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at Romanengo fu Stefano
Just back from a short trip to Genoa, which unfortunately coincided with a massive two day storm, but that's another story. I thought you might be interested in my food experiences in this capital of the region known as Liguria. Located in the coastal centre of the narrow strip of land bordering the French Riviera, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, the Italian city of Genoa is about a 90 minute drive south of Milan. It bridges what locals refer to as the Riviera di Levante and Riviera de Ponente. Tumbling down to the Mediterannean Sea, it was home to Christopher Colombus and the banking houses which bankrolled the Spanish conquest of the Americas. The people are proud without being boastful and, you won't find any grand statements of their past glories. They wear their heritage lightly. That's not to say Genoa isn't an attractive city. The architecture is imposing rather than flashy. The people are friendly and helpful but interact with a formal politeness which is charming.
With the Mediterannean to the south and the Maritime Alps to the north, Liguria has an enviable micro-climate. Olives, citrus, hard and soft fruits, chestnuts, pine nuts, mushrooms, chickpeas, vegetables such as artichokes and chard, and herbs grow particularly well. The three foods you will see again and again are pesto (mostly using basil but sometimes other herbs), focaccia (or fugassa) and chickpea farinata (a thin, crustless savoury tart/pancake, known as Soca over the border in France). A dish of Trofie pasta with basil pesto, a Levante speciality, is on most menus, and take-away farinata shops abound. Genoese locals like their focaccia or fugassa quite thin but crisp outside and fluffy within and take it with a morning cappuccino. If you'd prefer something sweeter for breakfast, and I'm afraid I do, then breakfast at Fratelli Klainguti Bar Pasticceria on Piazza Di Soziglia. Its history goes back to 1826 when two Swiss brothers, who were trying to get to America, missed the boat and stayed on to open a Pasticceria instead - the caffe was good and the Kranz delicious. Another speicality of Genoa is the pandolce cake studded with pine nuts and candied fruit.
Despite its proximity to the sea, apart from anchovies (Acciughe) and air-dried cod (stoccafisso - more pungent than salt cod), of which they are very fond, the Genoese have a great love of vegetables. In particular chard and bitter field greens (preboggion) which they use in tarts (torta salata). Their similarity to ancient pastry dishes of Greece, Turkey and Persia speak of the influences of past trading links. Tripe and rabbit are popular too. A big feature of Genovese cooking is the wood-burning oven and you will see them in many of the trattorias, making for cosy meals.
|Sugar coated cinnamon bark|
at Romanengo fu Stefano
The Riviera's steep, terraced terrain does not allow for much grape growing but the wine produced is generally light and fruity. Varieties have small yields and require hand-harvesting so local wines are relatively expensive. The main grape varieties for Ligurian white wines are Vermentino and Pigato, and the main red is the Rossese. They are, however, very acceptable to my, admittedly untutored, palate.
Look out for words such as Tipico, meaning local or regional; Genuino, meaning genuine, authentic; Naturale meaning wholesome, without artifical flavourings etc used particularly in ice cream making; Cucina casalinga meaning home cooking. If you plan a trip to Genoa I highly recommend David Downies book "The Italian Riviera & Genoa". It's a weighty tome but it proved invaluable on our trip and it's stuffed with useful information. The only regret was we didn't have time, or the weather, on our side to do it justice.
Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano
Via Soziglia 74R
and also at Via Roma 51R, 16121 Genova (they have a small number of select stockists around the world. In London you can buy some of their products at La Fromagerie on Moxon Street, Marylebone).