Restaurants & Bars

Northern Italy trip report: Liguria - Emilia - Venice - Milan

dostrovs | Jul 23, 202105:46 PM     5

I have just accomplish a blitz food intensive tour of Northern Italy in the company of my adult son. While the impressions are still fresh I am putting the feelings about the places together.

Il Moro, Capriata d’Orbo, Piemonte (Slow Food Endorsed)
Fresh off the plane we drove to Genova with a pit stop along the road in Capriata d’Orbo. It was my first time in the area and the place is located not far from the autostrada. The food is different from the beloved Langhe. Excellent antipasti. Especially good were fritters staffed with the stoccafisso (AKA Bacala). I tried their signature agnolotti, which looked nothing like the magnificent plin of Langhe. They were more like the tiny supermarket ravioli by the look and by the taste. Could not figure out why they are The signature dish. My son had gnocchi Verdi with Roccoverano cheese (the type of robiola). These were really good. Probably the fluffiest I have ever tried. A universe away from the pathetic agnolotti…
The menu features a lot of Ligurian-meat centric dishes, given it’s geographic proximity to Liguria. We tried cima. It was so-so (nothing like the one in Luchin in Chiavari).

La Forchetta Curiosa, Genova (Michelin and Slow food mentioned)
It was surprisingly difficult to find a suitable restaurant in Genova. Sa’Pesta sadly closed… We went with above choice. I had to prove to the owner that I indeed have a reservation, by showing to him his email! They get busy on Saturday night.
Antipasti: my son’s melanzana and mine sepia julienne were OK. Primi - really good pesto ravioli with pignoli sous.
Main: Crocante Totoni (which were not crocante at all). My son had an entrecôte. It was not bad. Probably we have chosen the wrong dishes.

Raieu, Lavagna, Liguria (Slow Food Endorsed)
Costal town with a nightmare of a parking on Sunday. That was expected and we managed. On the street full of the restaurants this place is completely packed, while the other ones where empty. No meat on the menu. Only seafood. Combination seafood antipasto - Fresh and creative. Mandilli al pesto genovese - delicious. Gnocchis with clams - a bit dense. Superb frito misto.

Rio Bistro, Riomaggiore (Cinque Terra), Liguria (Michelin mentioned)
Cinque Terra is a bit scarce in the culinary sense. It was not surprising and we went along with the hotel recommendations.
We stayed in Manarola and took a 1 (one) minute train to Riomaggiore (the walk - 1h 10 min). I think the restaurant tries to cater to the French crowd because the menu contains many French fashioned dishes. I had gamberi- velute (so-so). My son had vegetable, which he liked. Than we had two sea-food based pastas. Mine was rigatoni with fish - nothing special. My son’s - much better one- spaghetti with anchovy and gremolata. So-so frito misto.

Da Fiorella, Ortonuovo, Liguria (Slow Food Endorsed)
Ortonuovo is located in the Ligurian enclave in Toscany. We visited the uphill town on the way back from the morning trip to Pisa. It was probably one of the best meals. Winding road up the hill with stunning seaside views.
Interesting mix of Ligurain, Toscan and Emilian specialties given its bordering location.
Antipasti: torta de accuighe - unusual, but excellent. Salumeria.
Primi: Lasagnetta with pesto - the best pesto of the trip.
My son had ravioli al sugo. He liked it.
Secondi: very good deconstructed cappun magru. Very light and full of flavor, unlike it is original’s bit heavy version.
This place is a must, if you are in the area.

Trattoria da Billy, Manarola (Cinque Terra), Liguria
Recommended by hotel as the best restaurant in Manarola…. Well… the view is indeed stunning. The food - transplant of the Italian-American restaurant to Italy. I did not know it is possible. Senseless and overpriced menu with dishes without regional affiliation. Something like: spaghetti with lobster and truffle. Very disappointed. My trofi with pesto were very salty, although clearly the pesto was not made by hand. I took it because it was the only a Ligurian plate on the menu. They try to up-sell you some very questionable quality fish…

Badessa, San Donino de Liguria, Emilia-Romagna (Slow Food Endorsed)
2 hours drive from Liguria to near Modena to the heartland of the Italian gastronomy. This was the only place open for a lunch on Tuesday (certainly the day of the week to avoid Emilia). Full house for a Tuesday lunch.
Fritelli de bacala, cappelletti in brodo, caramelli de la badessa, melanzana parmigiana. All good. Served with the pride. We liked everything and were very happy with the experience. Long wine list with Lambruscos, which are delicious (unlike it’s marketing disaster in US).

