From fish to vegetables: quick tips to try the taste of La Spezia local cuisine
“What should I eat tonight here?”
The increased tourist interest on the territory of La Spezia has made this question more and more frequent.
Faced with the questions of tourists (asking questions like: “What can we eat? What are the local dishes?” ), the poor local inhabitant often gropes and does not know what to say. This is because they wonder weather the non-local will understand the simple, yet so tasteful local cuisine.
Leaving aside the pesto pasta, which still often meets the taste of everyone, although it is more properly a Ligurian dish rather than a La Spezia specialty, local gastronomy has indeed several specialties to offer.
Do you want fish? Mussels and anchovies speak to you here …
“I fancy some fish, but I am on a budget” say those who have seen how expensive can be to eat seafood in many Italian cities. The nice thing is that in La Spezia area, if you really want to eat carbon free, enjoying seafood at affordable prices is possible.
If there are two gifts the local sea cuisine can not really do without, these are mussels and anchovies , two local excellence products that with not much expense will send you in awe. The first are bred in the Gulf of La Spezia and are a real local pride, the latter are caught off of Cinque Terre.
How are they prepared? As a condiment for pasta (if you want a pasta dish), or in many ways if you are looking for a different kind of course.
Anchovies can be a tasty appetizer if served in oil or marinated, and an excellent second course if fried, filled or in “scabecio” (cooked in vinegar). There are, however, two anchovies based dishes that I associate with the local cuisine: the bagnun (a sauce with abundant anchovies and slices of toast) and anchovies and potato pie.
Mussels, on the other hand, can be prepared alla marinara ( plain: boild and with some lemon on it) or – a real local delicacy – filled (a must try).
Testaroli, panigacci and sgabei: never disappointing
“ I would like to go out to eat, but I am wearing shorts! “. You might often have the impression that there are only fancy restaurants in town. Never fear: Val di Vara , Val di Magra and Lunigiana are the places to be for a more chilled atmosphere.
La Spezia and surroundings cuisine is able to offer good alternatives to the “usual pizza”. Translating: cheaply, so much yield .
I’ve actually seen a few people complain about a meal based on testaroli , panigacci and sgabei .
Compared to the past, moreover, it is no longer even needed to venture in Lunigiana (although it still is the ideal option), since both val Graveglia, Val Durasca, Sarzana and lately La Spezia count places that offer these dishes.
The hardest thing, in this case, it may well be to get the differences between the various dishes. Here you can get away well:
- Testaroli are a typical dish of Lunigiana (more precisely from Pontremoli). They are made of a mixture of water, flour and salt. Quickly boiled in water, they are then topped with pesto, sauce or oil and parmesan cheese.
- Panigacci – spread throughout Liguria Lunigiana – discs of batter, prepared in small clay texts stacked one above the other. Still hot, they are served stuffed with cold cuts and cheese.
Sgabei – typical of the Val di Magra – made with a yeast dough with flour, water, salt and oil and then fried in plenty of olive oil. Tasty food outspoken or stuffed. (Warning: don’t call them fried dumplings! ” as these are lard fried dumplings, sgabei are not).
And vegetables? Minestrone, vegetable pies … and mescciüa ….
“But where can I eat some fresh veggies? ” asked the tourist.
The answer is easy: everywhere.
You might often thinkk that Italian cuisine is only based on carbs, and feel tired of it very soon. Actually, Italian and La Spezia cuisine, does not just exclude vegetables, but actually loves them.
The truth is this: you can have soups anywhere, but the minestrone with the addition of some pesto sauce is something extraordinary that you can have only here.
Do not underestimate also the very typical vegetable pies. Almost taken for granted by locals, and thus barely offered to tourists, the vegetable pied (which can be made with rice and chard or contain the most diverse vegetables) will eventually conquer you.
Finally, not to forget the mescciüa (unpronounceable name for non-La Spezia people). This soup is a real La Spezia dish and brings in its name itself the sign of its origin. In the local language, mesciua means mixing and indicates the mixture of legumes and cereals which was the surplus of goods transported in the port of La Spezia and was collected to make a plate of considerable substance.
The cover photo is by Enrico Rollandi
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)