Cucina Ligure: Eating Out on the Italian Riviera

It is time to round up these blogs about my holiday on the Italian Riviera (see last week’s posts) but I can’t leave without giving you a small taste of the food even though I am no expert in these things and my cooking ability can turn a kitchen into a dirty protest. I like food, especially Italian cuisine. It is one of the main reasons for travelling to this wonderful country – I would go there for the food even if it had the climate of Siberia, the artistic skills of a tribe of monkeys and the urban charm of an East German housing development.
Don’t expect me to give you the recipes, I would poison you, but take a look at the photographs of my holiday meals and, believe me, when I say that eating out on the Italian Riviera was a treat beyond my expectations.
I was staying in the small seaside town of Santa Margherita Ligure and took trips along the coast in both directions to Portofino, Rappalo,  the villages of the Cinque Terre and to Genoa,  Liguria’s capital. No surprizes that these coastal towns specialise in fish food or that Liguria’s lushly fertile soil produces fresh fruit and vegetables to make perfect ingredients where real flavour comes au naturelle. 
Ligurian cuisine is fish dominated with a special fondness for fresh anchovies. The area is also famous for its pesto made principally from small leaved basil and its pasta, smooth and light unlike anything I’ve ever eaten in England, is often mixed with small amounts of potato, another Ligurian speciality (I assume potatoes first came to these parts with Genoan hero, Christopher Columbus) . The bread too is delicious and usually baked that day on the premises – most famously the warm, crusty on the outside and often spicy Focaccia –  a feature in every restaurant.
Ligurian cooking can look deceptively simple but there is a centuries old tradition here worn subtly without a lot of fuss but with a lot of style. 
Here are some of my favourites:

Ristorante Beppe Achille, Santa Margherita Ligure. A very stylish fish restaurant across the road from the harbour and nextdoor to the fish market – the fish is so fresh you would only get it fresher if it were still alive.

Anchovies in lemon

Penne with anchovies

Ristorante La Lampara, Riomaggiore. In this tiny Cinque Rerre  village, an oasis of air-conditioned calm on a raging hot day but with food that would honour the table of any international capital city.

 Ligurian Broccoli soup which had a lot more than broccoli in there.

Lamb cutlets with…

…grilled vegetables…

..and espresso coffee. It shouldn’t be a surprize that Italians always get this right.

Ristorante da Nicola, Portofino – this village may be millionaire’s paradise but they know how to do a simple pizza too.

Pizza and….

… espresso coffee.

Ristorante Sole, Rapallo.

Spaghetti with anchovies…

…and, of course, espresso coffee.

Trattoria da Pezzi, Santa Margherita Ligure.

Genovese Minestrone soup – a meal in itself.

Caffé del Borgo, Santa Margherita Ligure.

Cafe Americano…

… and, with a beer, a generous supply of hors d’oeuvres.

…and, for a special treat on my last day, one of those very special little pastries.

Ristorante Antonio, Santa Margherita Ligure.

Seafood pasta – they told me the name, several times, but I cannot recall it. I blame the wine and smooth, slightly sweet but punchy white from a few miles away in Cinque Terre.

Sea bass Ligurian style…the chef had caught it that morning whilst diving the local village of Paraggi.

Spaghetteria Garibaldi, Santa Margherita Ligure. An unpretentious long-established family business that knows just what its all about.

Prosciutto and melon

Spaghetti Garibaldi

Caffé del Porto, Santa Margherita Legure.  Local people came here to eat in their over-all and uniforms, they know where the food is best.

 Trenette al pesto (linguine)

Spaghetti with clams…

Spaghetti Bolognese…

..and espresso coffee.

No time here to talk about the wine (look out for bottles of the local stuff from here in the Cinque Terre region).

or the chilled Moretti beer….

…or the Campari and sodas….

..or those late night cocktail bars

Sottozero Bar, Santa Margherita Ligure. The staff have as much fun here as the customers.

Caruso Cocktail…mostly creme de menthe and gin.

Of course you had to have a Margherita, or two, in Santa Margherita Ligure. This one wasn’t my first…hope it’s not my last.

Buon appetito!

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