What is the one thing tourists love to do when they visit Italy?
Without any scientific research behind this statement, I can guarantee you that “eating delicious food” will make it into the top three of everyone’s list of things to do in Italy!
And thankfully this country does not disappoint!
The only problem is finding delicious, authentic, reasonably priced food among the tourist traps, which isn’t easy when you’re hungry and only have limited time to explore. It’s hard to visit a tourist heavy area like the Cinque Terre and not get caught in a trap, which is why I wanted to dedicate this post to some the BEST, most delicious and authentic meals I ate during our stay in Levanto.
Levanto for Foodies
Think of this post as a virtual food tour of Levanto, a day of eating for those seeking a culinary experience only to be matched by the city’s spectacular surroundings.
Breakfast – The Pasticceria Bianchi
Breakfast time. We’re still waking up, a little groggy and pretty hungry. From the open window in our Hotel in Levanto we catch a whiff of something yummy in the air and follow its direction. The sweet smell of freshly baked Brioche lead us across the street to the Pasticceria Bianchi. It is 8 am and the lineup for cappuccini and “paste” (another term for pastries) has already started!
The Pasticceria Bianchi is a favorite among locals like Silvia Moggia, who blogs at Silvia’s Trips and has a real passion for the history of her city. It kind of blows my mind to put a city like Levanto in a historical context. If you think about it, Levanto was at the centre of one of Italy’s greatest Maritime Republics, before Italy became Italy, the Republic of Genoa, with its control over Liguria, Piedmont, Sardinia, Corsica, Nice and the entire Tyrrhenian Sea for 800 years!
In fact Silvia mentioned that this exact building was used as a public hostel during that time, so if people and Marines docked in the city after dark they would have to stay in the Hostel until morning because no one was allowed into Levanto during the night. They even found paintings from these Hostel stayers on the side of this building dating back to that period, almost like graffiti that is a few hundred years old…why not think about that while enjoying your cappuccino!
The building and its beautiful interior were almost as impressive as the pastries they served. Owner Signora Tea recommends you taste “Canestrelli”, delicate flower shaped cookies that are covered in powdered sugar, a typical Levanto delight.
If you chat with Sig.ra Tea think about the fact that it was her family that opened the Pasticceria Bianchi in 1889 and it is still going strong and family owned! In fact, many of the items still in use are originals such as one of the mirrored wall panels dating back to 1914! As nice as it is to have breakfast outside I urge you to enjoy your “colazione” inside and take a step back in time while you soak in the turn of the century chairs, the original floor tiles, the wrought iron window panes along with your “Bombolone alla Crema”, a yummy cream filled donut!
Via Vinzoni, 33, 19015 Levanto, Italia +39 0187 808183 Found on Tripadvisor
Lunch – Focacceria Domè
Don’t expect table service in this Italian fast food spot. What you see is what you get so be prepared with cash in hand when you finally get to order and SAVE A SPOT outside on the patio if there is any free space because it WILL FILL UP! I’ve had a lot of Focaccia in Italy over the last 8 years and nothing was tastier than this!
Prepared in a variety of ways, my favorite was with traditional Pesto Genovese on top, but also with fresh Stracchino cheese and pesto (to die for!). Family run since 1989 you’ll find the owner’s son in the back kneading out dough and throwing huge pans of focaccia in the oven, even on the hottest summer day. NOTHING is prepared in advance, frozen and reheated, but instead served as soon as it comes out of the oven, piping hot and fresh.
Be aware of the price of soft drinks in Italy as they are pretty expensive (sometimes 3 euro for a can!), use that money on another slice of Focaccia instead because you’ll want to taste them all. Located on Levanto’s main street the Via Dante Alighieri, this is a great place for an authentic, fast and cheap lunch, located 5 minutes away from Levanto’s public beach, private beach and massive public pool on the seafront.
Focacceria DomèVia Dante Alighieri, 18, 19015 Levanto, Italia – 0187 801470 Also found on Tripadvisor
Shopping and MUST DO Experience – Il Laboratorio Del Pesto
I cannot stress enough that you should NOT miss out on the Laboratorio del Pesto in Levanto owned by Luigina Peselli. Not just any ordinary shop owner, Signora Luigina is a Knight of Real Genoa Pesto, a “Cavaliere del Vero Pesto Genovese” as deemed by the Order of the Confraternity of Pesto – ORDINE DEI CAVALIERI DELLA CONFRATERNITA DEL PESTO. Pesto is her life and she takes it very seriously. In fact she is obliged to uphold and produce the authentic recipe for pesto Genovese and pass this on.
Thankfully for us she has workshops with her multi-lingual daughter daily for tourists and groups alike. During this “tasting”/”cooking” class, she will not only explain the importance and significance behind all of the ingredients used to make traditional Genovese pesto but will also make it right in front of you.
