Recent late-night photo editing of last year’s travels has seized me with what I’d like to call Gastro-nostalgia: that wistful recollection of a wholly satisfying meal, made memorable by a combination of serendipity and good food. You know, one of those rare occasions that Murphy actually allows the planets to align for once, and everything happens to slip into place quietly. As with all things, there are hits and misses, and I’m grateful enough to acknowledge that I’ve gotten more than a handful of such instances throughout the time I was traipsing all over Europe.
I still can’t believe that Rosmarino Trattoria in Genoa, the capital of Liguria, actually happened, that – wonder of wonders – Antipasti, Primi, Secondi, Dolci, and Vini could all be offered at fixed prices, and at such unbeatable quality that you’d want to slap yourself awake because surely that must be a dream.
All antipasti are 8€ (which translates to about S$12), and the octopus starter we picked was unimaginably delicious with its mound of fresh grilled octopus on a bed of vibrant green beans and doused with what tasted like the essence of spring tomatoes. Italian spring tomatoes. Also, finding octopus so springy it snaps cleanly with every bite is extraordinary – to me at least. Octopus done well has an incomparable power to convert food conservatives, and it comes in second only to the power of wickedly-good falafel to make anyone forget the existence of meat.
Also, again, 8€?!
Give me all the antipasti.
Hold on to your seat.
The Primi are all 9€ each.
The Fettucine nere con Ragu di polpo was a faultless combination of al dente dual-coloured fettucine (how does one make even make that?) and a lavish amount of chunky octopus ragout. Everything was flavourful and savoury, and served as a full one-personed portion – the kind of one-personed portion we all used to know and love before the small-food-big-plates movement began and we started crying foul.
Genova is famed for being the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, and more importantly, for pesto. Basil, pinenuts, parmesan, olive oil, and garlic have never tasted like fireworks in the mouth as they have in Genoa. My camera does not do justice to the shade of green this dish came in. There’s something in the soils in and around Genoa that they’re growing the basil in, something that works magic with the Meditteranean climate.
This Picagge al pesto is the prototypical pasta dish that all other pasta dishes should aspire to be. Al dente pasta tossed in a robust and incredibly aromatic sauce, and finished with a shower of parmigiano-reggiano. Its simplicity was astounding, as was the taste. The basil was surprisingly floral.
Seafood Secondi are all 14€, while meats are 13€. That works out to be around S$22. We got the Variazione di tonno, a dish of twin slabs of tuna done two ways: one wrapped in pancetta and seared, and one encrusted in a crisp layer of sesame seeds and drizzled with sweet balsamic glaze. Both were excellent in their own right, the pancetta one being delightfully salty and flaky, but the rockstar to me was the beautifully crusted sesame tuna.
It was crunchy, nutty, sweet, and tender, and I could only thank my lucky stars that Genoa is a seaport city with an abundance of seafood, because two thick slices of tuna expertly prepared this way seems inconceivable and is a very, very precious find.
By this point, we were pretty far gone and moony with how spectacularly the meal had gone that I all but declared that we should have a second Secondi for the heck of it. Admittedly, it could have been the wine talking (3€ per glass), but everything so far had been spot on, and the usual gamble of choosing from an unfamiliar menu seemed wildly skewed in our favour. Surely I’m allowed to indulge.
The plate of fried calamari and shrimp was, as expected, fresh and crisp and utterly delicious.
The Dolci are 5€ each, and we picked the Tiramisu, which couldn’t possibly go wrong with its espresso-soaked sponge, mascarpone and a tumble of chocolate crumble.
I’ll be hard-pressed to find another meal as perfect (and I dare say it was) as this, not even at a Michelin-starred restaurant. The glass of wine we had each was of decent quality as well. It’s moments like these that serve as a timely reminder that hole-in-the-walls do exist, and can knock you off your feet when least expected to. Rosmarino Trattoria changes the items on its menu frequently, the servers speak English and readily give recommendations and advice. It’s a stone’s throw from the Piazza di Ferrari, a classy restaurant with tasteful decor squirreled away in a darkened alley, hidden from anyone who isn’t seeking it. It’s always safer to make reservations, especially for dinner. We didn’t, and probably only got to dine there because the Italians usually have dinner late and we were early.
If Genoa wasn’t all the way in Italy, I’d easily be a religiously loyal customer and the chef, by default, would be my best friend.
Address: Salita del Fondaco 30, Genoa, Italy