Ligurian gastronomy reflects the character of the territory and the ingenuity of its people. Eating in Genoa means tasting a cuisine mainly based on legumes, fish and wild herbs.
Affecting the geomorphological characteristics of its territory, you will find both sea and land recipes.
But that is not all. Over the course of history, Genoese dishes have also been transformed in relation to the social status of the diner.
With simple ingredients, vegetables, aromatic herbs and an abundant use of olive oil, they created genuine dishes, tasty and extraordinarily attractive. Among the herbal condiments stands out the pesto. To try the various savory pies with vegetables, like the famous Easter cake and fillings. Without forgetting the delicious focaccia.
If you are planning a trip to Genoa, here are the dishes to try and the best places to find them.
- Pansotti with walnut sauce
- Easter cake
- Fried anchovies
- Focaccia bread
- Cappon Magro
- Where to eat in Genoa: best restaurants, typical bars and street food
- User questions and comments
1 - Pesto
It is one of the musts of the typical Genoese cuisine.
A condiment based on basil, pine nuts, garlic, oil and parmesan, which is used not only to flavor pasta (trofie, trenette, gnocchi and testaroli in primis), but also to flavor minestrone, soups, focaccia, savory pies, bruschetta and also as a base on pizza, instead of tomato sauce.
In short, the Genoese really put it on everything!
The traditional recipe that sees it as a sauce for pasta, wants the pesto to be enriched with potatoes and green beans.
Pesto is now a famous sauce all over the world, but its origins are properly Genoese, and only in Genoa can you eat the real pesto, that made with basil from Prà.
- Recommended to: as a condiment
- Average cost: from € 8,50 per kg
- Main ingredients: basil, oil, cheese, pine nuts, garlic
2 - Pansotti with walnut sauce
The pansotti (from the Ligurian pansa, meaning belly) are one stuffed pasta similar to ravioli, stuffed with wild herbs and topped with a walnut sauce usually made with prescinseua, slightly sour fresh cheese and chopped walnuts.
Since it does not contain meat it is one of the cheapest and most characteristic dishes of the Genoese tradition.
The filling consists of a mix of fresh herbs, the so-called Preboggion, formed by herbs that grow spontaneously on the Ligurian coasts. Given the difficult availability of these herbs, chard, spinach, borage, chicory, lettuce, rocket, etc. are generally used.
The skill of the cook lies in balancing the vegetables in the right proportions to neutralize the bitter taste of chicory and catalonia with the sweet one of lettuce and escarole.
For the walnut sauce we use kernels, pine nuts, herbs, extra virgin olive oil and bread moistened in milk. A cheaper and simpler alternative is oil or melted butter and sage. A dish certainly not light but to try.
- Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
- Average cost: € 9,00
- Main ingredients: pasta stuffed with vegetables, walnut sauce
3 - Easter cake
Vegetable pies are one of the specialties of Genoese cuisine, deriving from a "poor cuisine" aimed at exploiting the products of their territory and using leftovers.
It is a savory pie made with puff pastry and a vegetable filling, in different versions. The most classic version is the one prepared with the filling of beets, peas and artichokes, but very often it is made only with beets and prescinseua, a type of fresh and creamy cheese with a slightly sour taste. Characteristic that well identifies the Easter cake are the boiled eggs inside!
The name of this savory pie suggests that it is a dish that is eaten during the Easter period, and indeed is a classic of the Easter Monday picnic. However, especially for the Ligurians, it is a dish that is eaten all year round.
- Recommended to: lunch, dinner, snack
- Average cost: from € 18,00 per kg
- Main ingredients: puff pastry, beets, eggs, cheese
4 - Fried anchovies
Floured fried anchovies are very tasty. It is a classic and appetizing typical dish, which can be served as an appetizer. Often they are also sold in street-food mode, in characteristic paper cones, by fry shops and kiosks along the sea. In this case they become a tasty appetizer with which to delight yourself perhaps before dinner, or to nibble as a snack breaker or as a frugal lunch.
The best fried anchovies can be found in the historic port fryers that cook them to perfection, with a crispy, light and dry fried.
In Ligurian cuisine, anchovies are the most common fish. In addition to fried, you can also find them in salt, green, stuffed, marinated, in meatballs. It was once said: "U pan du ma" (the bread of the sea).
Curiosity: in the sea of the Cinque Terre the magical day of anchovies is June 29, San Pietro. And the season continues to be good until mid-July.
