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Nature and man’s hard work enabled the people of Liguria not only to earn their livelihood, but also to develop a food culture amongst the finest in the country.
Stinginess, a renowned ligurian defect, does not seem to extend itself when it comes to food traditions. In the Middle Ages, in fact, the rulers at the time believed it necessary to enact to invite moderation to all banquets. The sea and the rugged lands
Represent the two sides of the traditional multi-faceted gastronomy, full of creativity and wisdom.
The close connection to the sea suggests: cappon magro, the composite and unique fish salad, seafood and shellfish combined with vegetables, the whitebait omelette frittatata di gianchetti, the sgombretti in a pea sauce, dried cod, the buridda and zimino.
From the land
come the buns, the chickpea flour, artichoke pies, asparagus, mushrooms, and the famous pasqualina cake made with 20 or even 33 layers of puff pastry, whose filling is made with beets, artichokes, parmesan cheese and eggs; it is custom on Easter Day. Soups and other rich vegetable soups and flavourings; the mesciua, a mixture of legumes and sbira, tripe stew served with broth, have addictive personalities. Tocco (sauce) with mushrooms, stuffed lettuce, artichoke, mushroom or herb omelette, fried salsify and zucchini flowers stuffed with potatoes accompany the most representative of the dishes: the Cima Genovese. We can define the Cima Genovese as an oven roasted stuffed veal.
Pasta and flour
In the characteristic fasce the territory’s terraced lands, tomatoes, artichokes, zucchini, asparagus, spinach and eggplant are produced and have a very unique taste given the excellent quality of the soil.
Simple but flavourful, Farinata has an almost ritual significance. A traditional pie-like dish made with chickpea flour. It is thin, crispy and golden. Amongst other simple but traditional foods is the focaccia, a classic speciality in Liguria. Other ingredients such as onions and olives may be added to the simple original version but today the focaccia comes in many versions.
Between the two the best known are the Sardenaira and the Focaccia di Recco, recipes which originated in the area between Imperia and Ventimiglia. The Sardenaira is cooked with tomatoes, olives and anchovies. The Focaccia di Recco, other gastronomic symbol of the town from which it takes its name, is distinguished by the addition of fresh cheese.
Do not forget the Pane di Triora, whose name comes from the dialect ‘tri now’. This variety of bread is homemade with whole-wheat flour, easily identified by its round and wide shape sprinkled with bran on the bottom. It represents the three agricultural products grown in the area, wine, chestnuts and corn and is delicious sliced and spread with bruss, a typical cheese from the valley of Imperia.
Liguria, region of great charm is one of the historical homelands of durum wheat pasta. Also a classic is the variety of homemade fresh pastas: traditional lasagna, which is served with a pesto sauce, corzetti (balls made of a very rich dough and eggs), the piccagge (tagliatelle), trofie and pansotti which are often served with pesto or walnut sauce.
Noticeable even today are both the Arab and Sicilian influences in the Ligurian cuisine, in fact, from the maritime trade with Sicily, the Ligurians brought recipes home like the ‘trenette’ and the ‘ravioli’. Herbs, vegetables and olive oil are generally used in almost all Ligurian recipes. Liguria is the land where fragrant herbs grow naturally. Basil prevails and is a special small leaved variety that is full of flavour as well as thyme, marjoram, rosemary, sage and borage, which along with other wild herbs are used in various ways to give each dish a touch of originality. Sauces are also very well represented in this great cuisine which is highly sensitive to scents and flavours: among them is the world renowned exciting pesto, walnut sauce, tocco (meat based sauce), the tocco of mushrooms, and traditional green sauce. The pesto sauce in particular, made with the fragrant Ligurian basil, is one of the most famous and loved by all dishes of the territory.
The Olive oil
The Ligurian region has an image built around the active olive oil trade. The presence of olives in Liguria dates back to 3000 BC, but the specialization in olive culture in western Liguria was launched in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century and had a major increase in trade from the seventeenth century onwards. The Riviera Ligure DOP olive oil is distinguished by its fruity and delicate taste of ripe olives with almost no bitterness, where subtle scents of almond and pine nuts are also present. It is ideal for the preparation of mayonnaise and fish based dishes.
As for desserts there are a fine variety. In Torriglia the canestrelli biscuits are prepared, in Rapallo the gobeletti, in Sassello macaroons with almond paste called amaretti and in Genoa the well-known lagaccio biscuits; pandolce, the most widely known, is the Genoese version of ‘panettone’, prepared by hand with a firmer texture and less yeast, very rich in raisins and candied fruit. Also well known is the chinotto di Savona: it is a variety of bitter orange, whose culture dates back as far as three centuries ago in the area between Varazze and Finale Ligure and in the valleys behind. Fruit such as apricots and peaches, are stewed in syrup, flavoured and consumed in the form of elixirs, liqueurs, marmalade and mustard.