After we had dined in one of Genoa’s fancier ristoranti, Martha and I both had a hankering for simple, traditional food in this famous port in Liguria.
Our first choice, close to our apartment rental, was closed on a day it was supposed to be open.
So we ambled through the dim light of the medieval city, getting peeks at the sea every once in a while.
After 20 minutes of fruitless searching, I saw a sign for a restaurant. “Simple food” the sign declared.
So putting our backs to the sea, we trundled up a narrow alley to study the menu outside the Ostaia de banchi. Oh, yes, and yes.
We stepped to the door. It squeaked when we opened it. On the other side the waiter, his arms folded across his chest, waited. We declared our hungry two-ness and started to inch our way further in. The waiter made a nearly imperceptible movement that made it impossible to pass, as if his wife were changing clothes in the open kitchen behind him and he didn’t want us to see.
“Did you look at the menu?”
“Do you like this sort of food?” he asked.
Only when we had answered in the affirmative did he step aside and let us pass. This jangled what are left of my little brain cells. I wondered what horrors he’d witnessed during his tenure as waiter/bouncer. Did people rush to stop the stewing of the rabbit? Did couples set aside the menu and leave furtively on little cat’s paws?
No matter. The water, bread and menu were brought to the table. The first thing I noticed was that there were aperitivi on the menu—two of them. One was gin, a liquor on a rapid rise in popularity in Italy. The other was the drink of Genoa I’d read, a white wine called Asinello made from cortese grapes infused with more than 15 herbs. I had to have it, of course. Research. For you. It would set me back three euro, and it came with a little bowl of olives.
Asinello, by the way, refers to a little donkey—an image of which is on the bottle. It comes from a 1886 recipe and is perhaps best tasted at the Bar Degli Asinelli, which is still around and you can get a glass for a mere 2 euro—if you can get in.
Antipasto di Magro
We shared this plate, and it was a perfect entrance to a traditional meal, an introduction to what the locals eat. The surprise was the inclusion of pasta, a popular Genovese primo piatto called Pansotti alla genovese or Pansotti in salsa di noci.
Linguini with Prawns and Artiichoke
Simple food, food with just a few ingredients. These were quite good ingredients.
Zuppetta di pesce – Fish Soup
Here’s a dish you might expect if you were sitting in a restaurant within spitting distance of the sea.
The surprise here was the type of clams bathing in the broth. They were outta this world fantastic. I’d never seen them before, so I asked the waiter. At first he skirted the subject, talking about “just another kind of vongole “ but then he mentioned that they’re sometimes called “truffle of the sea” and I had something to google. Yep, very special, and tasting exactly of the sea.
It was a great dish for 16 euro.
We didn’t have room for desserts after, but the coffee was very good.
Address: Vico Denegri, 17 R, 16124, Genova Italia