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Liguria Fall 2012 - final stop Genoa

jen kalb May 25, 2013 10:21 PM

I should have put up a report of this final leg months ago but we actually did relatively little restaurant eating in Genoa - arriving as we did on a Sunday evening after a big, long lunch at La Brinca, we subsisted on bread, wine and cheese we had brought along from Chiavari,for the first night. Pickings are fairly slim on Sunday and Monday anyway there. Taking the funicular down from our Corso Magenta area apartment to Via Garibaldi,we strolled past the palaces there and then plunged down into the fascinating old town with its mix of architectural styles from several centuries, quiet narrow streets with a few strolling prostitutes, the bustling popular food shopping district around Via Due Macelli di Soziglia which I said something about on another thread and the incredibly diverse and fairly seedy scene on the waterfront .
After wandering through churches and interesting streets all morning we stopped at tiny Ombre Rosse for lunch - a cramped two level operation with good prints on the walls and an attractive seating area in the park across the street.
Id characterize the cuisine as traditional with eclectic touches - my two dishes were a mixed plate of torte - 4 or 5 variations of pastry with a topping, including herb and cheese, peppers and eggplant and cheese - these were some of the better renditions we had in liguria, and a dish of mackerel with curried couscous, also quite good. We drank another Bisson red, the Cileigiolo this time and it was tasty too.

Tired that evening, we stopped at friendly Il Focolare (at the top of the funicular) for a takeout order of focaccia in the style or fecco - with soft white cheese - stracchino or crescehza - they also offer other pizza, as well as farinata (not tried)

Our second lunch was at Da Raibetta, close to the harbor. There we had pansoti filled with preboggion (a soft slightly sour white cheese) with walnut sauce, testaroli with almond sauce, sardines alla verde and totani - the white pignato wine was a good companion. I thought the food here was at an acceptable good level - not exciting - or maybe it was the dishes we chose - I was not thrilled by either of the nut sauces. After marching around the harbor area then visiting some palaces in the afternoon, we stumbled home to bread, cheese fruit and a delilcious torta zena pastry from Klaingutl on Via Soziglia.

Our third and final day, we continued our exploration of the Old City, returning for an extended visit to the duomo, and Palazzo Spinolo, then walked over to the Mercato Orientale, unfortunately very close to its closing time Its a very evocative and lively market, highly recommended. It was in this market that I purchased a kilo of uva fragole, an exotic variety which we then discovered to be concord! We then went out onto via Galata to find lunch, and hopefully the EVO store mentioned by David Downie. We found both, and the helpful manager of the EVO helped us choose some nice oils from farther up the coast to carry home and to our friends in London. We had hoped to find some new harvest oils from the Lavagna area but unfortunately (we knew this from seeing then nets being put down) the harvest was not that far along at the time of our visit,

We then had our last major meal of the trip at Il Genovese. Having had my appetite whetted in the market, we ordered two fresh mushroom dishes, a salad of fresh porcini with goat cheese, then I I had trofie con ovoli for my first course. Both of these were wonderful - something I had been waiting the whole trip to enjoy. We also enjoyed testaroli con pesto, a ligurian style trippa with potatoes and olives, and jim ordered polpettone with fried potatoes. It was a tasty traditional meal and we enjoyed the bustling, friendly atmosphere, highly recommended.

There were lots of places I wanted to try but we couldnt fit in, especially those featuring the land cuisine and more upscale sea creatures, but we just ran out of time and appetite. I highly recommend David Downie's guide which offers a pretty accurate and full description of the points of culinary interest in this area. Genoa has a lot to offer to the cultural and culinary traveller and I hope to return some day.

  1. b
    bob96 May 25, 2013 11:44 PM

    Thanks much for your Genova-Liguria reports. Makes me want to go back very soon--I just love this city. Question, though, about your pansoti. I've always had them stuffed with a mixture of greens, which can be called preboggion, plus some grated cheese. Were yours filled with cheese alone, in this case, the fresh curd cheese called prescinseua? The Genovese dialect is as strongly memorable as its city, too!

