Unless one is hiking in the Cinque Terre, one must find a way to fill the time (not that this is an onerous chore) since the towns are so small and can be seen in a few hours (or less). Fortunately a meal can be a delightful way to eat up several hours. (Cappuccino is another way.)
Our trusty guide book recommended only a few places to eat in Manarola, with only one being a hearty selection. We hiked up to the higher part of town and found Trattoria dal Billy. Being built into the side of the hill, the dining rooms sit at about four levels, the top one being like a cave with stone walls. Here is what it looks like from across the ravine.
We arrived just after the last table was occupied, so we were told we needed to wait a “little bit”. An hour later, we had our table, and it was worth the view. During our hour wait we watched many people wander by, watched the wait staff go up and down, up and down, up and down, and we watched whole, raw fish go by. After about 45 minutes one waiter asked if we wanted sparkling wine, and we said, “why not?”
This was my view from the window.
Now, being the non-seafood fans that we are (salmon and tuna are okay, and I like crab cakes), we had heard that we needed to try the anchovies in the Cinque Terre since they bear absolutely no resemblance to what you may know as an anchovy. Since, yet again, we are not in Europe to try to live like Americans, we said, “Let’s have the anchovy appetizer.” It was delicious, although anything with lemon juice and olive oil can’t be all bad.
Our waiter was fabulous. He switched easily back and forth between English, Italian and French, with a great deal of humor and kindness. He took care of the five tables in our little room with gusto and charm. Our main courses were pretty good – I had the traditional Trofie Fresh Pesto (a local kind of pasta with pesto, potatoes and green beans).
After this dessert,
He came around to everyone’s table and made them try this licorice and chili pepper drink which looked like sludge and packed quite an aftertaste. See the size of the bottle! Two and three-quarters of an hour after we arrived, we were on our merry way
Our other favorite meal was in the busy, overrun town of Vernazza. Again, a guidebook recommendation put us at Vulnetia in the main square under the colorful umbrellas.
The poor wait staff was short staffed and extremely busy, so our meal took a long time, but the waitress was so apologetic that we kept assuring her that we really did have all the time in the world. Besides, there was a cute baby next to us that we could smile at. We think he was Swedish.
Here we opted for this tuna on tomatoes appetizer, but the main dish, the Tegame alle Vernazzana with anchovies (again!), potatoes and tomatoes baked in the oven was probably the tastiest meal we had. Maybe for the whole trip.
We sat under the umbrellas during a brief bout of rain, but it cleared up by the time we finished.