What’s that you say? You don’t like anchovies? Well then, you have never been to the tiny restaurant of Assirto on the Ligurian Coast of Italy. I can’t promise you will walk away loving these tiny fish, but I can promise your opinion will be forever changed.
Words by Amy Davison, Trek Travel Guide
I knew Assirto was special the moment I laid eyes on it. I had to lean in closely and peer through the dusty window pane just to determine that it was indeed a restaurant. As we took a seat, Luca, the owner and chef, pulled up a chair at our table to tell us about the menu.
I grinned inside knowing that this was going to be special. He explained that the primo antipasto was a local specialty, anchovies, caught the night before and bought at the dock this morning. My grin faded. I do not care for anchovies, unless they are mashed into oblivion and used in a way that makes them all but imperceptible to me. But I knew I had to try them.
Luca went on about how these tiny fish were prepared: roasted then dusted with salt and crushed pistachios. He added that we should also try the Serrano ham and fresh roasted almonds.
Not only am I now dreading the anchovies, but I am also thoroughly confused. Why would you serve Serrano ham in an Italian restaurant? Spain is over 1,000 km away. Our chef explained that his menu is Mediterranean, not exclusively Italian. For Luca, Serrano ham was true to the Mediterranean diet, so that is what he serves. This is not something you typically hear from the owner of a restaurant in the heart of the Italian Riviera.
This menu discussion went on for quite awhile, then finally we made our decisions. When the anchovies arrived, I went for it. And they were delicious! Anchovy season only lasts for a few weeks, but we hit it just right. My feelings for those tiny fish are forever changed, and I am not alone. Of course we wanted all of our guests to share in this eye opening experience, so we added anchovies to the set menu. I watched with much delight as many of our guests walked in the door with the same distaste for anchovies and walked out with a more refined palate.
This is only the first dish in the tasting menu we developed with Luca, and I could go on about the rest of the experience, but I don’t want to give away all of the surprises. Instead I will just encourage you to come on our Cinque Terre trip so you may sit in this quirky, rustic ristorante, try Luca’s delectable creations, and listen the stories of how his food connects you to Mediterranean sailors of old.
Just be careful when you rave about this restaurant. He’s not winning any popularity contests amongst the locals.
I mentioned that he serves Spanish ham, right?
EXPERIENCE BIKE TOURS IN ITALY WITH TREK TRAVEL»