This is a very hands on experience which I would recommend to anyone visiting Levanto and to families with teens. After the explanation on the key ingredients and quantities you’ll see her strong arms in action as she uses ONLY a mortar and pestle (no blender!!) to make the traditional, creamy, garlicky pesto and then you get to taste it! If you are up for it, you’ll have the opportunity to make your own from scratch while enjoying some local wines and olive oils.
Signora Luigina is incredibly knowledgeable of all of Levanto’s traditional dishes and it was so fascinating to learn the stories behind the shape of the Trofie pasta, created because the kitchen maids would clean their hands with flour while making pasta for the Lady of the house. Each time they rubbed their hands to clean them of the dough, the pieces that would gather on the table were then swept into secret cloths, tucked into their aprons and brought home, prepared with pesto, potatoes and green beans!
Unfortunately real Pesto Genovese is next to impossible to recreate outside of the Liguria area of Italy because the most important ingredient are the actual basil leaves. Notably different from the large leafed basil found in most grocery stores, Basilico Genovese DOP is a protected plant because it MUST come from a specific geographic area or it will not have all of the optimal characteristics that make it so special. Incredibly fragrant and delicate, most people don’t realize that in order to make pesto the WHOLE PLANT must be picked not just the leaves!
This basil is also the reason why Genovese pesto does not turn black while pressing it with a mortar and pestle but stays a very vibrant green. Don’t let this discourage you! Luigina’s sells her authentic pesto online and ships almost everywhere in the world!!
She has also offered a huge gift basket as a giveaway for my blog readers containing specialty products from her store including pesto, trofie, plives and anchovies and valued at $112. Please feel free to enter the giveaway below and read all of the products included, or visit the GIVEAWAY page on the blog for a full list of products!
In her store you can also find fresh Testaroli, a Slow Food Presidium pasta that is sold as a large circle, but cooked in boiling water after it is cut into smaller pieces. Don’t be afraid to do a little shopping for yourself or as gifts without the worry of carrying it all back in your luggage. They are well informed in delivering their goods internationally and can arrange for a delivery after you arrive home, or you can shop directly with them online.
Please note that their workshop and tasting MUST be booked in advance for a minimum number of participants by calling 0187 807441 or 0187 1581709 AND is located in their 2nd store location at Corso Italia 16!
Il Laboratorio del Pesto
Via Dante Alighieri, 16, 19015 Levanto, Italia – 0187 807441
2nd Location in Levanto : La Nicchia Pest…ifera – found at Corso Italia 16 (see map below – this is where the workshops are held)
Ice Cream – L’Altro Gelato
Now, if you are arriving in Levanto by train this may not be the first ice cream spot that you see. In fact, there is another main spot serving up gelato for locals and tourists just along the underpass when you first enter the city’s centre and I suggest that you NOT GO THERE! It is a bit of a tourist trap.
Instead walk along the Via Dante Alighieri until you see a large park on your right (with the Sea at your back), then you will find L’Altro Gelateria, which literally means “the OTHER ice cream shop” and it is GOOD. Very good. I would even say EXCELLENT! Sit on their quaint benches while you taste their artisinally made ice cream, crepes and fruit smoothies or make your way to the park benches just beside.
Their “Gusto del Giorno” – “Taste of the Day” made with fresh seasonal ingredients was so yummy or even their staples like “Crema Limone 5 Terre” – Lemon Cream made with fresh local lemons picked in the 5 Terre! Need I say more?
L’Altro GelateriaPiazza Staglieno 25, 19015 Levanto, Italia +39 346 849 2137 Also found on Tripadvisor
Dinner – Osteria Tumelin
A few steps below street level in the “Casa Capitanato” building from the 13th Century you’ll find the Osteria Tumelin, a Levanto institution since 1970! 40 Years of success for a restaurant which serves traditional dishes and fresh fish excellently prepared.
I consider myself a bit of a seafood snob.
I’ve been spoilt by living in Italy and I cannot stand rubbery, over cooked, over salted or uncleaned fish and the Osteria Tumelin exceeded all of my expectations.
If you love seafood gratin may I suggest the Hot and Cold seafood appetizer that can only be ordered for a minimum of two people. IT WAS WORTH EVERY EURO, and was practically my meal. A very satisfying starter, it included many local specialties like stuffed anchovies and Capesante, a large delicious scallop.
Leave room for the trofie al pesto and of course dessert! Book in advance if you plan on going and let them know if you want to be out on the patio or inside.
Via D. Grillo 32 – 19015 – Levanto (SP) 0187.808379 Email: email@example.com
And after dinner when you are STUFFED from a day of eating delicious food, enjoy a lovely walk along the shore or through the centre of Levanto to help you digest.
I hope that this food tour of Levanto will help someone to plan a trip, if you need help finding things to do or a hotel feel free to visit the new Tourism website VisitLevanto.it . A special thanks to them for inviting me and my family to come to Levanto and experience this city first hand. All of the places mentioned in this post were found without advice or suggestions, just good old fashion trial and error and a lot of chatting with locals to figure out where their favorite spots were!
Don’t forget to enter the great International giveaway offered by Il Laboratorio del Pesto for a basket containing many of their specialty products!
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