Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

RESTAURANT: Enoteca Internazionale & Restaurant "Miki," Monterosso al Mare, Italy

The third day in Cinque Terre was once again a scorcher. We explored our own village that day, walking up into the hills to see the monastery, church, cemetary and sanctuary. We were able to view our village and the ocean view from on high. This is a little viewpoint terrace with a statue of St. Francis with a wolf that overlooks the harbor:

According to my travel guide, there were two groups of monks in Monterosso. The black brothers and the white brothers--the "neri" and "bianchi" fraternities. The black brothers were in charge of dealing with all things morbid--shipwrecks, widows, funerals, etc. Down in the village you can see each fraternity's separate oratory. The black one is decorated with art that depicts the theme of death. I love that--it sounds like something out of some epic fantasy novel. The convent of the monks is a nice peaceful place on the hill and supposedly has a painting of the Crucifix by Van Dyck, but I did not go inside because I was not dressed appropriately.

At the top of the hill there was also the cemetary. The cemetary was a veritable city/maze of crypts with a mausoleum and only a few actual graves of the type we think of. Most of the small crypts had pictures of the dead person on them, and some of the family crypts were quite elaborate. I LOVE cemetaries, so I could have wandered in this one for hours. But I was with other people, so I didn't, although I did sneak in for a few minutes. I found this:

I so want to know that guy's story. Like, was he in the mafia? Why does it say La Famiglia, but with no family name? Why does he have a skull on his grave? What's with the crazy crossbone crosses (skull and cross-crosses?). Was he like a church pirate?

According to internet sources the skull and crossbones symbolism on a grave may represent Christian symbolism: "The familiar skull and crossbones sign has long been used to warn the unwary of poison and other dangers which, if ignored, could lead to death. It was also a favorite symbol on Christian graves to show a joyous liberation from the flesh and to serve as a warning to sinners of the vanity and brevity of earthly life." Or it may be a sign of a Freemason.

Curioser and curioser.

After returning from our hike and having our afternoon siesta, we made the first of what would become daily stops at the wine bar, Enoteca Internazionale.

Enoteca Internazionale is the oldest wine bar in the Cinque Terre and is family run. It's a shop that sells local foods, local wines, non-local wines, and liquors. They have a crazy assortment of scotch and rum--including Havana Club, not available in the United States (at least, not yet--the trademark having just expired and after a long legal battle with the Cuban govt., Bacardi is relaunching the brand in the US). Along the top shelf they have lots of "not for sale" bottles of rare wines and spirits that make you go "oooh."

Outside is a lovely patio where you can sit and drink wine and have some snacks. It became J.'s and my daily ritual to come down here and play cards and have some wine before dinner.

It was here that we sampled several of the local wines from Monterosso, including a white that was almost orange. My thing was to start out with a prosecco and then move on to whatever wines listed I had not tried. On the last day I got a sciacchetra, which was served with some small biscotti for dunking. I have to love a place where you can dunk in your wine and it's not tres gauche.

We would also get one snack ... just to absorb the alcohol so we didn't get all drunk before dinner. The first night we got an assortment of salumi and cheeses:

Other snacks I had here were a bruschetta topped with olive paste instead of tomatoes and basil, and a salad of bresaola, rucola and parmesan. This was a typical salad for this time of year (in Germany we even had a pizza with these toppings!). I'm going to remember it, because it was delicious and would be very easy to recreate.

There was a pasta shop next door, and every evening just before closing, a little gatto would appear and hang around the door, waiting until eventually one of the pasta shop guys would come out and bring him some fish:

For dinner that night, we ate at Restaurant "Miki." This was without a doubt a tourist place. It was in the new town and was packed and I heard a bit of English being spoken. That did not stop it from being good, however.

I ordered prawns in a white wine sauce and was not sorry. They came to the table in a sizzling pan and were served to me tableside. They were awesome , like little lobsters and they sucked the flavor of the sauce right up, so it was buttery with that "cooked in alcohol" flavor that makes foods so delicious.

J. got a swordfish steak in the typical local preparation of tomatoes and olives. It was solid and hearty and looked delicious, and much healthier than a beek steak.

For dessert, J. got a lemon tart that was beautiful and according to him, fabulous and I got a peach sorbet, which was nothing like any sorbet I have ever had but was instead a huge goblet of chopped fresh peaches in a soup of what seemed like melted ice cream. I like anything with fresh fruit, especially peaches so I loved it.

Our waiter was awesome, by the way. He would ask you a question, like "would you like to see the dessert menu?" And if you hesitated at all, he would smile, knowing that you want to ... but think you shouldn't, and say "I bring it."

Also the bathroom was awesome. Every time someone stood up from the toilet, it would spray a "sanitizing vapor." Also, many of the sinks in Italy were operated by footpedal rather than faucets. This is the best invention. I like it better than the motion sensor because you can still control temperature and flow without having to touch anything. Genius.

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Sweet pictures and wonderful post! What kind of camera do you use?

said by Garrett at 7:12 PM Delete

Thank you! I use a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01. It has a Leica lens, all kinds of user friendly settings and two anti-shake settings.

I am a total photography amateur and not all of my pictures come out well, but sometimes I am amazed at how well I can do without even trying hard.

said by KT at 7:37 PM Delete

Okay, your pictures are making me jealous. Glad you had a fabulous trip.

said by Arianne at 10:03 AM Delete

Thank you!

Now that I am back in L.A., my own pictures are making *me* jealous!

said by KT at 12:12 PM Delete

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