    3 Replies
    1. re: bob96
      jen kalb May 26, 2013 04:53 AM

      Bob, you are absolutely right and my memory and notes failed me here - it sounded wrong and it was - it was greens and not the cheese, which we had with other dishes. I have to say I was a bit disappointed in some of the greens/cheese mixtures in this region - I guess I was expecting more flavor...seems to me most of the taste was chard - maybe it was the season (fall)

      1. re: jen kalb
        b
        bob96 May 26, 2013 11:48 AM

        Likely mostly chard: the romance of fillings of foraged wild greens might be just that. Still, I remember the revelation of pansoti noce for the first time at a Sunday afternoon lunch in Boccadasse (my wife had lasagne al pesto) followed by a fritto misto and some white cold something. 1977.

        1. re: bob96
          b
          barberinibee May 28, 2013 02:43 PM

          "Preboggion" refers to wild greens -- weeds, really -- that are boiled and reboiled to get the bitterness out (which can reduce the flavor as well), and then usually dried before being wrapped in pasta. Had the greens in the pansoti been chard, it would have been highly unusual, and certainly a place like da Raibetta would have noted it on the menu. What one usually gets in preboggion is nettles, borage, dandelion, sow thistle, and such. It is possible these are now commercially planted and harvested, rather than collected by foragers, but substituting chard would be odd.

          PS: Just found this on the web:

          Local lore has it that during the Crusades a Genovese lord, Goffredo di Buglione, sent his men out to scour the alien hills for fragrant herbs for his dinner. These herbs became known as pro Buglione which was corrupted to preboggion.

          I have no idea if that has any basis in reality.

    2. jen kalb May 27, 2013 01:16 PM

      Just a correction, the name of the pizzeria/foccaceria on Corso Magenta is Il Funicolare (of course), not Il Focolare.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jen kalb
        b
        barberinibee May 28, 2013 02:56 PM

        Also, it is Palazzo Spinola.

      2. b
        barberinibee Jul 2, 2013 07:20 AM

        Jen's report of Il Genovese made me curious, and I finally was in Genova during the lunch hour today, so I stopped by with my husband and we had an excellent, tasty meal.

        We started by splitting an order of gattifin, which is a ravioli-like clam-shaped pasta purse stuffed with herbs and a bit of cheese and egg, and then deep-fried and salted. They were terrific.

        For primi, we shared one order of corzetti (flat pasta disks) tossed with butter, marjoram and a crumbly strong cheese from the southern Ligurian hills called sarazzo. We also shared an order of testaroli (a kind of spongy pasta crepe torn into pieces) with a simple pesto. My husband liked both, and while I adored the corzetti, the pesto was not garlicky and lush enough to be my favorite, nor was the testaroli, which I found a tad sour.

        For secondi my husband ate polpettone with potatoes, which I didn't try but my husband liked very much. I was very happy with my order of brandacajun -- salt cod mixed with whipped potatoes -- which was served with an expertly poached egg perched atop. (I have to say this was a much more wonderful egg than the fancier one I was served at da Amerigo near Bologna some months back, which had been tricked to look like a cupcake or mountain). Crusts of dark grilled bread came with the dish, but they didn't add anything for me and were left uneaten.

        Two bottles of water, two coffees and the total bill was 52e.

        I highly recommend this restaurant to anybody in the neighborhood of the Mercato Orientale or Genova's Brignole train station.

        Thanks, jen!

        18 Replies
        1. re: barberinibee
          jen kalb Jul 2, 2013 09:40 AM

          so glad you enjoyed this place! I agree with your comments about the testaroli and pesto (which my husband had). I preferred the testaroli in Milan in 2011 at Latteria San Marco which Ive fantasized about since. Probably time to give making it a try.

