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Liguria Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations


peterpumkino
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Try Gianni Franzi by the water in Vernazza- great seafood and pasta(naturally). Sit outside for lunch under the colorful umbrellas. Drink Sciachetra(spelling???), the local white wine and watch the people and boats go by. After lunch, we watched as our waiter ended his shift, got into a rowboat, and rowed way out to sea.

Sestri Levanti has a lot of wonderful places for take-out- bakeries, deli's, fruit stores, etc. great places to picnic, esp. on the beach along the Baia di Silencio. It really is quiet- no road along the beach, just small hotels and houses.

Buon appetito

Roz

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If you are going down to the Cinque terre we found that restaurants in general were pretty average dishing out generally safe touristy type seafood plates. The two exceptions we found were slightly off the beaten track. One ot Cornelgia which is the least visited town of the 5 (because it's on a high cliff rather than down at sealevel withg a beautiful harbour.

The name of the restaurant was "Osteria a Cantina de Mananan". Only holds about 10 tables run by a lovely husband and wife team who cook honest, local food that is incredibly fresh. They have no printed menu as dishes change on a daily basis based on what's available at the markets etc. I had rabbit and it was suberb as was the black-ink pasta (mermaid tresses?) with pippis, clams and mussels. A review was published in the wine spectator at the following site which has a whole article on the cinqu terre.

http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Main/Fea...197,168,00.html

The other restaurant was in Levanto which is not part of the cinque( a pity) but is the next stop on the railway towards Positano - a sort of "chabby-chic" resort town that probably has seen better days - but all the better for it i think.

The restaurant is solely seafood and is operated by the same person who owns the best wine shop on the Ligurian coast for tuscan wines. it is called : Osteria Tumelin. I ordered the fish of the day and loved how thery brought out on a huge platter of about 10 different types of whole fresh fish and you decided which one you wanted. The seafood pasta dishes were also superb. You can find more out about it at www.tumelin.com

have a great holiday.

Cheers

Paul

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We loved Sestri (though it was early April --- much quieter than June, I imagine). The proprieter of the Bermuda Bar, if it's still there, is manic about the nibbles he offers with drinks --- a lovingly assembled individual wooden board of the highest quality parm reggiano, prosciutto, lardo, salume. We had one of the best meals of that trip at the tiny Buon Geppe, on the main street leading to the sea (again, if it's still there) .... only 5 tables, a kitchen about as big as a closet with 2 burners. We left the meal to the waiter and rolled out about 3 hours later.

Another great meal at Fiammenghilla dei Fieschi (just outside of Sestri), 0185-481-041, artichoke ravioli and fish primi to die for. The setting is beautiful -- an 18th-century villa that is the summer residence of one of the Genovese noble familes, surrounded by olive trees. Elegant but not snooty -- the owner's cats wander about at will (fine with us). Our meal there was dinner but I'd go back for lunch to better enjoy the setting.

This was 3 yrs ago.

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When we came back from our vacation last year, I had written here about my disappointment in Western Liguria. We were in Beaulieu, France, and decided to hop over to Italy for some culture change and pasta and pesto. We had been to Eastern Liguria, Santa Margherita, Portofino, Cinque Terre and environs, and loved it there. Western Liguria is VERY disappointing. After the sumptuous towns on the French Riviera, these towns in Italy west of Genoa have a seediness to them, along with a feeling that their best days are behind them.

Much of the advice you are seeing in other posts here is about going East of Genoa. As we found out, the dearth of information about the coast from Genoa to the French border is not an accident...

We stayed in Finale Ligure. Most of the towns feature private beach clubs and

"family" hotels where a 3-7 day minimum stay is usual, and most include meals at these hotels. We did discover a lovely town in the hills, Finaleborgo, where the center is closed to cars and the square is medieval. We did have a lovely meal at a small trattoria there. The only noteworthy restaurant west of Genoa is in Vado Ligure, called La Fornace de Barbablu. The setting of the place is supposed to be an old Roman furnace ruin. We never got there, because we couldn't wait to get back to France. We love Italy, but Western Liguria seems to be one of Italy's regions

where time has passed it by.... La Fornace de Barbablu Web Site

Edited by menton1 (log)
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I spent a week in Liguria in October of 2002 and had some great meals taking suggestions from Gambero Rosso and Fred Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveller. In Cervo (Alto), just west of Imperia, we ate at the "Ristorante San Giorgio" and had the best grilled prawns I've ever tasted - among many other wonderful dishes. When we praised the chef, Caterina, for her wonderful cooking she said it was simply because she used only the very best local ingredients supplied by special people. The restaurant is in the upper town with spectacular views out over the sea. (Closed Tues. Tel 0183 400175). This was a Plotkin recommendation as is also going to the town of Recco, near Camogli, for "focaccia al formaggio di Recco," an experience not to be missed. The famous restaurant for this food is Manuelina which was closed the day we were there(Wed) so we ate at "Ristorante Vitturin" and had superb baked fish as well as the amazing focaccia. (Closed Mon. Tel:0185720225)

