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Ligurian Coast & Lake Como: Moscardini, Missoltini and Much Else

Ligurian Coast & Lake Como: Moscardini, Missoltini and Much Else

Old Oct 11th, 2008, 04:36 AM
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Our lunch with Zeppole and her husband, who live in the area, and another Fodor’s poster who is traveling through Italy this fall, was scheduled for 1:15pm. From the Cenobio, we walked across the street and up a fairly steep flight of steps to the main bus stop, which is located in front of the post office. (The train station is a few steps away; Camogli is very convenient for travelers!) We boarded an 11:50am bus, intending to get down at Ruta and walk the rest of the way to the restaurant. The bus zig zagged up the hillside, affording great views of Camogli and the sea below, for about 20 minutes before reaching San Rocco, the frazzione of Camogli where Nonna Nina is located. (Zeppole had recommended getting down at Ruta and walking the rest of the way, but somehow we missed that stop!) With some time before our appointed lunchtime, we strolled the path leading from the San Rocco bus stop towards the hamlet of Mortola; this is but one of many walking paths on the Portofino promontory, which is a paradise for strollers, hikers, and everyone in between.

LA CUCINA DI NONNA NINA

Our lunch here was one of the highlights of our trip. We so enjoyed meeting Zeppole and her husband, former New Yorkers who are fulfilling the fantasy of many by living in this glorious part of the world, and the charming poster whose screen name I neglected to jot down and so who shall remain nameless here. We passed several hours with great conversation and splendid food seated, along with other diners who all appeared to be locals, in the outdoor garden of this cozy, 35-seat restaurant featuring the best of Ligurian coastal cooking. If you have to choose only one restaurant during your time in Camogli, there is no doubt in my mind that this should be the one. I was so involved in the conversation, and in trying to get my dining neighbor to keep his fork from wandering over to my plate, that I may be omitting some of the dishes, but from my notes, this is what we feasted upon that Sunday in September:

Assorted seafood antipasti. The dishes kept coming during this course:
Torta of anchovies (in Liguria, a torta is a savory pie, not a dessert as in many other regions of Italy); carpaccio of smoked swordfish (thin-slices of fish that were a highlight—do not miss this dish, which is served throughout the area); whole white fish topped with pesto; moscardini (the most incredible baby whole octopus, about 2”long, served in a terra cotta cocotte with tiny new potatoes—another do-not-miss in this part of the world. You have not eaten octopus until you have eaten moscardini; this is octopus elevated to the nth degree!) Since it is much more costly than larger specimens, many restaurants do not have it on their menus. Whole triglie ( red mullet, a popular Mediterranean fish) and slices of crudo (raw fish) rounded out the offerings for this first course.

Primi: The classic pasta dish of Recco. Trofiette (diminutive of trofie, slightly irregular, skinny twists of pasta) with green beans and pesto. Vivid green, it was glorious to look at and glorious to devour. (Local legend tells that when a local housewife rubbed her hands together to clean them of the dough that was clinging after making long pasta, the short curls that resulted were too precious to waste and hence, trofie). All pasta here is made in house.

My main course: Giant scampi (larger than the gamberi, which were also on offer as specials that day; these were the size of langoustines), sautéed and presented fanned out on a large white plate. Heads on, of course. I have never eaten sweeter! Incredible!

We drank a white wine from Imperia (Liguria).

And for dessert: House-made almond cake topped by crema-flavored gelato.

Highly recommended. (For those without a car, the bus is convenient; there is a stepped pathway linking Camogli with San Rocco; the steps are reportedly lit at night and the path reaches town next to the Cenobio dei Dogi; there is also taxi service in Camogli but taxi prices in this region are quite high).

