , on February 10, 2014 by gannet39

20130525_192814Boccadasse is a tiny fishing village located at the end of Corso Italia, the long promenade along the seafront.

20130525_192237I managed to walk there in under 50 minutes from my hotel in Brignole (the taxi back cost €19).

There are lots of nice villas and apartments to see along the way.

20130525_19122920130525_191308I particularly liked the home of former politician and industrialist Gerolamo Gaslini at #26 Corso Italia.

20130525_191254These pictures are just of the gatehouse which looks like something out of Hansel & Gretel (click on them for maximum appreciation).

It’s generally straight all the way along Corso Italia, so you know when you’ve arrived at Boccadasse when the lungomare takes a curve to the left.

20130525_192530Turn right at the church on the bend (you’ll see this nice carving above the door) and go down the hill till you get to the tiny cove.

There are a few places that look nice dotted around the beach area but I went for this Cadogan recommended place.

Vittorio al Mare (Advanced B), 1 Belvedere E.Firpo, Tel. 010 376 0141, Closed Monday

Billed as expensive and formal by Cadogan, I even put a shirt on to come here. I needn’t have worried though as the waitress who greeted me was wearing an interesting combination of trainers and spray-on jeans and a formal black waiter’s waistcoat and white shirt. Seems it’s all about the pretence here.

20130525_203442I usually avoid this kind of place but decided to come for the seafood and the great views. It’s a popular spot for amateur photographers for taking pictures of ocean spray as the waves hit the breakwater. Please click on my photos to enlarge them as I’m really happy with the results. The salt encrusted window acted as a filter, giving the photos a beautiful ethereal quality.

20130525_204004The restaurant also owns the pizzeria downstairs where you can sit outside and eat more cheaply should you prefer. It was a bit too chilly for me though on this particular May evening. I hadn’t booked despite it being a Saturday night, but still got in without any difficulty as I arrived at 7.30pm before the Italian customers.

The soundtrack involved piano versions of such classics as ‘Bridge over troubled waters’, ‘I believe in angels’ and my favourite ‘Con te partiro’ which had me craving for the famous vocal version. It puts a lump in my throat every time I hear it.

To keep costs down I went for the three course €30 menu.

20130525_195351The first course was a plate of grilled baby squid which were great but as ever in Italy, served on a cold plate (A-).

20130525_201719To follow, Spaghetti ai Frutti di Mare which involved some perfectly al dente pasta, more sliced squid, a solitary prawn, eight mussels and ten vongole, only half of which were open. I thouroughly enjoyed it but the loss of half my clams and the fact it was all cold in a matter of minutes meant my score dropped to just B+.

20130525_195102I matched the seafood with a bottle of crisp Vermentino (Ruffino 2011) which was very good (B+).

20130525_215200The waitress recommended her favourite dessert; Sable con Crema Marscapone e Frutti di Bosco, or sweet cream cheese with strawberries and raspberries and a couple of French biscuits (sable) to scoop it all up (A). With this a glass of Moscato sweet wine.

The final bill, with a complementary glass of barrique (an aged dark grappa) came to €58.

I liked the friendly service here but would probably check out one of the other places around the inlet if I were to come again.

I’d definitely recommend Boccadasse as a nice picturesque spot to come for a meal after a walk by the sea.


Genoa – off Via Roma

Posted in Genoa, Italy, Liguria, Via Roma with tags , , , on February 8, 2014 by gannet39

Via Roma, leading down to Piazza Ferrari, is one of the poshest shopping streets in town. At the top of the street at Piazza Corvetto is Confitteria Pasticceria Mangini, a belle époque grand café (since 1876). where you can sit outside.


The interior features lots of mirrors and chandeliers and the waiters are in formal black and white. Sounds forbidding but it’s not as snooty as some of these places can be. Click on the photo to see it properly.
The café sells its own sweets and cakes. I got myself this dangerous looking chocolate slug to go with my Macchiato.

Behind the café, on the left of Via Roma as you walk down, is the back entrance of Galleria Mazzini, built in 1870, which is a smaller version of the Galleria Emmanuele in Milan or Galleria Umberto in Naples, which in turn were modelled on the passages of Paris.