One other unique restaurant stands out from this trip - "Il Portico" in Feligno a miniscule town in the hills just above the coast west of Savona. This is a charming restaurant that serves a set menu that changes with the seasons for a current fixed price of 22 Euros! The night we were there in October the restaurant was decorated with pumpkins and seasonal flora and many of the probably 10 dishes we were served featured porcini mushrooms (for which the waiter apologized). When we arrived at the appointed time - 8pm - our table for four had 2 bottles of house wine, one red, one white, and a bottle of acqua minerale, waiting for us. As the tables filled up, the dinner service started with multiple small courses from antipasti to desserts. We ordered additional wine and water and still our bill for 4 people totalled 80 Euros (2 years ago), and the food was creative and delicious. I believe it is closed Mon. and Tues. and is only open in the evening. Reservations are obligatory. Tel:019699207. I didn't see any places to stay in the town, but we stayed in Noli, nearby, where there are several pleasant hotels on the seafront from where you can watch the fishermen bring in their catch in the morning and sell it from stands right there on the beach.

Have a great trip!

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"The only noteworthy restaurant west of Genoa is in Vado Ligure..."

menton 1, you're kidding, right? We had a spectacular lunch at Lilliput in Voze (didn't mention it bec. the poster was looking for Sestri Levante area) and an equally delicious dinner in the medievel village of Zuccarello at La Cittadella. Dearth of information? The Slow Food osteria guide lists no fewer than 9 places on the coast west of Genoa, and 8 more inland. There's Plotkin, there's Willinger (both maybe a bit outdated now, to be sure, but still useful references). Now if you're looking for Michelen stars that's one thing .... but your characterization of the entire Ligurian coast west of Genoa as a gastronomic wasteland seems a bit of an, um, exaggeration.

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Mark, while I admit that the seaside towns west of Genoa don’t have the cachet or the toniness of those on the other side, places such as Albenga, Arma di Taggia, and Sanremo have a “B” movie atmosphere I find appealing. Most of the restaurants along the coast are simple, honest and fresh, although you should try to stick to those that have a good turnover so that the fish is fresh every day.

It has been nearly seven years since I first went to Conchiglia in Arma di Taggia, but it is still considered a serious restaurant. It’s on the bustling main street that runs parallel to the beaches, so it’s a lively scene around there. In Sanremo we belatedly discovered last month what now seems like the best dining bet in Sanremo. It’s called Gianinni and is a classical, serious Italian restaurant with the wife cooking and the husband in charge of the dining room. It’s a tad overpriced but we didn’t see any stinting on the quality of the ingredients. The restaurant is a bit hard to find. It’s at the beginning of the public beach about 150-200 yards past the train station.

Dolceaqua is a wonderful old town that is overlooked by just about every foreign tourist who goes to the French or Italian Riviera. You can visit it in an hour or so if you want to go through the old part and climb up to the top of the hill it is on. There is a very good restaurant in the middle of town called Gastone which, although only five miles or so behind Ventimiglia, offers a menu very different than what you find along the coast. It’s a more hearty country cuisine with rabbit, frogs, and veal. In other words a nice change from what you will have been eating just prior.

Bordighera and Ventimiglia offer four restaurants that are more upscale than most along the coast. The Via Romana on Via Romana in Bordighera offers a good limited-choice lunch menu at something of a bargain. It’s between the sea and the autoroute exit, rather high up in the town. Skip Carletto on the main street near the sea. It seems to have fallen on hard times and the fish has not been fresh according to me and two other serious eGullet eaters.

Ventimiglia’s two rather fancy places are worth a visit. Baia Benjamin has managed to lose both its Mchelin stars over several years and offers a cuisine that is above average, but fading. The foreign waiters are unsmiling and unpleasant. One goes for a delightful time sitting right against the quiet beach and the utterly charming gardens. I have always been tempted to spend the night in one of its five rooms. Balzi Rossi, just a stone’s throw from the French border has appreciably better food, and while relatively not as glamorous as Baja Benjamin still has a dining terrace suspended seemingly over the sea. Our last meal last summer was excellent.