La Cucina di Nonna Nina, Via Molfino (the main road), San Rocco, Camogli. About 40 Euro per person with water and wine. Closed Wednesdays.



http://www.nonnanina.it/il_locale_di..._nina.asp?pg=3




After lunch and more great conversation with Zeppole and her husband, we disturbed quite a few local felines as we descended the stepped path, past private homes, lush gardens alive with tiny baby frogs, and stands of fruit and olive trees, to Camogli and the hotel. During this downhiil walk, which took about 30 minutes, I noticed countless rosemary bushes, and a profusion of wild herbs that seemed to sprout from every open space and crack in the path. Thyme, parsley, borage, mint, nettles, marjoram…and many, many more that I could not identify. (Much of the basil used in local pesto, however, is grown in greenhouses in the town of Pra, near Genoa). From the wild abundance we saw that evening, I felt certain that there would be ravioli al preboggion in our dining future!

By 7pm we were back at the hotel. Thank you to Zeppole for orchestrating a day in Camogli that we will not soon forget!


Tomorrow: My first farinata and further Camogli wanderings.

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Old Oct 11th, 2008, 06:13 AM
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ekscrunchy,
Your trip reports become my trip plans. Great descriptions interspersed with great information. Salivating for more . . .
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Old Oct 11th, 2008, 07:25 AM
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I believe the phrase is "o fame!" Am I right?
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Old Oct 11th, 2008, 11:42 AM
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Oh, to dine at Nonna Nina. We must. Sounds fantastic. Thanks. This goes on the list for sure.
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Old Oct 11th, 2008, 01:31 PM
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Thank you! Just stick with me...we will not be hungry for long!!
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Old Oct 12th, 2008, 01:49 PM
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The next day, Monday, was our last full day in Camogli. Most guidebooks and travelers who have spent time in the area place the seaside hamlet of San Fruttuoso di Capodimonte, with its Benedictine abbey, in the “must-visit” column.

http://www.fondoambiente.it/en/beni/...properties.asp


San Fruttuoso is accessible from Camogli by foot (about a two-hour hike) or by ferries which depart often from the pier in the harbor. The website below had marvelous aerial photos including one that gives an excellent visual orientation of Camogli:

http://www.golfoparadiso.it/


And on the subject of helpful transport links, this is a good one for Liguria:



http://www.orariotrasporti.regione.l.../query.exe/en?


I am sure that we would have spent an enjoyable few hours at San Fruttuoso. However, one of my friends was feeling a tad under the weather, and the actual weather was a bit cool and cloudy at the morning hour when we were thinking of setting off. Now remember, we are the same trio who spent a week in Capetown last fall without visiting either Robben Island (neglected to obtain tickets in advance of arrival) or the top of Table Mountain (parking lot just too jammed; school holiday).
And so, San Fruttuoso now tops the list of places to visit when we are next in this part of Italy.

We certainly have our priorities straight! Instead of visiting the Benedictine Abbey, we set off to read the menu at Ristorante Rosa and to plan the evening’s meal. Rosa is located in a Liberty-style villa perched on a hill overlooking Camogli on the Recco side of town (opposite side as the hotel). We had a lovely wander through Camogli and up the hill along the main road, past the retired sailor’s home, to the restaurant. Rosa is listed in all of the guidebooks and is touted for its view so, to be frank, I was a bit skeptical. Never mind. From the moment we walked in to take a peek at the menu, we were warmly welcomed by two generations of women who, I am guessing here, are either the owners or the relatives of the owners. There is a very interesting display of lace from several regions of Italy, including Liguria and Burano, and we were treated to a lively narration of the differences by the elder of the two ladies. Ligurian fishermen's wives apparently developed quite a reputation for lace-making beginning in the 16th Century and there is a bobbin lace museum in Rapallo.

Suffice to say, we booked a window table for three for that evening and looked forward very much to our return. From Rosa, we wandered a bit further along the road (wide sidewalks) marveling at the rocky coastal views, with Genoa in the far distance, and at the transparent turquoise water below. Only in the Caribbean and in Southeast Asia have I seen water that of that color and clarity.

By the time we made it back to Camogli, it was time for lunch.

