The port town of Genova was one of the four most important historic ports in Italy (with Pisa, Venezia, and Amalfi). It is said that ravioli were invented there as a way to stretch a small amount of leftover meat or fish into a full meal the next day.
In Genova, I have never enjoyed eating in fancy places, but prefer casual trattorie and wine bars and even fry shops or bakeries…
In the friggitoria department my fave is Antica Sciamada where you can get tiny fish, baccala, baby vegetables, cuculli (all that a potato should be), and purple artichokes. For fresh focaccia, a walk down via San Vicenzo is like a trip to Balducci used to be. The Paniscio Mario smells like the train station to heaven should and sells a magnificent variety of cloudlike focaccie, some hot from the forno.
Among my sitdown favorites are Antica Osteria della Foce where the farinata is the main event along with a couple of other daily changing dishes, many out of the grand oven in the front. The place is jamming all day. La Cantina di Colombo is a 35-seater with simple and delicious primi, including a definitive minestrone, followed by a list of steaks, all served with a great wine by the glass list. There’s even an oil list for tasting the local liquid green gold.
Enoteca Infernotto is more of a snack place in a great downtown location with grissini and focaccia worth the trip alone, but also has a discreet list of local salume and wines including the mythic and hard to find sciacchetra from Rollandi by the glass. I love Trattoria del Liberale because it is all Genova, all the time; pure Ligurian tradizione, a little hectic, with a capricious tangy “this is how it’s supposed to be” attitude. This is where the heavens open for the fritto misto, a glorious mixed fry of chicken, sweetbreads, gizzards, miniscule vegetables, sweet custard, and the odd slightly raisiny grape.
An honest and brilliant experience based more on the moon than the purely Genovese tradition, kind of a mix between Friuli and Liguria, is the very cool Toe Drue the only real tablecloth restaurant on my Genova list. From jota to trofie, from scampi alla busara to capon magro, the dishes from these two incredible regions come together in a mellifluous harmony to create an unusual new tradition in this city of sailors. This is not a fancy place but one where the kitchen and the dining room sail on smooth seas, together and in perfect key.