Lavagna is yet another Ligurian town stuck in the crush of towns along the glittering seaside of the Italian Riviera. You don’t need to know about Lavagna, because you will be off walking the Cinque Terre which is not so far away. You will already have searched Wandering Italy for “Chinka Ter” or some such and have found my artisan-produced hiking map so you’re set to navigate the socially required bucket list adventure.
The rest of us, not knowing what we are missing, will gather in the other towns wondering where all our countrymen have gone. We are clueless. We are perhaps sitting dismally in front of this:
To drown our sorrows, we have ordered a plate of Ravioli. It is stuffed with Greater Amberjack, which sounds like a railway stop in the middle of nowhere, but the Italians call this noble fish ricciola which sounds like a cough drop. Then the cooks have made a “ragu” out of moscardini, a kind of baby octopus that gets chopped up and doused with garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes. The whole deal is very meaty. There is lots of garlic, an un-Italian thing that still makes us happy. We are, in fact beginning to feel quite a bit better. Ligurians are very clever about fish and other squirmy things that make the sea their homes. They are also good with focaccia, which we use to make the “little shoe” to sop up every drop of the sauce on the plate. Fat focaccia, with little shining crystals of salt on the surface and the hint of that great oil Ligurians crank out.
But we’ve ordered something else. A second course. Even meatier. Seppie (cuttlefish to you) with potatoes and porcini. Oh my. How simple. Here:
This is, in fact, a rather classic dish for these parts. It’s easy to make, as are most Italian things that taste more complex than the sum of their parts—by something like 8.594x. You just boil the seppie until they’re tender, and then (this is the cool part) you saute them in some of that famous oil to rosolate them. The Italian word means “to make like a rose”. So thus the pinkishness is by design. Clever Ligurians. Then you just mix all the stuff together with some white wine (another thing Ligurians are good at making), season with some salt and serve, much to the delight of the eaters who haven’t been able to walk the crumbling trails of the five lands.
And thus we end up happy in a town that gave its name to the thing in front of your second grade class room. Yes, blackboard. We are happy in Blackboard, Italy.
Kidding aside, you’ll see the famous slate all over once you know it’s there. And that’s where the fun comes in. You start with a blackboard and pretty soon you start to see how the clever Ligurians incorporate God’s gift to them in unique ways.
You can even carve it religiously:
Seeing this work of art sitting on the floor of a church would mean heading down the hill toward La basilica di San Salvatore dei Fieschi. The Fieschi’s were powerful people in the history of Lavagna and its territory. You can even eat their wedding cake in Lavagna. They built their basilica in record time. Using slate, of course.
But that’s another story for another time, perhaps tomorrow. It would take you to a quiet little space—a space with many cats basking atop the typical Ligurian pebble mosaic in the Ligurian sun.
Where to Eat This Fine Meal in Lavagna
Trattoria U Pescou
Via Dante Alighieri, 70, 16033 Lavagna