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Mark, while I admit that the seaside towns west of Genoa don’t have the cachet or the toniness of those on the other side, places such as Albenga, Arma di Taggia, and Sanremo have a “B” movie atmosphere I find appealing. Most of the restaurants along the coast are simple, honest and fresh, although you should try to stick to those that have a good turnover so that the fish is fresh every day.

Robert, I agree with everything you say here... but, realize, that you are returning to France every night!! Hotels are of particular concern in this area, they are catering to "families", many from Germany and Switzerland. A large portion of the hotels either insist on or encourage you to take 2 or 3 meals at the hotel; and the hotel standards are just about a 2* quality (regardless of how many stars they post on their plaque).

Yes, if you stick to the trattorias and little places there is very good food to be had, we had terrific seafood and great Trophie w/Pesto, the signature dish of the area. I also would have liked to have gone to the above mentioned La Fornace, it is very highly spoken of both in Michelin (1*) and a few other guides.

Perhaps I was also spoiled because we were coming off 4 days on the French Riviera, and the contrast was too striking-- possibly if we had gone to the area straight away we could have tolerated it better---

When I came back last fall, we had an interesting discussion of this same issue Here

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Robert is certainly not the only one finding the B-movie setting of San Remo appealing.

I second Robert’s opinion on Carletto. I have eaten there many times but the last three times suggest it has fallen fast and hard. It is sad since I have had many memorable meals there but I do not think I will return any time soon. Via Romana has never impressed me but it has never been bad on the other hand.

Baia Beniamin is a must go for the dream like setting. Food can be ok but it is too expensive and the Fawlty Towers-like service can be amusing when one is in the right mood or very annoying when on is not.

I have not been to Balzi Rossi in a while but I is worth trying.

There is a small trattoria in Dolceaqcua. I am not sure of the name but it is located on the main street and it is also a wine shop. The food is simple and ok and the wine selection is very impressive. The woman in the couple who runs the place is one of Italy’s top sommeliers and she is very knowledgeable. Prices in the wine shop are high. Buying wine is better at Il Forletto in San Remo where the selection is vast and prices are reasonable.

A word about Paolo & Barbara in San Remo. This restaurant has its followers. The food is made of high quality and fresh ingredients and technically most of the time it is on a high level. The problem is that the food is overly complicated with often much too many disparate ingredients served at the same time. There is just no harmony in the food with many “garnish”-tastes too pronounced. The wine list is extraordinary with many bargains.

Giannini is ok but it is not near the quality Carletto displayed was two years ago. Of the restaurants close to the French side I will give Giappun in Vallecrosia a few more chances.

In Genova, Zeffirino has served me good homemade pasta but it was very expensive.

When my glass is full, I empty it; when it is empty, I fill it.

Gastroville - the blog

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Mark, while I admit that the seaside towns west of Genoa don’t have the cachet or the toniness of those on the other side, places such as Albenga, Arma di Taggia, and Sanremo have a “B” movie atmosphere I find appealing.

That is such a wonderful sentence that I had to see it twice.

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http://www.chowhound.com/boards/intl4/messages/17143.html is the link to a post of mine from January of 2003. This is about two restaurants: Baldin (Gambero Rosso 50 for food) and La Fournace di Barbiblu mentioned above. The latter is the most interesting, fascinating/romantic/enchanting (pick an adjective) of any restaurant that I have been to in fifty + years of eating my way through Europe. You should go. It has a Michelin star and you will be dining, literally, in a 2000 year old Roman furnace. If you do go please post here or on Chowhound your thoughts.
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  • 4 weeks later...

I have dinner reservations for La Fornace Barbablu - taking my friend

there to celebrate his 40th.

A couple other restaurants I'm considering:

Da o Vittorio, Recco

http://www.daovittorio.it/

Manuelina, Recco

Ca'Peo

http://www.capeo.it/index02.swf

Baldin based on numerous reviews I've read

I'm also planning to visit some modest places - will also be going to

Albenga and Final Ligure

Will definitely be going to Fiammenghilla Fieschi in Sestri Levante

Plus a couple other places - once again thanks for all the suggestions.

here's an interesting web page listing Liguria restaurants - it's in iitalian

however but has addresses, phone numbers, etc..

http://www.veronelli.com/VERONELLI_DB/guid...asp?reg=Liguria

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If you do go east of Genoa, I will second the vote for Osteria Tumelin in Levanto. It was easily the best meal we had during our stay on the coast. Second best was at Gambero Rosso in Vernazza. I am sorry to say that Gianni's was not all that great when we went.