It’s not all posh around here though…

Da Maria (Elementary B), 14r Vico Testadore (a dark alley off XXV Aprile, which runs parallel to Via Roma), Tel. 010 581 080

Mentioned on the Guardian ‘Been There’ site and in Cadogan, this is a super cheap traditional trattoria. Primarily a lunch place (Monday to Saturday 11.45 – 14.45), I must have walked past here in the evening at least five times to see if it was open (only Wednesday and Thursday nights it seems) before finally catching lunch on a Friday when I had a half day. It was very busy at 1pm when I arrived so I ended up in the fourth room on the second floor.
The handwritten menu was quite hard to read so I just went for anything ‘alle Genovese’. To start Minestrone alle Genovese, a murky soup with I presume pesto stirred in. It was fine, but nothing special (B).

Next Polpettone alle Genovese, a mistake as I don’t have much luck with dishes starting with the suffix ‘polp-‘. I order in the hope of getting some nice meatballs (polpettine) but sometimes end up with baby octopus (polipetti) or in this case a kind of local meatloaf. It was dry and unappealing (C) as were the cold overcooked chips that came with it (C-).


I can’t remember what the pudding was called but it was perhaps a kind of tiramisu or rum soaked sponge with icing and a glace cherry, edible but unspecial (C+)


With a quartino of rough house red (C-) and a harsh grappa (C-), the bill came to an amazing €15!
I went back a second time and spent €25, due to forking out for a half decent Gavi (B) which was half the price of what you’d pay in other restaurants. There was no way of chilling the wine at the table (they’re not that kind of place) but my friendly server kept it in the fridge for me and brought it out every time my glass needed filling.


Again the food was no great shakes (C or C+) but it’s perfectly edible, although I wouldn’t go as far as this article does in singing its praises. All the same, Maria’s is a Genoese institution so just going is an experience in itself.

The continuation of Via Roma from Piazza de Ferrari (considered the heart of the city) is the porticoed Via XX Settembre.


There are some fabulous old buildings along here, with big brand fashion shops on their ground floors.


I especially love these art nouveau sculptures on the corner of Via XX Settembre with Via Ugo Foscalo.



If you turn left then right here, you come to the pedestrianised Via San Vincenzo, yet another nice shopping street.

Genoa – around San Matteo

Posted in Genoa, Italy, Liguria, San Matteo with tags , , , on November 8, 2013 by gannet39

20130525_15001620130525_145834San Matteo church is located in a small square on Via David Chiossone, which is a good hunting ground for restaurants. These below are in order of personal preference.

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,

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+).

20130518_210054The local classic, Pansoti in Salsa di Noci; pasta parcels filled with borage or spinach (not sure which) and ricotta in a cream sauce with walnuts (molto ricco!), was the best I had in Genoa (A-).

20130518_214155Next 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.

20130518_224603For dessert, the coppo galoso or ‘greedy cup’ of Bagnati nel Vin Santo, Crema di Marscapone e Fragole, or sponge fingers with sweet wine, cream cheese and strawberries, which was great (B+).

20130518_230119I 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.

20130522_201043First 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.

20130522_202627The 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)

20130522_210537La Classica Torta Caprese con Granella di Mandorle e Cioccolato Venezuela 75% su Crema Diplomatica dessert wasn’t going to go wrong with such good chocolate (A) .

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.

20130522_214255With a super strong grappa the total came to €63, which was probably fair, but not the deal I’d been expecting so I felt rather cheated. Not sure if I’d go again given all the other places to try.

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,

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+).

20130525_153533Total 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, 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.

20130523_201031I 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.

20130523_203208For 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.

20130523_211349For 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.

Genoa – around Via Garibaldi

Posted in Genoa, Italy, Liguria, Via Garibaldi with tags , , on October 3, 2013 by gannet39

20130519_12143920130519_121524Yet 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.

20130519_12172420130519_121328Such 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.

20130519_14272320130519_14245620130519_121850Today 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.

20130519_122820There are also a couple of decent restaurants on the side streets nearby:

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.

20130520_201223The 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).

20130520_201504The 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.

20130520_204742The 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).

20130520_212146I’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).

20130520_222056Finally 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,

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.

20130530_195008I 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).

20130530_200233Next 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).

20130530_201443I 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.

20130530_205231This was served with a glass of local Golfo del Tigullio Portofino Moscato (Pino Gino) dessert wine which I loved (A). I just can’t get enough of sweet Moscato.

20130530_210821Finally I was allowed to sample a couple of grappas, the first local and second from Veneto, which is part of the traditional heartland of the spirit.

