I was expecting to be wowed by the Italian Riviera, but as it turns out it was Genoa ~ Genova in proper Italian ~ that won me over, starting with a tiny trattoria.
One of my rules when traveling, especially long distances, is that there ought to be a nice meal ~ or at least the prospect of one ~ waiting upon arrival. It might be a restaurant reservation made weeks ahead, a dish of pasta at a friend’s house, or street food enjoyed while wandering around a new town. If I’m spending the night flying over the Atlantic shoehorned into a seat in Economy Class, let there please be good food on the other side.
In Genova, there was Trattoria dell’Acciughetta, a sweet little spot that opened just a few weeks ago. I heard about it from my Instagram friend Elena (@elenacipretti), who lives in Milano and is friends with the owners. She had posted a picture on her IG feed, and the name of the place, which translates to “trattoria of the little anchovy,” won me over while I was still thousands of miles away.
Acciughetta is in a bustling and diverse neighborhood just steps away from the city’s port, on a street that shares space with clothing boutiques, tabacchai, halal butchers and kebab shops. It’s located at the north end of Genova’s historic Caruggi district, a maze of narrow streets and alleyways. The area is a rough around the edges, as most urban ports are, but also brimming with life and history and worth exploring.
The trattoria’s owners are Giorgia and Federica Losi, along with their dad. Both sisters have big plans, though their longterm visions don’t quite mesh. Giorgia (above on the left), dreams of opening more trattorie dell’Acciughetta ~ in New York, Los Angeles, and other far-flung places. Federica (above right) wants to be a jazz singer.
In the mean time, they are pouring their hearts into this tiny gem. The sisters, all smiles and friendly service, run the front of the house, while in the kitchen, the Sicilian-born chef prepares mostly seafood dishes with impeccably fresh ingredients, riffing off Genovese classics. The vinegar-marinated anchovies you see in the photo at the top of this post were crowned with slightly smoky threads of paprika peppers. The anchovies themselves were delicious, with a clean, fresh flavor. My anchovy-obsessed son said they were the best he had ever eaten.
I wish I had taken pictures of other dishes we ate, especially the polpo alla piastra (octopus cooked on a flat-top grill) and the fritto misto (mixed fried seafood), which was served hot out of the fryer in a brown paper cone. But we were jet-lagged and hungry. Pictures were not a priority; digging in was.
At least I remembered to snap this (rather garish) shot of the cookie plate that Giorgia ~ or was it Federica? ~ brought to the table at the end of the meal: mini crunchy biscotti, amaretti, and tiny baci di dama, buttery and crumbly, sandwiched together with gianduja. Oh, and there were also white chocolate truffles filled with rum.
If we had more time we would have gone back for another meal. But who knows…maybe one day we’ll be enjoying marinated anchovies ~ with a side of jazz ~ at Trattoria dell’Acciughetta…DC?
Coming up…more on the flavors of Genova, and postcards from Liguria.