- Recommended to: lunch, dinner, snack
- Average cost: € 6,00
- Main ingredients: anchovies, flour, oil
5 - Focaccia
La fugàssa (focaccia) it is the most typical dish, a sort of cult that must respond to very specific characteristics: a golden / amber color, well-marked alveoli and a thickness not exceeding 2 cm.
It must be crunchy on the edges and on the outside but soft on the inside, never greasy but well oiled.
It can be found in different versions, the two main ones are the classic one with oil, and the one with cheese. But now there are all kinds of them: with potatoes and rosemary, with onions, with vegetables, with olives, with pesto ... And there are even sweet variants stuffed with fruit or hazelnut cream.
The Genoese focaccia is really difficult to prepare at home, the Genoese themselves buy it in the bakery. In addition to Genoa, the entire Liguria region is full of real bakeries and focaccerie, especially in the seaside resorts where they are a fixed stop for vacationers who stop to buy some pieces to take to the beach.
The focaccia ritual is not the prerogative of tourists; the Genoese eat it at any time, even at breakfast with coffee and milk!
To mention the delicious Recco cheese version that has obtained the IGP seal.
- Recommended to: snack, snack
- Average cost: from € 2,00 per piece
- Main ingredients: flour, water, oil
6 - Top
It is a second course, often served as an appetizer.
It consists of a piece of meat calf belly, cut to form a pocket to be stuffed with offal, peas, mortadella, egg, mushrooms, pine nuts, cheese and herbs. Once prepared it is closed, sewing it by hand. Cooking is a fairly delicate matter as there is always the risk that it may "burst", making all the filling come out and thus making the work done useless.
It comes then served cold and cut with the slicer to a thickness of about 0,5 cm.
Loved by the Genoese, it is a very tasty and consistent dish.
Originally, the top was a poor dish made with recycled ingredients, made tasty and nutritious thanks to the long work of the housewives. Today it has been transformed into a rich dish, whose slice (called öggiu, i.e. eye) takes on a visually pleasing appearance through the colors of the ingredients joined together.
The Genoese singer-songwriter Fabrizio De Andrè, together with Ivano Fossati, dedicated an entire song to the ritual of the preparation of the summit: "A cimma", contained in the album "Le Nuvole".
- Recommended to: as a main course for lunch or dinner
- Average cost: from € 21,00 per kg
- Main ingredients: veal, peas, eggs, cheese
7 - Cappon lean
It is without a doubt the most sumptuous dish of Ligurian cuisine. Not so much for its elaborate preparation as for the scenographic presentation.
Basically, it is an appetizing dish cold salad, very rich and elaborate in the multi-layered pyramid shape.
At the base, a base of crackers rubbed with garlic and seasoned with vinegar and salt, and then, fish, firm meat, boiled vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, artichoke toppings, tuna, shrimp, capers and olives. The whole is coated with salsa verde and topped off with a lobster or king prawns.
Of certainly more sober and modest origins and inspiration, it was originally consumed by fishermen, directly on boats or by the servants of the nobles who reused the leftovers from banquets.
Today it is considered a highly sought after dish, difficult to prepare, mainly intended for the days before Easter and Christmas.
- Recommended to: lunch, dinner, especially during important holidays
- Average cost: € 12,00
- Main ingredients: fish, meat, vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, scampi
8 - Stockfish
In Genoa the "stokke" it can be found in almost all menus of the ancient Genoese cuisine, and it seems that it arrived in the port of the "Vecchia Superba" thanks to the commercial relations intensely exchanged between the Genoese and Portuguese during the times of the Republic.
The Portuguese, who have made it a national dish, say there are 365 ways to cook stockfish.
Indeed, there are so many recipes with stockfish. Perhaps this is due to the fact that, once upon a time, it was defined as a poor dish while today it seems to have become one of the most coveted dishes, and in almost all restaurants there is a competition for who shows off a detailed recipe.
Certainly the tastiest and most enjoyable version is the simpler one it provides a stew with tomato sauce, potatoes, pine nuts and Taggiasca olives.
Let's make a clarification: cod that is dried in the sun becomes stockfish, while when it is salted it is called cod.
- Recommended to: as a main course for lunch or a single course for dinner
- Average cost: € 12,00
- Main ingredients: stockfish
9 - Panissa
E' one of the most particular dishes, to be tasted in the alleys of the historic center at the numerous fry shops.
It is in fact a kind of polenta made with chickpea flour, cut into sticks and fried.
