Si Mangia Bene e Costa Poco
“Eat well and it doesn’t costs much.”
A sentence that used to be used much more than it is now in Italy. In fact, a part from the occasional pizza outing (which to me, never feels like an actual eating event) I had kind of forgotten about it. Until this past week. While working in Genova, I remembered someone mentioning to me a great little trattoria where you should forget any thoughts of style and ambience and concentrate on the food. Sounded good to me.
Upon a small “vicolo” off Via XXV aprile, I found “da Maria”. Upon entering, I was clearly the only “stanieri” and even more so, the only female blond AND eating alone. The place was filled with a mixture mostly of working people, from the simple operai to the elegant man in an Armani suit. The place is literally a “hole in the wall” - cavernous with lime green painted walls and florescent lights, sounds lovely huh?
I was “shoo-ed” up the stairs to a table with 5 men who all smiled at me with a total of maybe 10 teeth (between all of them). I smiled back, said “buongiorno” and then took my seat next to the dumb waiter shoot in which the waitresses seemed to be constantly yelling into (the cook’s name was definitely “Robby”). One of the waitresses handed my an almost illegible menu (a combination of the script and Genovese dialect) and immediately asked “Cosa vuoi”? I hadn’t gotten passed translating the first dish on the antipasto section. She wasn’t going to wait though, so I quickly eyed the word pest and thought “when in Rome” and ordered it.
My pesto plate arrived within 5 minutes (I was already thinking doesn’t it take longer for the past to cook?). A thick mound of green, just about the same color as the walls, on top of a bountiful supply of trenette. Honestly it didn’t not look like pesto I was used to but rather thick like peanut butter. I realized the entire table of toothless men were staring at me so I started swirling the pesto into the pasta. “Buon appetito” they said in unison. I said it back and then got back to my somewhat strange pesto. But as I swirled, the pesto seems to melt into the trenette and suddenly it looked absolutely delectable. I took a bit and there it was. Perfect pesto. Living in Liguria for the past 6 years, I have become a quasi-consessieur, or so I like to believe, but this was without a doubt the most tasteful and un-oily pesto I have ever eaten. Had the waitress not whisked my plate away upon setting down my fork, I might have tried to lick the plate!
Again “cosa vuoi” for my second plate came before I even got a chance to see the menu again, so I had no clue what there was. I had seen a plate of acciuge ripieni (stuffed anchovies) pass me by, so I went for it. Again, less than five minutes and this glorious plate was placed in front of me. And again, I was introduced to a whole other world of anchovies. While the restaurants of Le Cinque Terre may claim to have the best anchovies and make the best anchovy dishes, they could take lesson or two from “Robby” down the dumb-waiter shoot. These were divine! (Oh, and the toothless men stared at me in approval as I devour ever last morsel.)
I was tempted to try the house dessert, not knowing what the heck it even was, but I was full and more the satisfied. I decided not to ruin this gastronomic moment by becoming "troppo sazia” and settled on a caffè (which was also good).
Following suit from the others, I headed downstairs to pay my bill by the verbal honor system they had (nothing written and you just tell them what you ate):
1 primo (the pasta with pesto)
1 secondo (the anchovies)
A quartino of wine
I cannot remember the last time I ate in a restaurant for 10 euro (don’t even know if I ever have) and a phenomenal meal at that.
Si Mangia Bene e Costa Poco really does exist still!
Trattoria da Maria
Vico Testadoro 14r (off Via XXV Aprile)
no reservations taken for groups under 15
Open for lunch Monday-Saturday and
dinner on Thursday and Friday