Monday, June 29, 2015

The Cinqueterre / Manarola Day 1: I'm never leaving.

And then there was the Cinqueterre.

A series of small cities, all walking distance from each other. We are staying in Manarola. It is stunning. So stunning I didn't even really get any pictures of the scenery (more to come tomorrow). 

We are staying at the Da Paulin - a rental agency that has a few apartments in the city. We were greeted with small glasses of Limoncino (a local specialty). We were diggin this place already. 

Limoncino upon our arrival. 

The Cinqueterre is known for certain drinks: Limoncino (lemon rind, vodka, and sugar), sciacchetra (a dessert wine, 18% alcohol, made from grapes that have almost turned to raisins, and usually served with a small cookie), and white wine.

In terms of food, the Cinqueterre is known as the birthplace of pesto (the basil grows on the mountainside), anchovies (they are caught and served fresh, not salted and canned), focaccia (the best in Italy, according to Rick Steves!), farinata (fried chickpea flour), and frutti di mare ("fruits of the sea"). The local dessert is the torta della nonna (the grandmother's cake).

Our  host's recomendation for dinner was Marina Piccola. This was our view at the beginning of dinner.

This was also our view. The creepiest guy of all time. The short shorts, the sweatband on the wrist, the greasy slicked back hair. Gross. I assumed he was (New Jersey) Italian, but when he spoke  he had a British accent. It almost made things worse.

Ok back to the other view during dinner. Much better.

Sunset from Marina Piccola. 

Many restaurants are apparantly very proud of their "Frutti di Mare" - fruits of the sea - appetizers. So I ordered one. AMAZING.

I can't remember everything, but stating with the fresh anchovies on tomato at seven o'clock and going counter clockwise: a fried sea thing, mussels stuffed with ham and ricotta, octopus and potato salad, a seafood risotto thing, a shrimp, and in the middle, octopus with red sauce. Best. 

I would also like to point out, to many who know Tanya, and especially Mr. Niznik and Laura (her Dad and sister), that we ACTUALLY CONVINCED TANYA TO EAT A BITE OF FISH. Please write this one down for the record books.

Tanya, with anchovies and tomato, and about to really eat it. Also, creepy guy in the background - yuck. 

Verdict: Didn't love it, didn't hate it, didn't spit it out. It's slow and steady but we're making progress!

Meanwhile I think Doug is finally learning to love the fruits of the sea. Here is a tiny octopus he wolfed down. The appetizers were so good! So good!

Good bye, baby octopus. You led a delicious life. Washed down with house white in the background. 

We got pesto with trofie pasta. Trofie pasta is made of flour and potato, and is specifically made to be served with pesto. It's nooks and crannies hold all the pesto-y good-ness.

Fresh delicious pesto.

Doug got squid ink pasta with prawns. It had pine nuts and bell peppers, with a mild tomato sauce, and was amazing.

 And me? I got the regional specialty. Tegame alla Vernazza. It's fresh (not canned and salted - freshly caught) anchovies, potatos, tomatoes, white wine, oil, and herbs. It. Was. Epic.

This may look like  a plate of neatly organized dead fish, but... well actually I guess that's a correct description, but it was also one of the best seafood meals I've had. The rosemary hit it home. 

Tanya, enjoying her pesto with a sunset background. 

The view continued to improve as the sun set. We've been eating dinner closer to 9PM, and I can see why Italy has it's dinners later - you cannot beat this warm weather and long days (or the views!)

View from our dinner table. 

For dessert, we got the tiramisu (I think we may have gotten one in every city we've visited at this point...) and a chocolate mouse. Both delicious.

I feel like we had a really amazing, regionally specific and authentic Cinqueterre/Italian meal, which made me really happy (and full). And Tanya tried fish so we definitly had some life achievements as well :)

Fresh anchovies rule. 


  1. NO WAY! I still cannot believe Tanya ate some fish! (Tan, wait until I tell Nathan and Dax) I absolutely LOVE seafood and think that this would be my favorite restaurant in all of Italy.

    1. Laura, it is by far my favorite restaurant in all of Italy so far. It was absolutly incredible! And yes, I was quite impressed with the fish consumption by Tanya :)

  2. Your description of Cinqueterre has moved it up first on my Italy list. I may just go there and not leave! It's even passed Florence on my list. A place known for some of my favorite Italian dishes, PLUS limoncino (I've had limoncello, but not limoncino). It has vodka, so it must be good. And perfect for a sunny day!

    1. I know. I think if I were to return to Italy, this is the one place I'd consider a repeat visit. The food is amazing here. And the weather did get hotter, so being by the sea for this leg worked out well :)