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Old Oct 14th, 2008, 06:45 AM
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VENTO ARIEL, Calata Porto (facing the fishing harbor):

This popular, casual restaurant enjoys a terrific view of the boats in the fishing harbor; there are two inside rooms (one overlooking the harbor) as well as scattering of outdoor tables which afford great people-watching, especially at night. The back room is a bit cozier, and even a touch romantic.


While waiting for our meal, we spoke about local seafood with the friendly young owner of the restaurant, Davide Groppi. (We never did get a definitive answer as to whether or not the tiny clams on offer on this coast were pulled from local waters..Davide told us they came from the Adriatic, but other restaurant owners told us that they were local; don’t ask me to explain why these matters of of interest to me!!)

Here is what we ate that day:

Mixed seafood salad (I wanted to eat lightly): Shrimp, anchovies, squid, mussels—the usual suspects poached (not the anchovies) and served with a touch of oil and lemon. Very good.

Pate di seppie: Good, but did not compare to the same dish at Da Paolo. Interestingly, although this was the second time in a few days that we had seen, and tried, this dish, I could not find a recipe for it on the internet.

Insalata Caprese: Ordered by my friend against my advice. Mozzarella was good; tomatoes less than prime.

Spaghetti with clams and mussels: Lovely.

With three lemonades (known as “spremuta di limone,” this is freshly squeezed lemon juice, sugar and sparkling water, served here already mixed but, at other places, the ingredients are places before you and you can mix to taste); one bottle of house white wine again, from Imperia; one bottle of water, the bill totaled 25 euro per person. Note that we did not try any of their specialties, which include burrida di seppie, cuttlefish chowder, trenette all Ariel, and a host of other anchovy dishes.

Anchovy lovers should take note of the special (30 Euro for 4-courses including dessert!) anchovy dinners (Festival dell’ Acciughe) on offer here; see the website below for details and for photos of the restaurant. Closed Wednesdays.

http://www.ventoariel.it/ristorantecamogli/index.html


Walking back to the hotel, I spotted a sign in front of the seafront Revello bakery promising “Farinata, 17:00” and made a mental note to return here at 5pm.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing on a lounge chair at the Cenobio beach, and swimming in the crystal clear waters. The swimming was superb! As I mentioned above, the beach is rocky but if you neglect to bring rubber water shoes, there is a ladder descending into the sea at the Cenobio beach. As the three of us were swimming, we kept looking at each other and exclaiming that we felt as if we were in a dream. Swimming in the Mediterranean, gazing out at the shoreline of beautiful Camogil and the rocky coastline beyond…incredible!

By 4:30 or so, the sky clouded over and threatened rain, so I dashed to my room, changed my clothes, and set out for Focacceria Revello and my first taste of farinata.

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Old Oct 14th, 2008, 06:52 AM
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A note about soft drinks. Although I never drink these at home, I do like some of the canned lemon sodas available in Italy. One of these, I believe, is called simply “Lemon Soda” and comes in a black can.
Other reliable brands include San Pellegrino (comes in a bottle and in a can) and Fanta Limon. Many of you may already know this, but in Italy, these types of drinks actually contain “real” lemon, or orange, juice, in amounts up to about 12%. Unlike soft drinks in the US, they use sugar and not high-fructose corn syrup. I think this makes a tremendous difference in flavor. So if you are stocking your hotel mini-bar or apartment fridge, you might want to keep these in mind. Check the ingredient list and compare to those used back home. And ask yourself: “Why?”

Enough with the lectures….more coming soon.

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Old Oct 14th, 2008, 11:10 AM
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eks, amen! I never drink sodas at home but there are a few European ones that I absolutely love. I think that the difference is that they are not cloyingly sweet.
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Old Oct 14th, 2008, 11:36 AM
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Right!

It's amazing that when you compare the ingredient lists on the US vs the Italian products, even with something like Coca Cola, you get two very different products!