20130530_210745I 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.

Genoa – Amari in San Lorenzo

Posted in Genoa, Italy, Liguria, San Lorenzo with tags , , , , , on October 2, 2013 by gannet39

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.

20130519_14481920130519_14543820130519_144919I’ve seen a fair few cathedrals in my time, more out of duty than interest, but the facade of San Lorenzo with its beautiful stonework, including helical Solomonic columns, simply blew me away.

20130519_145543I particularly love the statues of the sad lions that flank the steps.

Romanengo (Advanced A), 74r Via Soziglia (closed Monday morning and between 13.00 and 15.15 daily)

20130525_151805Considered 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.

20130525_14401520130525_14375120130525_151841There 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.

Just opposite Romanengo is this ancient fountain, one of my favourite things in Genoa.

20130525_151450 20130525_151514 20130525_151659


Gran Cafe Pasticcheria Fratelli Klainguti (Advanced), 98-100r Piazza Sozglia (a few doors down from Romanengo on the same side)

20130525_152451This old gran cafe (expect waiters in white tunics with gold buttons) was opened by two Swiss brothers when they missed their ship to America!

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).

20130525_152635The 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.

Le Cantine Squarefico
 (High Intermediate B), 3R Piazza Invrea, Tel. 016 3577 0991 (the pic is a beautiful building nearby)


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.

20130515_203947Like 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.

20130515_211444Next 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.

20130515_204652A decent (B) Pigato (Fontanacota 2012) was a good match with the food if rather overpriced as is often the case in this tourist town.

20130515_220641To 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).

20130515_214901I 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.

20130521_200739I 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.

20130521_203634I wanted some fish to go with my Pigato (Durin 2012) (B) but there was none on the menu so instead I had the ham and cheese board (B) instead.

20130521_215301To 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.

Focaccia & Dintorni
 (Elementary B+) 56r Via Canneto il Curto (turn right as you walk down Via San Lorenzo and it’s on the left straight away


20130531_150654According 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.

20130531_15073020130531_150508They also do pizza by the metre and sweet chocolate covered focaccia to finish off with, as well as several kinds of cake and of course Pandolce and Farinata.

Genoa – Relaxing in Piazza delle Erbe

Posted in Genoa, Italy, Liguria, Piazza delle Erbe, San Bernardo with tags , , , on October 1, 2013 by gannet39

20130526_150040This small but atmospheric square in the heart of San Bernardo is a great place to start the evening with an aperitivo or finish with an ice cream. It’s only ‘due passi’ (two steps i.e. a short walk) from Piazza Ferrari.

20130526_151140On weekend nights it’s standing room only in the square and streets around as the city’s youth come to let down their hair. I preferred to drink in the quieter Bar Mandragola (see San Bernardo post) on these nights but this is where the action is if you’re looking for it. My activities were a bit more sedate however.

Bar Berto,  (Intermediate B) 6r Piazza delle Erbe

My favourite of the 3 or 4 bars in the square as the staff are friendly and they do a mean Spritz with Campari (€6). Stuzzichini (nibbles) are included as standard.

20130526_125427Panson (Intermediate B+), 5r Piazza delle Erbe, Tel. 010 246 8903 Open Sunday

The poshest place in this otherwise down-to-earth piazza, recommended by some guide (Cadogan I think). It’s been around since 1790 but this experience doesn’t seem to have been passed on to the very young staff (nice but dim). I decided to try it for lunch on a sleepy Sunday in the company of a bottle of prosecco (A) from the Valdobbiadene DOCG (Villa Sandi) under the awnings of the shaded terrace.

20130526_131152I had a simple mixed salad to start (A). The colours were so vibrant I just had to take a photo of it though!

20130526_133032Next a pasta course of shrimp filled ravioli in a delicious sauce no doubt made from a stock using the shells of the shrimp (A). Total cost €31, half of which was the wine. I enjoyed it all and would go again.

20130526_150814La Cremeria delle Erbe, (Elementary A), 15-17r Vico delle Erbe (at the top end of the square, next to Panson)

Considered by many to be the best gelateria in the city, this is where I liked to have my dessert after eating elsewhere. On my last visit I had two scoops of Pralinato and Cioccolato for €2. Heaven in a tub.

I loved to fantasise about living around here but a teacher I met who had a top floor flat nearby says she can’t wait to move because of the noise of the people coming from the street below. I’d still swap with her in a moment.