Osteria Bottega, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna (Slow Food Endorsed)
Mixed feeling. Very popular and very busy. The service was extremely uneven. More than one hour wait between antipasti and primi. The antipasti represented by the choices of a salumeria (from the notorious makers) and the regional cheeses. My son had capellini in parmigiano-regiano. Loved it. I had a very heavy, but a very famous dish of this establishment - rigatoni with the liver and egg from the chicken ovaries. Not bad, but doubt I will ever crave it again. We had no stamina for the seconds. We should give it another try to appreciate…

La Fefa, Finale Emilia, Emilia-Romagna (Bib gourmand Michelin)
Somehow I have stumbled on this place sourcing for country side restaurants near Ferrara (although technically it is Modenese). They were shocked to see the third party of Americans in one week. They almost never had them over before.. The place was everything I was looking for. Strictly local produce.
Insalata di coniglio, tortellini de zucca, capellini parmegiano.
My sone loved their chocolate and rum flowerless cake.

Highly recommend (20 minuts off the highway)

Da Noemi, Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna (Slow Food Mentioned)
We liked it. The menu is confined to the local Ferrarese dishes.
My son had lasagna al forno. It was spot on. Fresh out of the oven with the proper amount of a perfect crust.
My tortelli de zucca al burro were spectacular.
My secondi maiali (pork belly) was probably the best dish of the trip. Falling apart just from touching it with the fork. The waiter insisted on us taking it.

Al Covo, Venice
Very popular with the American crowd place. It was my second time here. I liked it even more than the first. Although the service gets spotty in the middle of the lunch, the food is of the highest standard. My beloved mantecato was sublime. Very different texture from the ones I tried before. Simple dish of the clam spaghetti, with I would not order elsewhere, was done perfectly. The best frito misto (the seafood version), I have ever had. (FYE: the best meat version was in La Cocinella in Serravalle Langhe). Deep fried zupa inglese.
Definitely an excellent choice in Venice, where the good meal does not come easily…

L’Anice Stellato, Venice
Very disappointed. I have really liked the place in the past. I have noticed some disenchantment in other CH-ers notes, but decided to push my luck. One good thing - my Tre pomidori pasta was excellent. Everything else was a disaster. The waitress messed up all the orders, so most of the people in the party of 6 got not what they wanted. When it was pointed out to the waitress she stated that we should order in advance(?!?!?). The restaurant has a bizarre policy of texting you the menu in advance with the request to preselect the dishes. Apparently they think that I have nothing better to do on my day in Venice than to collect the selections from the party of 6 and text them back. It is so off..
Sadly the food was pretty senseless. None in my party (besides my enjoyment of the pasta) liked the food. The bottle of Tai Rosso (local ganache) from Paialli was very good. Please try this wine when you are in Veneto.

Estro, Venice
Very small menu. I liked lingua e fichi antipasto. We tried two delicious but not memorizable pastas. Secondies were skipped. We should give it another try. I was not able to form an opinion.

Vini da Gigio, Venice
Interestingly it was the most expensive place in Venice. Combination antipasto - nothing special. I had pasta with granseola (spider crab). Did not like it. The one I had in Corte Sconta in the past was much better.
My son had pasta with accuighi, with was delicious.
We shared a secondi of an anguilla. I little tough, but good flavor.

As you can see, encountering a good place in Venice is still a challenge…

Ratana, Milan (Slow Food Endorsed)
I have been to this place a number of times. Always end up eating risotto Milanese. This dish they prepare especially well. My son did not like their village stile pork ragu pasta. Some interesting appetizers of a cold tomato soup and local fresh cheese. Excellent mixed drinks.
I find them to be a bit expensive for what they deliver, but the taste/quality of food is very consistent.

Mirta, Milan (Slow Food Endorsed)
It was our last meal of the trip. A great example how you make delicious food from very simple ingredients. Nothing fancy on the menu, but we enjoyed the meal a lot.
Antipasto of the fritters of bread, sage and escarole. Macaroni with mushroom ragu. Caramelli with vegetable staffing. I loved their grilled salamella with the prunes.
We shared a bottle of Barolo from Serralunga d’Alba.

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