Here in NYC, I know people that seek out Coke manufactured in Mexico because apparently that has sugar in it, as opposed to the fructose syrup. We can get some of those Italian sodas here but they are kind of expensive. Shame that these big companies will cheapen their products because apparently many people in many countries (US, for one) will eat or drink even the crappiest stuff.
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Old Oct 15th, 2008, 03:35 AM
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Another brilliant report, eks ! And more inspiration for our future trips, if we can ever afford to go on holiday again. (We both work for a bank ) Camogli sounds like paradise. I'm so glad you posted on the Italian trip report links thread as I might have missed it otherwise. You are incredibly efficient - I'm still working on my June-July trip report !
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Old Oct 15th, 2008, 03:58 AM
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DD's one request when I went to Italy last month was a bottle of orange Fanta. It's not the same here in the states. It's not just the sugar that makes the difference. They use less sweetner so the drinks aren't as sweet, but also less carbonation even in their diet drinks.
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Old Oct 15th, 2008, 04:39 AM
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Ky: I can certainly understand that request. In the "old days" I would have been attempting to cart home a few cans myself, of the lemon flavor!!

Many thanks, Caroline. I think that you would find Camogli a great fit. I have to laugh about you thinking how efficient I am...tell that to the folks on the Asia board who are still waiting (now given up all hope, I am sure) for me to finish my Laos/Vietnam report from LAST winter!!

I apologize for writing this in fits and starts...but stay tuned..we will soon be leaving Camogli (after one last dinner), picking up our rental car, and heading for Santa Margherita Ligure..
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Old Oct 15th, 2008, 01:51 PM
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Farinata, a thin, crepe-like bread made from chickpea flour, is one of the classic dishes of Liguria and had its origin in the tradition of cucina povera, or the cuisine of poverty. (The other ingredients are water, olive oil, salt and pepper) (Soca is the name for this dish in Nice, which was part of Italy until 1860). Some of the best farinata in Camogli is purported to originate in the ovens of Foccacceria Revello, where you can watch the bakers at work through the glass that connects the sales are from the bakery itself. Farinata must be eaten hot, so Revello and other bakeries post a sign announcing the times they serve it. At Revello the time is from 5pm to 7pm daily except Sundays, from September until spring, according to their website.


http://www.revellocamogli.com/index.php#


I arrived about 5:15 and the first batch of farinata was already gone, except for a slice that was now less than piping hot. While I waited, in a line along with quite a few townspeople, for the next copper pans to come out of the ovens, I ordered a couple of Camogliesi, which are pastries made with almond paste or cream in various flavors that originated at Revello. (I could not decide between the many flavors so I bought two each of orange, rum, hazlenut, almond, and Amaretto to take back to the hotel. I liked these quite a bit, (I am also a marzipan fan) but beware that the versions made with alcohol and pretty strong!)

The farinata eventually emerged from the oven and I happily purchased a nice-sized slice for one Euro. This was my first taste of farinata and I was amazed by how good it was! Now I understand why visitors to Nice are always raving about the soca! This was really quite exciting as it was a totally new taste for me. I had intended to bring some back to my friends at the hotel but guess what..I should have bought a bigger piece! They would have to wait until our next destination to sample farinata. (And when they did, they did not share my enthusiasm!)


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Old Oct 16th, 2008, 04:16 AM
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All sounds fantastic, eks. How big are these Camogliesi ?
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Old Oct 16th, 2008, 04:17 AM
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ekscrunchy,

when you return to Liguria, I must take you to Lucchini's in Chiavari for their farinata. It's the tops -- a lot more primitive than Revello's, thrown into a very hot wood burning stove. Farinata, at it's best, can sometimes have the crunchy roughness of a good latke (believe it or not). Anyway, this stuff is food of the gods.

I often stop by Revello's in the late afternoon for farinata. It's just so wonderfully filling and just the right thing for traipsing up all these staircases. I sometimes get twice as much as I can eat at one time just standing on the lungomare and -- although this is heresy -- I'll warm up the leftovers in a dry pan the next day for a low calorie but very filling lunch.

