Showing posts with label minestrone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label minestrone. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cucina Casalinga Da Maria: A Gem in Genoa

Italy's greatest port city, Genoa, on the Ligurian Sea, is filled with hundreds of eerie, dark passageways so narrow that it can be difficult for two pedestrians to make it through side by side! Just north of the Piazza di Ferrari in Genoa's Old City, down one of these detective-novel alleys, is a beacon of light--Cucina Casalinga Da Maria. The apt name means "Maria's Home Cooking," and as soon as we walk in, we feel we've entered a neighbor's house.

On the first floor, crates of apples and celery muscle up to a disorganized front bar. The day's menu, written on strips of paper, hangs banner-style from a wood column (specialties change daily). Maria, an elderly woman with cherry-red cheeks smiles at us and points up.

We climb the worn staircase past sacks of potatoes to the top floor. Paper napkins, bowls of bread, and a different flowered cloth dress each of the 12 long tables spread throughout two rooms. Although the dining room is in need of a decorator, we don't mind. We've come to eat. And so we sit.

The food at Cucina Casalinga Da Maria is simple, regional cuisine--delicious and plentiful. For our first course, Kevin chooses Genoa's pride and joy, trenette al pesto, noodles similar to fettucine smothered in a tangy, bright green garlicky basil sauce. He's surprised to find the traditional sliced, boiled potatoes added to this quintessential dish--a wonderful complement with which few trattorie bother.

Follow the map to Maria's kitchen.
To ward against the cold, gloomy Genoan night, I order another Ligurian specialty, minestrone, a rich vegetable soup topped with lots of grated parmigiano cheese. (If you hit the right day, however, make sure to try Maria's zuppe da pesce, a sublime fish soup.)

While we enjoy our house wine--Vaudano, dry and white--and wait for the next course, an elderly sea captain straight out of Moby Dick lumbers up the stairs, wheezing with every step. Twenty years of beer packed inside his uniform leads the way. When he finally reaches the top, he carefully hangs his cap on a wall hook and sits down.

"Hey!" he gruffly calls the waiter in Italian." Any pansotti tonight?" The waiter sticks his head inside the shaft of a dumb waiter and yells down to Maria cooking in the downstairs kitchen. Moments later, we hear the hum of the small elevator and, like magic, a bowl of stuffed pasta bathed in a creamy walnut sauce, arrives at his table.

Soon after, our second course arrives via the antiquated dumb waiter. My cotolette, a thin, breaded veal cutlet lightly fried in butter and served with lemon wedges, is crispy and flavorful. Kevin's arrosto al forno is a large chunk of pork roated with vegetables and served in its own juice. We round out our meal with patate arrosto, a plate of oven-roasted potatoes.

As we exit for the evening, laughing about the captain and praising Da Maria's food and service, the lonely alleys seem a little narrower--or are we a little wider?

Cucina Casalinga Da Maria
Vico Testadoro, 14r
Telephone: +39-010 581 080
Closed Saturday evening and Sunday
Approximate cost of our meal €27