Genoa (Tre Merli, Zoeffrino, Buca di San Matteo)

February 8, 2006

(February, 2006)  Rather than driving into a very confusing city, as many of the larger ones in Italy are, we chose to take the train right into the old part of town.  hotel-interior.jpgOur hotel, the Bristol Palace*, is a short taxi ride from the rail station or, even better, three stops on the brand new metro. 

 On the advice of a friend, and as part of our new methodology to enjoying a new city, we hired a guide for the first morning (Ana Bisso, 0039 010 315130; 0033 3356 181457) and she gave us a wonderful introduction to the city, walking us around the old town while talking about the history of the city and its people. The old town is one of the largest in Europe, and in spite of the bombings in WWII (the Allies were careful enough in only destroying the strategic port), is still totally charming. 

After decades of neglect, the old palaces have been restored, some turned into banks, other into apartments, and some still private.  The waterfront has been completely redesigned by Renzo Piano, with a world class aquarium, a scenic elevator and a grand pedestrian space, with cars rerouted to an elevated road.

tre-merli.jpgOn this waterfront, there are various restaurants, one of which, i Tre Merli, is in converted port building with soaring ceilings and lots of windows out onto the port.  It is one of several owned by the same people, including one in Soho in New York City.  The fish was as fresh as sit gets in our plate of mixed raw fish with a zucchini pesto.  Of course, we had to have some farinata, one of the traditional dishes, cooked here in the wood-fired ovens.

Our two dinners were as different as could be.  The first was at one of Genoa’s most celebrated restaurant, Zoeffirino, a three-minute walk from the Bristol, in via XX settembre, opened in 1939, and with branches in Portofino and Las Vegas.  genoa0601-1.JPGIt is brightly lit and very convivial.  The food was good and traditional, highlighted by their pesto and something called Paffutelli (ravioli stuffed with 12 secret ingredients – the dominant one, we believe, to be pumpkin – and served in a basil sauce).  We enjoyed a 1996 Barolo Prunetto, their last bottle, but also a Sicilian chardonnay, Duca di Castelmonte, Gordo Tondo, Grillo-Chardonnay.  The menu degustation was €60.

The second, at a very small and relatively new place called La Buca di San Matteo, in renovated quarters with beamed ceilings, and a kitchen visible behind glass.  In the kitchen there was the chef/owner and a dishwasher.  We could see him prepare each dish and garnish it appropriately.  Our amuse bouche, a delicious zucchini and potato soup was followed by a seasonal  salad with passion fruit.  We both enjoyed the filet of chianini beef with truffled potatoes, washed down with a Planeta 2002 Santa Cecilia at €32.  With our dessert, a warm orange cake with chocolate sauce, we drank a very nice Moscati Kaloro.  All in, this cost about €60 each.


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