By the way, the white wine you drank at Nonna Nina was a Ligurian vermentino. Because the grape grows bathed in sea mists, the wine is a great pairing for salty fish and seafood. Most vermentino available in the US is from Sardegna, and it's also good. What you drank is from Imperia (a winery called "Terrebianche&quot.

Looking forward to the rest.
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Old Oct 16th, 2008, 04:23 AM
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Zepploe: Count me in...I would love to get back there someday soon!!

Caroline: The Camogliese "cookies," are round at the bottom with a ridge at the top. Consistency of marzipan. I would guess about 2" at the base. I will see if I can find a photo. They stayed fresh for a long time. We ate a few and then tucked them in my bag. I discovered a new sweet in the Lake Como area, so these stayed in my luggage until I got home. But they are NOT there any longer!!

Oh, here:

http://www.revellocamogli.com/index....ali_camogliesi

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Old Oct 16th, 2008, 04:26 AM
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Mm, they sound fantastic !
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Old Oct 17th, 2008, 06:31 AM
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The next morning, Tuesday, we took a last early morning walk through Camogli before checking out of the Cenobio dei Dogi. Although there is a bus link between Camogli and Rapallo, with all of our luggage, we opted for a taxi at the surprisingly high price of 55 euro. (Taxi prices are very high in this resort area).

After a scenic drive through the Portofino peninsula, the taxi left us at the EuropCar office in Rapallo center, where we picked up our Kemwell rental car, a new Saab station-wagon with automatic transmission. (Rapallo is the rental car location most convenient to Santa Margherita Ligure, our next stop). Less than a half-hour later, we were checking into the Grand Hotel Miramare, at the southern (Portofino) end of the beautiful port town of SML. My single at the Cenobio in Camogli was clearly one of the least desirable rooms at the hotel. Here at the Grand Miramare, I received room 108, which was desirable, indeed! High ceilings, elaborate woodwork, crystal chandelier, marble-encased bathroom with large tub and all amenities including terry robe and slippers. And a terrace overlooking the beach and sea beyond. (There is a road between the hotel and the sea but there was little traffic and the glazing on the windows muffled any sound from the street at night) Grand, indeed!
The GH Miramare has a large, vaguely oval heated, salt-water pool in a garden setting. I was overjoyed to see this and planned to make good use of it during our three-night stay at the hotel.

The Miramare offers enclosed parking for 20 Euro per night. At this time of the year, we discovered, there is ample free street parking. (more on this later)

http://www.grandhotelmiramare.it/



The first order of the day was, however, lunch.

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Old Oct 17th, 2008, 06:53 AM
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Armed with a recommendation, we set off for Osteria No. 7, a few blocks from the hotel on Via J. Ruffini, #36. This place looks like the quintessential Italian osteria: communal wooden tables surrounded by blocky chairs, menus chalked on blackboards, open kitchen at the rear. But with Sri Lankan waiters!

But in this port town, I was dismayed to find that most of the seafood dishes were marked by an asterisk, noting “surgelato,” or frozen. My advice: Stay away from these and concentrate on the soups and pastas and daily (non-frozen) meat specials.

Seated at a communal table which we shared with a group of tourists from the UK (one of their veal dishes looked very good) two of us enjoyed very good, hearty bowls of minestrone, and then we shared:

Trofie with pesto (typical Ligurian long, flat pasta, a variant on liguine)..very good!

Verdure ripiene..stuffed vegetables..decent.

Fried totani (similar to calamari). I noted the asterisk and should have known better with these, as they were mediocre at best. Bodies cut into rings; obviously frozen.


http://italianfood.about.com/od/fish...ying-Squid.htm


When I later looked at the prices of seafood at the market, I was surprised at the high prices. So perhaps this restaurant keeps its prices down by using the frozen product. Most of the other diners were local people. I would recommend this place with the caveat that you order more carefully than I did.


The bill for three of us, with a quartino of white wine and one soft drink, and water, totaled 43.50 Euro.

The osteria is closed on Wednesdays.

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