          1. re: jen kalb
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            barberinibee Jul 2, 2013 11:10 AM

            I don't know if you need the special pan to do it. I have never tried. I don't have an indoor oven and hard to imagine stoking up the outdoor one.

            Vacuum-packed testaroli is a crap shoot. Most of it I find rubbery. Frantoio Lucchi e Guastalli is the only brand I like (it is actually terrific) but have no idea if it -- or any testaroli -- is available in US in stores or online there. These people ship from Italy

            http://www.onlyitalianproducts.it/pas...

            1. re: barberinibee
              jen kalb Jul 2, 2013 12:32 PM

              thanks for the recc - I would be more inclined to trying to make than buying vacuum packed.

              the version I had in Milano was tender, not rubbery. Have you ever used Colman Andrews' cookbook? I think he has a recipe that could be doable without an outside fire or special equipment.

              1. re: jen kalb
                b
                barberinibee Jul 2, 2013 12:45 PM

                Sort of coals to Newcastle...

                It is not hard to get good testaroli and exquisite pesto already made right around here, and if that's not good enough, then the Lunigiana is such a beguiling area of Italy, more fun to put in the 2 hours of labor going down the autostrada, at least for me, than stirring dough and handling hot pans!

                And then there is always Milan, which I pass through quite often. I have had some of my best experiences of Italian regional food in Milan, not in their home regions. Money talks.

                The brand of vacuum packed testaroli I mentioned is tender, a bit like injeera.

                1. re: barberinibee
                  jen kalb Jul 2, 2013 01:34 PM

                  well the shipping costs for this product are high enough to take it right out of consideration (although its cheaper than a trip to italy. ! You are certainly lucky in the wonderful local products you have available.

                  Apropos of nothing, we just bottled up our 2012 nocino and it is being drunk at a frightening pace by family and guests. - hope it will last through the year!.

                  1. re: jen kalb
                    b
                    barberinibee Jul 3, 2013 03:29 AM

                    I noticed on the link that I gave you that orders over 200 euros ship for free, although I didn't notice if they also sold nocino.

                    This place in Brooklyn sells nocino

                    http://www.heightschateau.com/catalog/product_search_results.php/search=bm9jaW5v

                    This place in Connecticut sells it at better prices if you are ordering a half case or more

                    http://www.internationalwineshop.com/...&

                    But yes: the point of living in Italy is that the food is tastier, right outside the door.

                    1. re: barberinibee
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                      barberinibee Jul 3, 2013 03:36 AM

                      Astor Wines claims to have Nocino as well

                      http://www.astorwines.com/SearchResultsSingle.aspx?search=16817&searchtype=Contains&term=nocino&p=2

                      And this is precisely the moment to be ordering green walnuts to make your own nocino, which might even be easier than making testaroli

                      http://www.localharvest.org/green-wal...

                      1. re: barberinibee
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                        allende Jul 3, 2013 06:53 AM

                        All this nocino is an industrialized product which bears no resemblance to nocino in Italy. The taste is simply horrible. I've tried several in The States. All garbage.

                        1. re: allende
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                          barberinibee Jul 3, 2013 08:16 AM

                          I didn't like the Nocino I drank in Italy. It tasted horrible. Might be helpful to be more specific about which Italian nocino to buy where, since apparently merely coming from Italy is no guarantee against horrible taste. Don't know whether the brands of nocino you have tasted in the US are the ones in the links, which I was just passing along to Jen, without knowing what nocino she has drunk that she likes.

                          1. re: barberinibee
                            b
                            barberinibee Jul 3, 2013 08:35 AM

                            Aha! Here is a link to the Chowhound's annually revived Make-Your-Own-Nocino-in-the-US-From-Local-Nuts thread, to which Jen is a contributor.

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/304884

                            She can run her own taste tests.