Genoa – Old and new in the Porto Antico

Posted in Porto Antico with tags , , on September 30, 2013 by gannet39

20130519_153312At the southern end of the Porto Antico is an area called ‘Il Molo’, meaning ‘the pier’.

20130519_15363020130519_152028Lots 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)

20130525_13311420130525_133223Eataly 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.

20130519_150826This 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.

20130519_200729After 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.

20130519_203056The 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.

20130519_195932A 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).

20130519_215056To 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.

20130519_214332After 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).

20130519_223255Attilio 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.

Genoa – Eating well in San Bernardo

Posted in San Bernardo with tags , , , , , on September 29, 2013 by gannet39

San Bernardo is the oldest, and as previously mentioned, my most favourite part of Genoa.  I have defined the parish as the area south of Via San Lorenzo and Piazza Dante and west of Via Annuziato, but that’s just my guess.

Traces of Roman walls can still be found in some foundations and even some earlier Etruscan finds have been made here. It’s also the area that was enclosed by the original medieval city walls.

Sadly only one of the city gates, the Porta Soprana, is still standing with the last remnant of the city wall attached to it. The rest of the wall was demolished in the 60s to make way for the ugly office buildings in neighbouring Piazza Dante.


A small building near the gate is said to be where Christopher Columbus once lived, or at least according to a plaque put up by the city council (he’s claimed by other countries as well).


There’s also an old cloister with some nice pillars and carvings here too.

20130519_162832As with other parts of the old town, San Bernardo is a warren of vicoli and tiny squares. It’s great fun wandering around them in the day and I was told by a few locals that it’s safer than other areas of the old town at night.

A lot of the street and alley names are food related around here.20130519_161510
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The restaurants below are in order of personal preference. There’s also a great little bar at the bottom of this post that’s a bit more relaxed than those in nearby Piazza del Erbe (see separate post) which is quite frenetic at the weekends.

Sa Pesta (Elementary A), 16R Via dei Giustiniani, Tel. 010 246 8336,

This was my favourite place to eat during the sixteen days that I stayed in Genoa. Recommended by Cadogan, my friend John and a teacher at one of the schools I was working at, this is a trad place deep in the heart of San Bernardo. The name refers to salt being refined in a pestle and mortar (an important industry in Genoa historically) which I think is what the building was originally used for. The ambience is very atmospheric and you’d think you’d gone back to the middle ages if it wasn’t for the wine fridge and the modern clothes of the clientele.


Huge trays of the famous local Farinata and various savoury tarts, fresh out of the wood-fired oven, greet you as you enter. A chef the size of a small house rapidly dispenses dishes to the tiny waitresses in orbit around him. Guests are seated on basic narrow trestles at a wooden table and presented with a stripped down menu of local classics.
I started with the Piatto Misto della Casa; five slices of various tarts which in my case included Farinata (B), Torta Salata alla Cipolle (ricotta and onions) (B), Torta da Riso (rice, Parmesan and milk curds) (B), another tart of bietole (chard) and ricotta (B), a ripenio of stuffed onion and polpe which I don’t think I’ll ever get to like (C) despite several attempts.

This was all much heartier and tastier than what I got at Gaia (see Genoa Garibaldi post). I’m glad I tried it all again, and I liked it more than previously, but the tart and pie side of things just isn’t my favourite aspect of Genovese food.

However, the next dish of the classic Trofie al Pesto Genovese was mind-blowingly good (A+) with the pasta, so al dente it was verging on uncooked, and the vibrant green pesto restoring my faith that the local version is really the best. It was even better than mine!


I tried a quartino each of the house white (C+) and the red (C+), both of which were slightly fizzy (indicating youthfulness) but inoffensively tasteless and thirst quenching, so no need for water.
To finish a large slab of moist Torta della Nonna (A) (with pinenuts and pastry cream)…


…and a glass of Sciacchetra (by Sassarini), the local dessert wine (B).

20130524_213834Finally a Cafe Macchiato brought the bill to a measly €33. A bargain for such an enjoyable experience.

Da Rina (High Intermediate A),  3r Mura delle Grazie, Tel 010 246 6475,
Right down on the south-western tip of San Bernardo lies this famous seafood specialist, apparently beloved by politicians, artists and other celebrities.


