Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cinque Terre: Osteria a Cantina de Mananan

Unlike its four sister villages, Corniglia sits high up on the hillside, affording amazing views of the coastline, but at a cost. In the the summer, or, at least, in August, the long staircase up from the train station can be an unpleasant effort, and it acts as a deterrent to many of the tourists that pack the waterfront cafes of Cinque Terre's other villages. Those who take the hike up the hillside are able to stroll down the single street of this tiny village in relative solitude and, if you make a reservation at Cantina de Mananan, you can have some of the best Ligurian food around
One of the first things that catches your eye as you pass by (actually, the only thing, since there isn't much else) is the doorway, which is plastered with endorsements and awards from the various groups that hand these things out to deserving restaurants.
Hidden behind the door is a tiny little dining room with stone walls, a chalkboard with the daily menu, and precious few tables. Every seat in this restaurant is by reservation, and they are only open for a few hours around lunch and dinner each day. Most table don't get a single turn in, so don't expect to eat here as a walk in.
In keeping with the Cinque Terren tradition, this place specialized in seafood dishes. We began out meal with a seafood antipasti consisting of anchovies three different ways (with vinegar and lemon, olive oil and garlic, and fried), smoked tuna, white beans with tuna...
...and, on the side, salt cod with olives, tomatoes, and capers in a light broth.
we also had artichokes, which were good, but still no match for the legendary artichokes of Volpetti, in Rome.
Next, it was on to the main courses. It's worth noting, if it wasn't clear already, that this place takes its food very seriously. They even offer eating instructions on their place mats.
The directions were printed in English, German, and French, and perhaps they were prompted by one too many tourists asking for cheese or pepper to put on their pesto or seafood pasta. These are perhaps the two most popular dishes here. We didn't order the seafood pasta since you could only order it in servings for two and we wanted more variety. Instead, we opted for the pesto, which, they boast, is the best in all of Liguria.
We also had a whole, grilled branzino, which was served with nothing but a slice of lemon. The fish was so fresh and well prepared that it needed nothing else.
We ended our meal with a panacotta with blackberries, huckleberries, and blueberries. This was a really light, tart dessert. Neither of us really like sweet food, so this was perfect for our palates.
I would say that this was one of the best meals of our whole trip. If you are in Cinque Terre, this is a restaurant that you cannot miss. Just make sure to make a reservation ahead of time or you will miss out on this gem.

1 comment:

Derrick said...

Your slow and steady recount of Italy makes me insanely jealous...
And hungry...
and I just lunch at Papas (which has great Puerto Rican food on Division that you should try sometime).