If you are in Vernazza, you also must go to the Pirate Tavern at the top of town.

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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Please post on here your thoughts about La Fournace. Also, it is difficult to find, but if it is helpful the restaurant sits very close to the autostrada which passes nearby. It is getting from the autostrada to the restaurant that is challenging. There is a map on their website but it is off a little bit.

Ca Peo is outstanding. Somehow, for some reason, Fieschi may have a different chef. I could be wrong but when I was researching restaurants in this area about a year and a half ago I found an article in Gambero Rosso in Italian that a friend roughly translated for me meaning there was a "new" chef. He was certain of the translation but at the time it caused me not to go.

Part of our wonderful experience at Baldin was expecting very little and knowing almost nothing other than Gambero Rosso's 50 point rating. Nondescript, out of the way, but extremely friendly and accommodating with wonderful food fairly priced. It is not Le Calandre (my choice for best in Italy outside of Padua) but it is VERY good.

Have a great trip!

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...

On our recent trip to France, we were only 30 minutes from the Italian border so we decided to do one dinner in Italy. I thought it would be relevant to post this excerpt from my report on my trip to France here on the Italy Forum. Here it is:

On our third day on the Côte, we planned to dip over into Italy for one dinner and a change of food and culture. The Gantié had talked about a little family operation in Bordighera called Magiargé. Bordighera is a bit more attractive than the first 2 towns over the border, Ventimiglia and Vallecrosia, which are decidedly seedy.

The pedestrian way (Lungomare) bordering the sea is quite nice here, but the restaurant is located in the Centro Storico, or the Old Center. In Italy these centers are usually closed to cars, as was the case here, so the restaurant is on a small quiet Medieval square, which at dusk is very atmospheric and enjoyable. The food here did not disappoint. Run lovingly by a couple, Carmen and Mauro, our smattering of Italian came in handy because nobody spoke much English-- this is really off the tourist track.

We chose for starters the "Degustazione" which is 4 plates of appetizers. There were 2 fish plates, a pasta, and a salad/vegetable dish. Stoccafisso mantecato Brandacujon alla ponentina, Passatina di zucchine trombette col ragù di pesce, Sardini Ripene, and Taglielini con pesci cappone;

gallery_6673_1837_722372.jpg

Main courses were tuna steaks in a balsamic vinegar reduction,

gallery_6673_1837_748698.jpg

and a scalope de pesce loale con pachini e con basilico.

gallery_6673_1837_1264505.jpg

It's sometimes quite refreshing to go to a simple reataurant like this one producing fresh dishes with local flavors. It's certainly relaxed, and, although the Michelin-star restaurants will always have their place, it is definitely harder to relax in one of those than a place like this. It was a lot of fun, and the food was terrific. A grand evening in Italy!

Here's the couple that runs the place:

xmauro423.jpg

For their full menu and a history of the owners, go to: http://www.magiarge.it

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Menton1,

thank you for posting about this Italian "diversion". Just curious about the tuna: how far was it cooked? Italians seem to prefer done tuna (well most of them, count me out on this) and I was wondering if this is more of a Sothern Italian thing or if you found the same in Bordighera.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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It is nice to nice to read this report which conjures up good memories. In the summer of 2004 we had a lovely meal there, sitting in an outside table at the Piazza, and we started new friendships as Trattorias like this emit a "joie de vivre" which is contagious.

The tuna, my wife's dish, was slightly overcooked. The rest of the meal was very satisfactory. The wine list was very good and prices fair.

Bordighera has 2 one Michelin star restaurants by the way. Carletto and Via Romano. My meal in the former was disappointing, however, one may also eat very well there if you hit the latter part of the week when the restaurant buys fresh fish from the local market. I dined twice a Via Romano (the second one with Robert and Susan Brown) with consistent results: it is a very good seafood restaurant, with mostly but not always impeccably fresh products and the refined cooking respects the ingredients.

I agree that Ventimiglia is not as pretty as Bordighera but restaurant Baia Beniamin there can not be beaten for the setting/ambience. Two years in a raw we had superb fresh fish there as well as the gamberi di San Remo (best in the world) were better than what I had gotten in the 2 star French (the one in La Turbie) and as good as the famous Louis XV--for 5 times as expensive of course. But they are a bit short staffed in Baia Beniamin and it takes time to give your first order. They make it up by offering Prosecco though.

