Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

RESTAURANT: Ripa del Sole, Riomaggiore, Italy

Day 2 in Cinque Terre was a hot one. We decided to try out the beach. Monterosso is the only village that has a true beach, with sand and everything. Most of the beach is privately owned with only a few small spots for the public. This means that if you want to enjoy one of the shady umbrellas and lounge chairs, you're going to cough up 20 euros per day to do it. With the intense sun beating down, it's worth it.


The water is incredibly warm and salty, so it's easy to float. The beaches are crowded but not too many people swim out past the surf line so you can swim out a little ways and just relax in the water and it's incredibly peaceful.


For lunch, we hit up the little bar/restaurant attached to our beach, which was called "Eden." They also had a little gelato stand, which we hit up twice and I think it was the best one. For lunch I had a prosciutto and melon salad:


Look at that! Could you just die? Melons were in season so this salad was on special everywhere and each of us had it more than once. This was the best one I had, though. I managed to make an ass out of myself already by using the wrong word to ask for the check, but the waiter was a total professional and managed to correct me without making me feel like a jerk, which was nice.

I felt better later when my mom tried speaking to the train station clerk in Spanish. Because, hey, any foreign language will do, right? Travelling always makes me feel guilty for not really knowing other languages. I basically know enough to understand somewhere between 10-50% of a conversation in some languages and to ask for the basics but that's it. It seems like everyone in Europe knows at least two languages well.

After our siesta, we took the train to the village of Manarola and then did the hike between Manarola and Riomaggiore. This is the easiest of the hikes and is known as the "Via dell'Amore." It's more of a stroll than a hike, but in that heat it still felt like work. There are some amazing murals in the latter part and plaques along the way that we couldn't quite explain except to figure out that they had the Italian names of the characters of the Iliad and the Odyssey on them. And in the middle, there was the most fabulous thing you can have in the middle of a hiking trail: a bar. We sat and had some nuts and drinks and watched the sun descend over the sea. I had a prosecco and J. had a limoncino, "We Are the World" played on the radio. It was awesome.



At Riomaggiore we stopped to have a drink at Bar Centrale, which is owned by Ivo, who used to live in San Francisco for a time and still plays "San Francisco rock" in his bar. I don't know about San Francisco, but I definitely heard Smashmouth and Gnarls Barkley, so we had some American friendly music. J. and I ordered mojitos because the mint is grown fresh at the bar and plucked only moments before meeting it's demise in your drink. Needless to say they rezlly hit the spot. We even got chips and salsa as snacks. The salsa was a bit odd tasting, but not bad.



After that, we made our way up to a restaurant I had heard about on eGullet, as being recommended by the Slow Food people: Ripa del Sole. When I say we made our way up, I really mean UP ... and up, and up ... and up some more. The restaurant was at the top of town, but completely worth the hike. Most of the diners opt to sit on the lovely front terrace which is dramatically lit by open flames coming straight out of the top of the surrounding wall. The terrace commands a view of the town and sea, and it was a fine place to sit for exhausted and heat-worn travelers.

Here is a picture of my mom with the top part of the view behind her. You can see how we are at the top of a church steeple:


Along with a nice bottle of Primitivo, we ordered a bottle of sparkling water. It was the most dramatic bubbling I have ever seen in a mineral water. I tried to take a picture of it using all of my most active camera settings, but couldn't really capture the amazing effervescence of this water:


I ordered a fresh sea bass with olives and potatoes. I was kind of pleased to see that mine was filleted for me. I'm kind of a lazy eater and don't like to do work. Sea bass is my favorite kind of fish and although this did not quite surpass my best branzino ever from Angelini Osteria, it held it's own. You could taste that it was fresh from the sea and the simple preparation made the flavors of the fish really stand out.


J. got this whole fish with potatoes, olives and tomatoes:


J. and I finished off the evening with glasses of sciacchetra, which is a local dessert wine of the Cinque Terre. Sciacchetra is similar to a port, being very sweet and raisin-y. It's made by drying grapes to concentrate the sugars and then pressing and fermenting. The wine improves with age but is nice even in its cheaper incarnations.

The terrace remained full all during the dinner, and I heard both Italian and English being spoken. It seemed a mixture of locals and tourists. As was the case throughout our trip the dinner was a great deal. I don't know how much it was, but I believe it was 100-something euros for a bottle wine, four salads, four entrees and two dessert wines. Not too shabby.

We then made our way back down the hill throught the village, pausing to get some gelato and then caught our train back home to crash, exhausted from all of the adventures of the day.

2 comments:

WOW! That salad just pops right off the plate. I love how often the simplest things are absolutely the best.

said by Acme Instant Food at 5:50 PM Delete

I know! I think this was my favorite food picture of the trip ... the colors are so amazing ... my mojito picture was actually good too ... maybe when I get home I'll add it.

said by KT at 5:56 PM Delete

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