I can’t call this location a hotel, nor can I call it a hostel, it’s more than a bed and breakfast, but kind of like an inn. It’s a house with wonderfully decorated and comfortable guest rooms, continental breakfast every morning and wonderful dinners in the evening. It’s a 10 min taxi outside of Levanto and Monterosso (the first of the five cinque terre towns) and a very quiet and peaceful place to stay. The owners are members of the slow food movement, so you must make a reservation for dinner one day in advance. That way when they go to the market to buy all the food, they will buy enough portions for everyone. Our fist night there apparently we had made reservations for dinner ahead of time, or maybe that was the wonderful insight of my mother’s lovely travel agent Julie Brown Kleine. http://www.jbktravel.com Anyway we were seated at the corner table overlooking the wonderful view of a couple of the villages in the mountains surrounding Levanto. The bets table in the house (or I guess outside of the house) for sure. We were told the menu, which could be changed for vegetarian or other dietary needs. First a selection of cheeses, followed by Fusilli pesto (pesto being the specialty of Genova, the capital city of the region), and finally rabbit with pine nuts and olives.
The cheeses were very nice. Two pecorinos (special sheep’s milk cheeses from Italy), one more aged from Tuscany and one younger from Piemonte. The younger of the two was soft and had a clean flavor almost like a more aged cows milk cheese rather than a younger sheep’s milk. It’s not my favorite, but if you like a mild soft cheese, you would like this. The older pecorino had a wonderful mushroom aroma when it was in my mouth. Very evident. It was salty, but not too salty, with a crumbly texture. I really enjoyed the sheep flavor in this one.
The Pesto was very delicate; you could still see the tiny flakes of basil leaves, and they hadn’t been pureed to a pulp. Biting down into the pasta you could still get the feel of the basil leaf between your teeth, I could really tell how fresh the basil was: straight from the plant to the cutting board. The olive oil was also very flavorful and you could get not only the flavor but also the texture of the oil in each bite. And the Parmigiano, oh the parm! It wasn’t a very cheesy pesto; in fact I think the only parm in the dish was added at the end and not even present in the pesto sauce at all. The sauce was light enough that it stuck between all the spirals in the fusilli. Yummy.
Then we had the rabbit, cut into bite-sized pieces with pinoli (pine nuts) and olives. The pinoli were very fresh and clean; they really are one of my favorite nuts, but you have to eat them relatively fresh, which is much easier to do in Italy duh. I have always liked the tasty rabbit meat; it is a very flavorful white meat like turkey and pork. The slightly fattier pieces are much more flavorful, of course. The fat of the pinoli, the rabbit and the olives and olive oil blended very nicely and created a creamy sort of feeling in the mouth.
For dessert we had a “ravioli’ biscuit filled with some kind of fruit compote and a glass of zabaione liquor. Zabaione is a mix of egg yolk and Marsala wine, which is surprisingly tasty. And the biscuit was perfect to go along with the zabaione, crumby, soft, not too sweet, and molto delicato. The zabaione is very strong, but wonderful. It was creamy, but with a great big liquor bite. It does taste a bit yolky, but in a nice thick way, it almost coated my mouth. You cant leave it on your tongue or in your mouth too long or you will get a bit overwhelmed by the bite. It was a very nice and different taste, worth a try for sure. Gustatelo!
La Sosta di Ottone III