Incidentally, I liked very much Conchiglia which is not too far from Bordighera. Paolo et Barbara in San Remo is a long story...

So over the years we came to the following conclusion. Stay in France (Cap Ferrat), but always cross the border to eat better and cheaper than what is available in France. The only exception to this is Louis XV. It is not cheaper, but depending on the day you can eat there a meal which should score 17 in Gastroville scale in a bad day and a superlative meal which may score 19.5/20 when Cerruti is in good shape!

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Glad you folks enjoyed the report. I also enjoyed the memory of it while writing.

Vmilor, I disagree with you about Italy vs France. It's really impossible to claim that the food is BETTER in Italy; it's decidedly not! It's just completely different. After so many trips to France and oh, so much great food, I just cannot say that I would rather eat in Italy! Sure, the feeling is different, the culture is different. And we can enjoy the differences without making one better than the other.

As a matter of fact, one of my pet peeves about restaurants in Italy, is that they just don't do good salads. They seem to throw together some lettuce, a few tomato slices, and the dreaded shredded carrots invariably top the dish! Not really attractive, and quite ordinary. In France, the most ordinary cafe usually does artistic saladry. They usually have a selection of several, and they are put together beautifully on a plate. The dressing is usually added, and the results are wonderful as a rule.

Yes, the food in Italy is great, but restaurants in France don't hold second place to anyone, either!

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Menton you are right. Writing very fast and never editing I said "food" instead of availability of seafood. In summer and at Riviera we are always in the mood for whole fish cooked at the bone and shellfish and somehow I can not satisfy myself in France and we are more content in Italy. We tried Bacon, Tetou, Loulou, Jerome etc., and somehow Italy is winning, on the average for quality and availability of fresh and wild seafood. My best guess is that in Italy there are more fishmongers and local markets are richer.

I am always open though to your suggestions as you live in the area.

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I am always open though to your suggestions as you live in the area.

Vmilor, I hope you noticed that I live in New Jersey! :smile:

However, in Nice, I have heard that Les Viviers has the best seafood on either side of the border. It is in a residential section of Nice, well away from the tourist track. Here is their Web Site: http://www.les-viviers-nice.com/

Perhaps Robert Brown or Jonathan Day have first-hand info about the place, as they spend much more time in the area than I do. But this restaurant is supposed to have fantastic seafood. If it's anything like the photos on the web, it should be damn good.

Edited by menton1 (log)
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  • 4 weeks later...

Vedat has a point, but it is really difficult to explain why the Italian seafood restaurants in general have better seafood than the French, except for a few of the most expensive restaurants on the French side of the border. It is clear that for the local gamberi, langouste, local langoustines, squids and cuttlefish, the Italian markets, fishmongers and fishermen offer better produce. In fact anything even remotely resembling the fantastic San Remo gamberi are nonexistent and Mediterranean langoustines are rare on the French side of the border. On the other hand, the Italian fishmongers have no scallops, wheras just across the border in France they are easy to find fresh and of good quality now when the season has started. The French restaurants that serve the best seafood get a portion of their seafood from the Italian fishmongers mainly in Ventimiglia. But for large sea bass, turbot and some other fish, the Italian seafood restaurants will tell you that they sometimes go to France to get it. It is all a bit confusing.

Another reason why it is easier to get good seafood at reasonable prices in Italy may be that Italian restaurants like Carletto, where I had a fantastic meal recently, and Via Romana base their cooking around top class ingredients so they tend to spend as much time and effort as the multi-starred French restaurants like Le Louis XV and Jerome to search out the best seafood, whereas many of the non-starred French restaurants serving seafood depend on deliveries from one or two wholesalers that they give phone orders to. At the seafood stalls in the Ventimiglia market, one will often find Franck Cerrutti, Bruno Cirino and the Italian chefs early in the morning meticulously selecting gamberis, rock red mullets, baby squids e t c, that were fished during the night before but one will never see the chefs from the majority of seafood restaurants that are less quality conscious. Some of these quality conscious chefs also work with the few remaining local fishermen and consequently can get ultra fresh fish that has never been put on ice to offer on their menus. In the end I think it is this selection process that renders consistent results. Every now and then one can of course have a great fish even at places like le Cabanon.

When my glass is full, I empty it; when it is empty, I fill it.

Gastroville - the blog

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