Genoa is heaven for food-focused travellers. The birthplace of pesto, it’s also a seafood hub, with menus from street-corner trattorias to Michelin-star dining rooms showcasing the region’s top-quality produce.
It’s not exactly surprising that you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to food in Genoa, Italy’s biggest port city. And equally unsurprising is that this former maritime superpower does a very good line in seafood. But there’s more to this gateway to the Italian Riviera. Genoa is not only the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, but of pesto, made with regional pine nuts crushed together with fragrant olive oil, garlic, sweet basil leaves and a mixture of pecorino and parmesan cheese. Here’s where to try it, and many more specialties besides, whether in fine-dining restaurants or rustic osterias.
In the centre of Genoa, a few steps from the historic Via Garibaldi, this restaurant’s focus on seasonality, regionality and commitment to the freshest flavours shines through. Consisting of several small and pretty dining spaces on different levels, lending the modern fare an intimate setting, the emphasis is again on freshly hauled fish and seafood. However, locals also flock here for any of the truffle or mushroom-based dishes that may (or may not) be on the ever-changing menu.
Literally meaning crushed salt (salt being in plentiful supply in Genoa), this gorgeous building was once a salt market during the ancient republic of Genoa, which then expanded to sell bread and wine, too. This is now a landmark trattoria, which serves Genoese classics such as seppie con piselli (cuttlefish with peas) and is famous for its Genoese farinata (chickpea flour flatbread), served in antique pans. Make sure you try the addictive, creamy pesto, too.
Another legendary local trattoria, this buzzy place is full of intimate nooks and crannies for tucking into all the local specialties, such as pesto and salt cod. But the atmosphere has an allure and charm that set it apart from other nearby offerings. In a side street off the Piazza de Ferrari in central Genoa, it’s very popular with local diners, so you should book ahead for an evening sitting.
This relative newcomer has bright and modern decor with a trendy, high-end feel, yet just enough rustic, Genoese chaos to lend it an air of authenticity. The dishes range from traditional Genoese fare done really well to adventurous new flavours, always following seasonality and, wherever possible, a preference towards using organic ingredients. The bucatini al pepe (pasta with freshly ground black pepper) is simple and delightful, and just try not to order seconds on their pavlova desserts.
At this Michelin-star restaurant, you and your credit card can indulge in both refined gourmet dishes, tasting menus, finger food and a much-recommended long aperitivo (a favourite Italian pastime). With head chef Ivano Ricchebono at the helm, the beautiful surroundings of an old Doria palace make the perfect backdrop for the exquisite food and service, with the duck and pine nut tortellini being particularly memorable.
Genoa hasn’t much bought into the industrial, edgy vibes characterising hipster spots in Hackney or Berlin. But this lively restaurant close to the Piazza Dante manages to draw in some of that urban chic with Genoa’s more traditional glamour. Generous portions and friendly staff put you at ease as you munch your way through an innovative menu. Just this once, we say ignore the seafood and go for the steak, followed by a cheeky tiramisu.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Olga Lenczewska.
Looking for more inspiration? We’ve narrowed down the best hotels for every traveller so you can confidently book your next stay on Culture Trip. Discover the top things to see and do in Genoa before enjoying a refreshing drink at one of the best bars the city has to offer.
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