December 18, 2012
If you leave the Mediterranean coast at Arma di Taggia, just east of San Remo, and drive 13 km up the valley of the Argentina River, you will come upon an enormous mushroom.
At its foot is a picturesque, arched, old stone bridge leading to a former olive oil mill. (You can just see the water wheel which powered the mill at its right edge.)
The old mill now houses Ristorante Ca’ Mea. Linda and I went for lunch on October 24, 2012.
We were seated in the front room, decorated with old olive pressing artifacts.
There is no menu; one eats what is served, so the lunch got underway quite quickly.
Fresh, warm, puff pastry cheese sticks arrived and glasses of a refreshing Italian sparkling wine were poured.
A plate of fresh, chopped tomato bruschetta was served. Until we arrived at the pasta, courses were just put on the table in serving dishes for us to divide or, more simply, just put on our plate.
This mushroom with yellow meat and an orange cap is called ovulo buono in Italian, or Caesar’s Mushroom in English. They are frequently served raw, sliced as here. Underneath is a steak tartare.
These first two courses were fresh and good.
A bottle of the house red wine was put on the table for us to pour ourselves. I think it was a dolcetto. We also had a pitcher of sparkling water and a bread basket on the table.
A scoop of freshly made, light ricotta flavored with chives.
A mushroom omelette in the form of a quiche.
Mushrooms sautéed in olive oil with thin potato slices.
This was presented as a quiche, but it was really deep-fried cheese.
Our appetizer plates were removed and we were served a plate of very fresh, eggy, tagliatelle with mushrooms in a light cream sauce.
A mushroom risotto.
For the main course we were offered a choice of lamb chops or a 1 kg T-Bone steak. We were also offered a choice between fried breaded mushrooms and mushrooms sautéed in garlic and oil. When we hesitated, the genial waitress said she would bring both. The sautéed mushrooms were really delicious and we finished them. We only ate a few of the breaded ones, so they boxed them up for us to take home. (They were still quite good reheated in the oven two days later.) The lamb chops were very good. (I am sure that the steak would have been great, but we could hardly have eaten that much at this point.)
Dessert was a choice of tiramisù, lemon granità or (our choice) homemade vanilla ice cream on top of mixed berries.
Rich coffee was served with a liquorice flavored grappa.
I think that all of the mushrooms except for those on the steak tartare, were porcini, which are in season now. We had been to Ca’ Mea once before, about ten years ago, and I remember a greater variety, but that might have been springtime. This meal was very enjoyable, well designed and well executed, without wandering into any extraneous paths. The ambience is terrific, the best of Italian charm.
When I went back to pay the bill (75€!), I could look into the small, busy kitchen.
Ristorante Ca’ Mea
Strada statale 548, km. 13, Località Ravezza, 18010 Badalucco,