When you travel through Italy long enough, you come to a place of calm acceptance that things aren’t always as they seem. The posted hours say the store is open, but the lock on the door says otherwise. You have asked only for a small portion of pasta, and gain agreement from the waitress, but you still receive a full plate. You arrive to pick up your rental car, and it is simply not there – let’s have a coffee while we wait. And today, you expect to ride the train north to the seaside town of Camogli, but there is a national train workers’ strike that has shut down that option…
So instead, we made limoncino out of lemons, jumped in the vans and set forth on four wheels to Camogli. Situated up the Ligurian coast from the Cinque Terre, Camogli offers breathtaking sea-views, charming pastel colored buildings lining the seashore, a quaint (but very active) fishing village, beach, and a general respite from the well-deserved hustle and bustle of its more famous and crowded neighbors down the coast. We love it here.
After a bit of exploration through town, we sat down to a “light” lunch of mussels, followed by traditional Ligurian lasagna al pesto. A very refreshing version that includes pasta, béchamel sauce, green beans, potatoes, and pesto. A big hit with our group.
Returning to Levanto, we were treated to a hands-on lesson on Pesto Genovese. Luigina demonstrated the technique of preparation with the mortar and pestle, using the following ingredients: garlic, pine nuts (from the Pisa area), Genovese basil, salt, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Such a simple preparation, but clearly one whose traditions have been overshadowed by modern equipment (food processors) and substitute ingredients (foreign pine nuts, other varieties of basil, etc…). It is obvious in learning the ingredients, watching the preparation, and seeing Luigina’s passion for Pesto Genovese, we have rarely tasted the real deal before today. Many thanks to Luigina and her family for inspiring us!
Full of pesto, we headed to dinner – perhaps the largest feast of any of the meals we eat on any La Passeggiata at Caputo Brothers Creamery! Roberto greets us at his ristorante, ready to blitz us with food. The plates come fast and furious – insalata di polipo, insalata di seppia, insalata di gamberetti, arancini di grancio, acciughe salate ripiene, salmone al limone, carpaccio di pesce spade, carpaccio di tonno affumicato, acciughe salate con burro e pane, and moscardini con piselli. And that was just the antipasti! Followed by spaghetti alla vongole, fritto misto di pesce, orate al forno, insalata mista e finalmente…panna cotta!
A worthy way to end the day, with bellies full, and ready to tackle Culatello di Zibello in the morning!
Inspirational Note: Today we saw a ton of signs in Camogli that were old, likely salvaged wood that had been beautifully hand-painted with store names and logos. We both agreed that the new place should have a sign like this and took a ton of pictures to use as examples when we get back home. We might even be able to salvage wood from our barn!