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Food and Eating in Genoa:  Once Again

I just returned from Genoa for an ever-so brief week there.  My soul and belly were filled by pesto and my heart verklempt at the sight of “Little Village” aka Camogli with its trompe l’oeil painted facades, black stone beach, and looming Portofino Mountain.  The last time I’d been there was with my boys (oh so grown now) when I was researching my memoir The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken, questing about for a lost family recipe and trying to get my story straight. 

This visit, was for a different mission.  (More on that later.) But in the meantime, here’s a glimpse:

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Camogli first.  Local fishermen (of the Camogli Fishing Cooperative) still go out with little boats and use traditional netting methods. 

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Salted anchovies are popular in Liguria.  You see the fresh silvery ones in bins at the market and on the plate, as here at a place called La Rotunda (also in Camogli). 

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At La Rotunda, I also sampled a tiny little local fish called rossetti,, smaller than your fingernail, and this excellent octopus salad with potato.  (Oh why oh why do I have to drive half an hour to find good octopus?)

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Next stop:  Da o Vittorio, a very old trattoria in Recco--my great grandparents’ town.  Here is the famous Recco style focaccia.  It comes out on the huge round platter.  I caught this photo just as the last two slices were cut and plated.  Recco style focaccia is basically two thin slices of dough baked with hot melting crescenza or strachino cheese between.

See any red sauce yet? 

If Genoese food were to have a single color, it would green, green from all the vegetables and herbs.  Here are fritters that were perfect--made from an herb-specked leavened dough, deep fried, not greasy in the least, and salted.
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So much Genoese cuisine:  gathered greens, mushrooms and chestnuts....  comes from the hills and mountains.  Here is the view from Enrichetta’s house an hour north of Genoa.  (You loyal readers may remember her from Lost Ravioli.  She is the mother of my friend Sergio Rossi..  Enrichetta is eighty years old and a former professional cook.

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Gnocchi fly off her magic hands in a whir.  She made a large batch in twenty minutes.

After a lunch, Enrichetta brought out some rose petal liqueur that she’d made last summer.  I almost fainted.  Does anyone in the USA makes rose petal liqueur?  If so I want to know about it. 
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Vegetable pies called torte (torta for one) are very popular in Liguria.  These--photographed in the seaside town Chiavari--look a lot like the kind my family has always made.  “Bietole” means chard.
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One of my favorite meals ever:  a bowl of Genoese style minestrone at Trattoria Arvigo in a town about 40 minutes north of Genoa in a town called Cremeno.

And of course the thing the Genoese are most famous for:  pesto.  I wore earrings to match.
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Laura, you have spent time in Genova recently and reading your blog has made me nostalgic about this very interesting city and which I tell myself, I must visit again. My father’s brother, zio Mario (born in Ragusa, Sicily) married a Piedmontese, Maria, and they lived in Genova - both are now dead and I haven’t visited since. My zia Maria was an excellent cook and so is their daughter, my cousin Rosadele, who now lives in Piedmont with her wine maker husband in their small winery. Knowing my interest and passion about regional cuisine, my relatives always fed me very well with local specialties each time I visited.

Apart from the excellent basil and pine nuts Ligurian pesto which was used to dress pasta (triofie and trenette) and minestrone, I was fed and taught how to make pansotti al sugo di noci – the Ligurian triangular shaped ravioli, stuffed with herbs and mild cream cheese or ricotta, and dressed with the walnut pesto made with majoram and ricotta. 
Zia Maria excelled in making cima alla genovese (pocket of veal with a stuffing made mainly with brains, sweetbreads, bone marrow and peas, and eaten cold). Rosadele excelled in making torta pasqualina (savoury tortes) – young beets, marjoram, cheeses (quagliata, ricotta, parmiggiano), butter, eggs – incased in oil pastry – and so rich.

Rosadele also made exquisite focaccia al formaggio using Ligurian olive oil which is highly regarded throughout the length of Italy. Focaccia to a non-Italian can be confusing. It can be made with pizza dough, stuffed with a savoury filling and be called a calzone in another part of Italy(scaccia in some parts of Sicily). A foccacia can also be one layer of dimpled, pizza dough sprinkled with coarse salt (sometimes rosemary) and oil, but be called a schiacciata in another region.

In Liguria, a focaccia di formaggio consist of two very thin circles of pastry (made with flour, extra virgin olive oil and water) with stracchino, a rich, creamy Ligurian cheese sandwiched between them and then baked quickly.
It is interesting how memories of good cuisine endure....and all of these memories come flooding back because I read your blog.
Thank you.
Marisa

    – Marisa Raniolo Wilkins (November 28 2009 at 2:47)



I just found your blog… great pictures and text.  Rose liqueur is easy to make… a month and you’re done…
Looking forward to visiting your site often!

    – deana @lostpastremembered (December 08 2009 at 10:02)


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