It can also be found in trattorias, and is usually accompanied by other fried vegetables. It is usually served alone or more often in a special sandwich, in the shape of a small white focaccia without a crust, round, flat and without salt.
A variant of the panissa provides that, after the dough has solidified, it is cut into cubes and served cold or warm, seasoned with oil and lemon and, if desired, onion.
Thanks to commercial relations with the Port of Cadiz, this dish also exists in Iberian cuisine under the name of paniza. The Spanish version is prepared using chickpea flour in a variable percentage up to 20% together with wheat flour to give greater consistency to the frying.
- Recommended to: appetizer, snack
- Average cost: from € 1,70
- Main ingredients: chickpea flour, oil
10 - Farinata
Also known as fainè, it is a very simple dish consisting of a mixture of only chickpea flour, water, oil and salt. Everything is baked, still in the liquid state, in a very hot wood oven (300 ° C).
The result is a very thin salted pie soft inside with a golden crust.
It is very versatile indeed. It can serve as an appetizer or main course, accompanied by vegetables and cheese, but a nice slice is also perfect as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. In Genoa it is found in all the trattorias, cake factories, focaccerie and fry shops.
In via San Vincenzo, the street food par excellence, you go without fail!
Originating from Ligurian and also Tuscan tradition, in Pisa, Lucca and Versilia it is called cecìna or chickpea cake.
With different names, farinata is also widespread abroad: in France, Argentina and Uruguay.
- Recommended to: always
- Average cost: from € 1,50 per slice
- Main ingredients: oil, water, chickpea flour
Where to eat in Genoa: best restaurants, typical bars and street food
Given the versatility of Ligurian cuisine, to eat in Genoa you will be spoiled for choice regarding the type of places to choose from.
On the port, in the center or hidden among the characteristic alleys, you can find rustic trattorias which boast a ten-year family management offering typical local cuisine, more elegant and modern restaurants which offer a slightly revisited cuisine based on local ingredients and traditional fish restaurants.
Given the fame of the focaccia, you will have no problem finding one bakery or focacceria, there are really many, especially in the most popular tourist spots. You will recognize them, not only by the inviting scent, but also by the long line that winds outside them: in fact, they are usually very small rooms, sometimes even a street view counter, where people quickly buy a slice of focaccia and A drink.
On the sea, fried fish cones are sold by kiosks that use the freshest fish of the day just brought by the fishermen. Here are the best places to eat in Genoa!
1 - Bakery Mario
- Description: restaurant run by the same family since 1969, which has always been a fixed destination for the Genoese not only for the real Genoese focaccia (it owns the registered trademark) but also for the version with onions and over 60 types of bread
- specialty: flat bread
- Average price: from € 2,00 per piece
- Address: Via San Vincenzo, 61 / r - Get directions - tel: 010 580619
2 - Ostaia do Castello
- Description: small restaurant near the port with a family atmosphere that serves Ligurian and seafood dishes among mirrors and vintage kitchen utensils, at very low prices
- specialty: fried panissa, trenette with pesto, Ligurian-style rabbit, squid in buridda
- Average price: from € 10,00 the fixed price menu
- Address: Salita di Santa Maria di Castello, 32 / r - Get directions - tel: 010 8602064
3 - Trattoria Rosmarino
- Description: elegant and very central restaurant, one of the best in Genoa. Fish prevails but there is no shortage of traditional dishes. Modern, precise and well presented cuisine
- specialty: crispy octopus on cream of potatoes, black ravioli with ricotta filling and confit tomatoes on fish stock, paccheri stuffed with gratinated prawns, baked amberjack on pea soup, shrimp and squid skewer
- Average price: from € 30,00 per person
- Address: Salita del fondaco, 30 - Get directions - tel: 010 2510475
4 - Locanda Pesciolino
- Description: a modern place that explores the world of the sea with an eye on innovation and health. Fresh fish cooked express with modern devices and technologies to halve fat and salt
- specialty: fish tartare with purple cabbage and Taggiasca olives, muscle soup in puttanesca sauce, calamarata with chard sauce, Cantabrian anchovies and tuna bottarga, seared tuna with Mediterranean pesto, fried fisherman
- Average price: from € 20,00 per person
- Address: Vico Domoculta, 14 - Get directions - tel: 010 5532131
5 - Voltalacarta
- Description: a place with an intimate atmosphere with wooden floors and transparent chairs offering creative fish tastings
- specialty: lean capppon and tasting menu
- Average price: from € 60,00 per person
- Address: Via Assarotti, 60 - Get directions - tel: 010 8312046