It gets a mention in both Cadogan and the Rough Guide and is unusually open on a Sunday. Although on the expensive side, it had to be tried and I loved it
While I was reading the menu a complimentary round of deep fried dough balls arrived. They were filled with different vegetables like artichokes and olives (B+).

My eye was drawn to Tomaxelle which in Liguria usually refers to a dish of stuffed veal.  However here Le Tomaxelle Croccanti di Pesce Azzurro al Profumo di Maggiorana con Nuvola di Porri Brasati referred to croquettes of shredded ‘blue fish’, scented with marjoram and strips (or a ‘cloud’) of deep fried battered leeks, which were fantastic (A).

Pescato alla Ligure was I think seabass prepared in the Ligurian manner with black Taggiasche olives, pine nuts and potatoes in a delicious white wine sauce (A+). Must try to make this.

With the fish a nice bottle of Pigato (Colle dei Bardellini 2011) went well (B+).

To finish a rather miserly slice of Sacripantina  (a Genovese sponge cake made with butter cream) which was fine (B), especially when accompanied by a glass of sweet dessert wine from the Sicilian island of Pantelleria (A).


And finally a great glass of homemade barrique grappa (A) which put hairs on my chest.

The final bill of €70 was a lot for me but I think I got good value for money. The service I got from one of the older English speaking waiters was excellent. He was great at calming unhappy children with various magic tricks which was fun to watch. A good place which I would happily go back to.

Trattoria della Raibetta (Upper Intermediate A), 10-12r Vico Caprettari, Tel. 010 246 8877,
This quiet old school place was recommended by Gambero Rosso and it didn’t disappoint, although my slightly jaded palate went for the meaty options rather than the seafood it is better known for.
My first course was Ravioli al “Tocco”, packets of pasta filled with beef and borage (‘boraggine’) which was fine, if a bit oily (B).


Borage is also used in Liguria to fill the other local pasta ‘pansoti’. Germany, Crete and some regions of Spain also use it in cooking, and by the Poles when pickling gherkins, but in Britain it is only used as an optional addition to a glass of Pimms, a drink I hate. So the jury is still out for me.
Craving a steak with chips I went for the European classic ‘Filetto al Pepe Verde’ (filet in a green peppercorn and cream sauce) (A) with Pattatine Fritte (B+) which both hit the spot. With this two glasses of unmemorable (B) Zangani ‘Il Montale’ local red (Colli di Luni 2012).


For dessert Canestrelli Genovesi, brittle daisy-shaped biscuits reminiscent of shortbread, dusted with icing sugar (B).  They are made all over Italy, particularly in the mountainous Northern regions, but are especially famous in Liguria.

These came with an excellent glass of non-local Moscato d’Asti Saracco (2010) which was just sublime (A+).


The bill came to a tasty €54 with cover. Conclusion; pleasant service, well cooked food, would definitely go again.

Borobudur Ristorante Indinesiano (Intermediate D), 8r Via Canneto il Lungo, Tel. 010 247 5310,  Closed Tuesday.

I came to this place, just up the slope from Trattoria della Raibetta, in search of a change from the relentless diet of Italian food. I had the Menu Bali for €30, a series of dishes that were barely edible (C) or completely inedible (D) to the point that I don’t want to remember them by writing about them. I love Indonesian food but this was a massive disappointment. The Bintang beer (B) was the best thing about the experience notwithstanding the ‘spettacolo di danze’ show at 9pm. You won’t catch me in here again.


La Mandragola (Bar = Elementary A, Restaurant = Elementary C-), Piazza di San Cosimo, off Via di Sottoripa
Wandering homewards from Da Rina one night I stumbled on a very atmospheric little square called Piazza di San Cosimo. There was a small bar called Mandragola in the alley leading to the square where a DJ was playing funk and soul to an older crowd. Definitely my kind of place.
The friendly bar tender made me an excellent Negroni with aromatic Boe Scottish gin, Carpano Classico vermouth and orange flavoured Angosturra bitters (A).


I took it outside to the square and sat on the steps of San Cosimo church to daydream about having my own little place here one day.

Don’t be tempted by their sister restaurant next door though (badly cooked food, slow service), despite the pretty stained glass window and the tempting tables outside. Both places are part of the same co-operative but the three guys who run the bar are the only ones who have got it right.


