Monday, October 20, 2008

Learning to Love La Spezia: La Pia & Farinata

We all need a little “comfort” food now and then. My favorite is a typical Ligurian dish called Farinata. And the best place to have it (along with a slice or two of the famous thick crust pizza is La Pia.

Opened in 1887 (no that is not a typo), La Pia has been serving the same basic menu of farinata, focaccia di castagnaccio and pizza in the same old brick building for more than hundreds years. Signore Pia opened his establishment to provide “cibo per i poveri”: food for the poor which in those days referred to manual labor workers, artists and sailors. It is said there was always a line out the door during the lunch hour, and that hasn’t seem to change much over the last century! La Pia is still packed all day long. If you are on the go, you can just grab a slice in the “forno” (oven room) or if you want a complete dining experience, you can still in the old dining hall sharing tables with locals. The place is a gold mine and rightfully so!

Farinata is a thin, pizza-like pancake from La Spezia. It is made by stirring chickpea flour into a mixture of water and olive oil to form a loose batter which sits over night before baking it in the oven. It sounds so simple but the magic is really in the oven, in which farinata can only really be perfected in a wood burning one, just like those for good pizza. It should be crisp and golden on the top, soft and moist on the inside, with a hint of olive oil. Farinata may be seasoned with fresh rosemary, pepper and sea salt or topped with onions and cheese, but it is best eaten plain, right out of the oven.
If you are ever in La Spezia, you should not pass up this finger lickin’ delicious dish made at the best place in town.

La Pia
Via Magneta 12
La Spezia


Anne in Oxfordshire said...

It looks yummy! I could eat that right now..:-)

AmyEmilia said...

La farinata is my husband's absolute favorite food of all time. When we visit Carrara (just down the coast) he eats himself sick on the stuff. We have tried and tried to make it at home but you are right - the secret must be in the oven. So far we have not truly replicated it here in Houston.

Thanks for the recommendation for this shop. We will certainly visit there the next time we are in Italy. Right now that looks like either April or November 2010.

Anonymous said...

That sounds...delicious. I love me some chickpeas, and now I feel compelled to try making my own farinata.

I love old humble restaurants--here in New Haven CT the husband and I are lucky enough to live around the corner from a tavern built in 1898, and makes the best buffalo wings in the state to boot. If only their wine selection was more like you find in Italy...