Cinque Terre, Italy may be best known for the beauty of its scenery, but its food deserves equal billing.
Not surprisingly, given its location on the sea and isolation throughout its history, the local specialties are heavy on seafood and what is grown locally.
For a very full meal of local specialties, or a “menu tipica”, I would eat anchovies, trofie con pesto and/or spaghetti allo scoglio, muscoli ripieni, and Buccellato con Schiacchetra’ for desert.
Pesto is perhaps the most famous of its foods, in the Cinque Terre and throughout Liguria. It is interesting to look into gardens or rooftops and see the basil growing, knowing that it will end up in pesto. Though possible to make elsewhere, pesto tastes the best here, made from local plants. Like all foods, its flavor is a result of its environment, making it distinct and impossible to replicate anywhere else. So, while in Cinque Terre, eat as much pesto as you can.
While pesto is offered with many different pastas including gnocchi, the traditional and local pasta is trofie, a short, narrow twisted pasta. When finished eating the trofie, the bread on the table is used to sop up any remaining pesto. It’s too good to waste!
The other pasta dish typical of Cinque Terre is Spaghetti Allo Scoglio, which is spaghetti with seafood – shrimp, calamari, mussels, and clams, all of which are fresh. The dish is simple yet decadent, needing no further refinement or additions.
But, perhaps the best product from the sea in this area is anchovies, or acciughe here. It can be difficult to convince people who think they don’t like anchovies to eat them, but they truly are both delicious and representative of the place.
They are fresh daily and can be eaten salted (insalata), al limone (with lemon), fried (fritti), or as part of Tegame di Vernazza, a type of casserole with anchovies, potato, and tomato. Again, it is better than a sum of its parts. Of all the plates that I ate in Cinque Terre, it was eating anchovies that made me feel like I was a local. I often ate anchovies as both an appetizer and the main course. My favorites are al limone as an appetizer and tegame as a main course.
Another trait of the cuisine in Cinque Terre was the frequent filling, or stuffing, of things. My local favorite was Muscoli Ripieni, filled/stuffed mussels. Again, the mussels were incredibly fresh. They were stuffed with some combination of breadcrumbs, mortadella, eggs, parmesan and herbs. After which it was all baked. I enjoyed them as a snack, an appetizer, or an after-course following a pasta dish.
And lastly, there is dessert. To complete a meal of all local specialties, there is Buccellato with Sciacchetra’. From some of the terraced vineyards visible from all of the villages in Cinque Terre, grapes are harvested that is made in the famous sweet dessert wine known as Sciacchetra’, a DOC wine not made anywhere else in the world. Though difficult to say, it is much easier to drink. It is served with
Though difficult to say, it is much easier to drink. It is served with Buccellato, a type of coffee cake, that is dipped into the Schiachetra’ for each bite. Each bite is enjoyable all over again. Not only is it a small production, but the amount of work involved in tending those terraced vineyards and harvesting the grapes adds to the tradition and decadence that goes with the dessert.
Luckily with all of the stairs and steep hills in Cinque Terre, you won’t have to feel guilty after splurging on the great dishes of this beautiful city!