Besides impossibly pretty coastal villages, what are some other Ligurian specialties?
Why, pesto of course! The spicy green sauce packed with garlic and basil renowned the world over originated from Liguria, so for our one dinner in the region, at Osteria All’Inferno in downtown La Spezia, we had to order it.
The pesto was indeed yummy on fresh, extra-wide noodles, fragrant and bright-tasting without too much garlic to overpower the rest of the ingredients nor to give us garlic breath afterwards.
A less well-known local dish is mesciua, a bean and cereal soup flavored with liberal lashings of olive oil and fresh crushed pepper. This soup, healthy, starchy and filling, takes a page from the playbook of Tuscan peasant cooking, or cucina povera. Legend has it the soup was first cooked by grains and beans that had spilled out of ships’ cargos when loading and unloading them at La Spezia’s port.
The secondis tended towards seafood given Liguria’s geographic location. While P chowed down a big pot of small but sweet local mussels, I ate a lighter dish of smoked tuna and swordfish carpaccio. The fish was fine, but all the while my heart pining for the hearty plate of prawn-rich seafood pasta our neighbors and their baby was eating. Plate envy never fails to strike in Italy.
All these with a half-liter of extremely light house wine, in a cheery basement hundred year old osteria for a princely sum of 34E, All’Inferno was our coup de coeur in the Ligurian coast.
All’Inferno: Via Lorenzo Costa 19121 La Spezia, Italy