GENOVA: No one goes to Liguria and Genova, the region’s main city for its food. At least no one did for many years. But young chef Simone Vesuviano and Giorgia Losi of Trattoria dell’ Acciughetta are working to change this.
Ask many Italians who know their food and they would struggle to give you recommendations of where to eat in this region of Italy. Despite giving the world amazing olives like ‘taggiasche’ or more importantly pesto the region does not have a reputation when it comes to food.
Giorgia Losi, who worked in marketing, had other ideas. Fed up with her desk job in Milan she invested in a restaurant in Piazza Sant’ Elena in Genova close to the port which made the city famous throughout history.
It was part of the town which no one in Genova wanted to visit but that has slowly start to change. Just off Via Prè, this was an area that all Genovese used to avoid.
10 days after opening the restaurant she was joined by the 19 year-old Simone Vesuviano. Today, at 23, he is her business partner and in charge of creating an inventive cuisine that symbolises the region.
On the blackboard, as you enter, there is a small sign written in chalk ‘Oggi sorrisi x tutti’ or ‘Smiles for everyone today’. And that’s exactly what the menu does. There is a list of antipasti, first courses and main courses and you’re immediately facing a dilemma because the choice is made complicated by the fact that practically all dishes seem to be worth ordering.
Recommended to me by my friend Matteo, who hails from Genova, he tells this is one of the most exciting places in this Italian city. His tip is spot on.
Simone Vesuviano is part of a generation of young Italian chefs that are breaking barriers, that are challenging traditions and introducing change and modernity to a country which as Massimo Bottura likes to say is nostalgic about the past and where everyone’s preferred cooking is that of their mother or grandmother.
At Trattoria dell’Acciughetta, he is inspired by the produce of the region and by its classic recipes. He also works with what fishermen provide him with changing the menu at the spur of the moment depending on daily catches.
There are the classic Genovese dishes like the trofie with pesto (he takes the pesto to the next level) and the panissa fritta (or chick pea fries) which he serves with a delicious anchovy mayonnaise.
Those are the classics. But then there are his creations like a tuna tartare with thai influences or a chinese samosa stuffed with a ‘genovese’ filling and liver. Both are delicious.
It becomes difficult when it comes to choose the pasta.
We try three pasta dishes, the Ever Green trofie with pesto, the Pastacciu which are pappardelle served with a pesto of broccoli, sundried tomatoes, anchovies and a herb crumble and Portami al Mare or ‘take me to the sea’ which is a spaghetti with smoked chili, prawns ‘gamberi rossi’ and bergamot peel.
The pesto pasta was perfect but so where the two other pasta dishes.
We would have liked to try the ‘ramen’ spaghetti and the other pasta dish on the menu but alas there is a limit to what you can eat.
For mains, we opt for a traditional Genovese fish dish with cherry tomatoes, basic, potatoes, olives and pine nuts which is perfectly executed and the ‘morro di baccala’ (cod shoulder with Beluga lentils, a speck stock and caramelised red onions) .
For dessert, an autumn dish with chestnuts and a cachi sorbet, extra dark chocolate for serious chocolate lovers (like our children) and a rice pudding with saffron, passion fruit and orange.
The restaurant just have 35 covers though it has an outdoor space that is used mostly in summer.
The owners have opened a new restaurant Quelli dell’Acciughetta (Those of the Acciughetta) in Genova.
Take note, we are going to hear a lot more about Simone Vesuviano.
Trattoria dell’Acciughetta: Piazza Sant’Elena 16126, Genova.