Genoa ‘La Superba’

Posted in Genoa, Italy, Liguria on September 26, 2013 by gannet39

In the middle ages Genoa (in English, aka Genova in Italian or Zena in Ligurian) was a major commercial and maritime power, rivalling Venice for control of the Mediterranean. 20130515_200641


St George is the patron saint of the city and everywhere you go you will see the familiar emblem of a red  cross on a white background.


In 1190 English ships entering these waters flew the cross as an ensign to show they were under the protection of the Doge of Genoa, a privilege that the English king paid an annual tribute for. With the passing of time it eventually became the national flag of England.


Historically the source of the city’s good fortune was the port and still today it has an important function as the third tip of an industrial triangle, formed with Milan and Turin. In addition, huge cruise ships fill the berths in the new harbour, discharging tourists from around the world who come to enjoy the UNESCO heritage sites.


The old town or ‘citta vecchia’ is one of the largest in Europe at over 400,000 square metres. It’s nickname ‘La Superba’ arises from the stunning architecture, in particular the baroque palazzi along Via Garibaldi and the numerous churches faced with black and white marble (only affordable for the four richest families that once controlled the city) that are dotted  around the city .

20130519_16103420130519_19264420130519_124251This citta vecchia is a warren of small ’vicoli’ (small alleys or what we’d call jennels in my part of Yorkshire) which unexpectedly open into beautiful small squares with stunning statues and quirky fountains.

20130525_131817 20130519_162102 20130519_161923 20130525_153109 20130515_23024920130519_161738Many of the street corners have small shrines high on the walls, reminiscent of Naples. The two port cities have a very similar feel for me and I love them both.

Walking around you also notice all the political graffiti competing with the church for wall space and the attention of passers by. You certainly get a feeling it’s still quite a radical place, even several years on from the infamous G8 summit.


20130519_143915 20130519_120631 20130520_194359It’s quite easy to get lost walking around (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing). Try to keep a good sense of direction and have a decent map (unlike me) or you’ll spend a while looking for the restaurants that appear in the following posts.

20130520_194437Even with a good map, your best bet is to narrow your destination down to the block and just walk around till you find it. The bonus to doing this is that you stumble on unexpected gems in hidden places.


Foodwise, Genoa is most famous for pesto, which requires copious amounts of  basil. The town of Pra just along the coast to the west of Genoa, is said to have the best basil in Italy.

Genoa, and Liguria as a whole, are also renowned for Focaccia.  Although probably originally baked by the Etruscans or Ancient Greeks, this delicious slightly leavened flatbread has  become a symbol of the local cuisine due to the multiple varieties in the region.

In terms of wine, Liguria’s seven DOCs produce fewer great wines in comparison to neighbouring regions, although this doesn’t stop restaurants offloading them onto tourists at quite high prices.

For me, the better ones tended to be the dry whites, in particular the Vermentino and Pigato which you will find in most places. The best dessert wine is Sciacchetra, pronounced /sha kI tra/, particularly the high priced Riserva from Capellini.

I was billeted at the Hotel Moderno Verdi, 15 Pizza G. Verdi (immediately opposite Brignole train station), Tel. 010 553 2104,

A characterful hotel built at the beginning of the last century, so not actually that modern at all. It’s an atmospheric place but the aged plumbing can be a bit dodgy in some rooms (occasional smell of effluent in my first small room on the front). If you are staying for a longer time you might be given a larger room. On my second visit I stayed for two weeks in room 428, which was fine.

Some of the hotel staff are quite dour but others are much nicer, and all were helpful. The ancient lift has two large pot plants that come along for the ride, presumably to prevent too many people from overloading it. The cable internet connection isn’t great, it didn’t ever want to load my blog, perhaps it knew I was writing this! Evening meals in the restaurant aren’t particularly special I’m told, and the breakfast is fairly basic although they will make you a fresh coffee unlike many places. Despite all the little niggles, I quite liked staying here.

In common withmost Italian cities, Genoa doesn’t have any big parks where you can go for a decent walk or run. You could amble along the lungomare but it was a bit of a distance from the hotel in Brignole .

My  personal jogging route was up Via Serra, left at Piazza Corvetto and along Corso Andrea Podesta, Mura di Santa Chiara and Mura delle Cappuccine. The last two streets give you great views over the eastern side of the town while also being pretty much traffic free in the mornings.


Please see the following posts for reviews of restaurants in specific neighbourhoods. If you want to cut to the chase, the bountiful  area for food for me was San Bernardo where all the best places to eat seem to be located.


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