                          2. re: allende
                            jen kalb Jul 3, 2013 08:35 AM

                            its too late now for this year to order the green walnuts from California - I agree that most readily available commercial nocino is terrible - Ive not found any italian nocinos other than the Toschi Nocello in NY, that is not recommended. The expensive Santa Cristina (US) is also available ok,not as good as what can be found in Italy or what you can make yourself. There are several from Campania - we have only tried a clear nocillo from E Curti which was unsweetened and dissimilar from the E-R type. There is an item called Nux Alpina from Austria which is worth trying.

                            Allende, have you tried any non-artisinal nocilnos from ER that are worth buying? We bought one with Strega in the name in Carpi which was ok but I can't currently find. Any recommendations for travellers in E-R or elsewhere to sample good examples??

                            1. re: jen kalb
                              b
                              barberinibee Jul 3, 2013 09:11 AM

                              You can check the links, but I am pretty sure that the nocino sold by Astor is not Toschi. (Edited to add: It's actually from Campania, made with Sorrentine nuts

                              http://www.anticadistilleriarusso.com/prodotti.aspx?idCategoria=3&idSCategoria=10&idProdotto=212

                              The only place I've ever tasted nocino was here in Italy, and its resemblance to those sold in the US was tasting horrible.

                              The Italian nocino I tasted was made by a company in the E-R whose name begins with an "F" and the bottle itself was kind of walnut shaped.

                              (Edited to add the link to the nocino you can buy in Italy that resembles the nocino you can buy in the US insofar as I think it tastes horrible

                              http://www.faled.it/page/nocino.html

                              1. re: jen kalb
                                a
                                allende Jul 3, 2013 09:52 AM

                                The only ones we have ever found that are great are artisinal in ER or southern Lombardia. You go to a restaurant. if the owners make their own (or a friend does), you have a glass after your meal. Assume you like it. You then get down on your hands and knees and beg for a bottle as you've never begged before. You tell the owner that it's going back to The States (a place that most love for many different reasons). You do not ask the price. The price is what it is and it isn't cheap.

                                Beginning 37 years ago when we first tried it ("green walnuts... you've got to be kidding me") and really liked it, we've found that the method sometimes (not all the time) works.

                                By far the best nocino we've ever had (and bought) was at L'Ambasciata in Quistello. There have been several others in ER that were outstanding.

                                1. re: allende
                                  b
                                  barberinibee Jul 4, 2013 02:51 PM

                                  I don't think one has to get down on one's knees to buy a bottle of nocino at the shop in Da Amerigo in Savigno, and the price is upfront, not some kind of mystery.

                                  I've read on several message boards, including eGullet, that da Amergio's nocino is excellent nocino, and the price is posted in the store and on the internet

                                  It is hardly a luxury item at 18 euros.

                                  http://www.cassandra.it/nocino-la-dis...

                                  Of course, if you need rigamorale and opera....

                                  1. re: barberinibee
                                    a
                                    allende Jul 5, 2013 03:25 AM

                                    I had forgotten that one of my favorite places, Da Amerigo, sold its nocino in the Dispensa. That's the exception to the rule with restaurants.

                        2. re: jen kalb
                          l
                          lisaonthecape Jul 3, 2013 05:06 PM

                          Recipe for the nocino? I was lazy--actually, really busy--this year and didn't make my limoncello, which I usually start around Eastertime. Our San Francisco trip got in the way (but what a great eating city!)

                          1. re: lisaonthecape
                            b
                            barberinibee Jul 4, 2013 02:56 PM

                            Lisa,

                            You can google up a recipe. It is all over the web.

                            A lot of people have grasped is what is important regarding nocino and many handmade products is going with "local", not "national" or "imported".

                            1. re: barberinibee
                              l
                              lisaonthecape Jul 4, 2013 04:00 PM

                              Thanks; I'll do some research. Just made my first pasta with pesto, green beans and potatoes--summer staple at my house. I couldn't find trofie or trenette but made do with spaghetti. Longing to be back in Liguria (we have friends in Finale Ligure and have spent much time in the region).

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