Eating and Drinking Well in the Italian Riviera

Ligurian cuisine might surprise you. As you'd expect, given the long coastline, it employs all sorts of seafood, but its real claim to fame is the exemplary use of vegetables and herbs.

Basil is practically revered in Genoa—the word is derived from the Greek basileus, meaning "king"—and the city is considered the birthplace of pesto, the basil-rich pasta sauce. This and other herbs (laurel, fennel, and marjoram) are cultivated, but also grow wild on the sun-kissed hillsides. Naturally, seafood plays a prominent role on the menu, appearing in soups, salads, and pasta dishes. Vegetables—particularly artichokes, eggplant, and zucchini—are abundant, and usually prepared with liberal amounts of olive oil and garlic.

Like much of Italy, Liguria has a wide range of eating establishments from cafeteria-like tavole calde to family-run trattorias to sophisticated ristoranti. Lunch is served between 12:30 and 2:30 and dinner between 7:30 and 11. Also popular, especially in Genoa, are enoteche (wine bars), which serve simply prepared light meals late into the night.

Fabulous Focaccia

When you're hankering for a snack, turn to bakeries and small eateries serving focaccia. The flatbread is more dense and flavorful here than what's sold as focaccia in American restaurants—it's the region's answer to pizza, usually eaten on the go. It comes simply salted and drizzled with olive oil; flavored with rosemary and olives; covered with cheese or anchovies; and even ripiena (stuffed), usually with cheese or vegetables and herbs.

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