Hungry for: Lake Maggiore + Sestri Levante
Romantic trip with husband planned next week for Lake Maggiore (Verbania) and Sestri Levanti (3 nights in each). We'll have a car and will travel for an amazing meal. 1st phase of eating around the Lake Maggiore region and 2nd phase in the S Levanti/Portofino/Cinque Terre region...Would so appreciate your insights into a memorable restaurant experience in these 2 regions. Romance/amazing view a plus, but not a necessity. Again, will drive for amazing meals! Lunches, dinners, whatever you suggest--Chowhoundians have never let me down. Thanks!
Polpo Mario in Sestri Levante is really very good. The specialty is octopus in a variety of ways. I think that simply steamed is exquisite.
Another place worth going to (take the train) is Luchin's in Chiavari for farinata. It's a regional specialty -- a chickpea torte -- and no one makes it better than Luchin. They are closed Sunday, but open for lunch and dinner otherwise. The farinata is baked in a wood-burning oven, which will make you want to sit at the tables outdoors in the medieval alleyways. Those tables book up fast, so come early.
Also in Chiavari, for a near-Michelin starred meal, you can go to Lord Nelson's Pub -- which is a fancy restaurant on the sea, and thoroughly Italian although creative and very pricey. However, a perfectly grilled tuna served with a black pepper ice cream is memorable summer fare.
In a recent post about Genova, Fred Plotkin described how to get to Manuelina's in Recco. It's worth looking up the post. You should drive to Recco rather than take the train.
Finally, I've never eaten at La Brinca in Ne, but since you have a car, you could have a lot of fun driving there from Sestri Levante. It's a short ride. It does have a Michelin star, but I believe the only time it is open for lunch is Sundays -- and you don't want to be driving those roads in the dark unless you know them.
For what it's worth, Nigella Lawson is wild for a fish restaurant in Casarza Ligure (quite close to Sestri Levante, again in the hills), called · San Giovanni, (00 39 0185 467 244). (Closed Mondays)
Finally, there is a restuarant on one of the Borromei islands in Lago Maggiore that is also a small hotel. I forget the name and it is often recommended, but I had a terrible meal there once -- perhaps because a wedding party was colonizing the chef's attention.