You can’t really come to Genoa and not try the famous trofie pasta with pesto. Working my way through google trying to find a place that boasted the authentic version of this dish wasn’t easy. In amongst the heaps of places offering their take on pasta and green pesto stood Il Genovese, a favourite in the city and right by the Oriental Market.
Il Genovese have a very loyal following and trying to find a method to contact the restaurant in the hope of securing a reservation was becoming tricky. I found the best way was to follow the restaurant on Facebook and simply Facebook message them – very 21st century. Reservation in the bag I began to look forward to rubbing shoulders with the locals and munching on some classic Italian food.
The restaurant happens to be equidistant between Genoa Brignole station and De Ferrari. Whichever way you come it’s hard not to be taken in by the city’s beauty and history on the walk down. We arrived a little early for the 1pm lunch booking so decided to have a wander around the Oriental Market, so called because the market sits in the east of the city. Don’t bank on buying pak choi or fresh shiitake at this place.
The market is honestly among the better that we have visited in Italy. Huge bunches of the deepest-green basil are everywhere, not like the light green stuff we get over here in the U.K. Vast ranges of meat, cheese and the usual fruit and veg range are all here but where things really get interesting is the array of seafood. With Genoa being a port city there is an abundance of fresh fish and shellfish daily, all of it looked inviting.
Starving after our wander around the market we made our way across the street to the restaurant. Quite an unassuming entrance means that the building kind of blends in with it’s neighbouring businesses and once inside the decor hints at family run trattoria. The staff were pleasant and spoke very good English. Even though our reservation wasn’t showing up or had been mis-spelled they seated us without issue.
Don’t expect any frills here. Two tumbler glasses, one small one medium are for your water and wine. Bread is by way of a brown paper bag and don’t think they will be changing your cutlery between courses (that’s not of course to say that you will be eating your dessert with a knife and fork). The English menu provided is a big help as always and contained some very tasty sounding dishes. We opted for a Fritto Misto – fried courgette flowers, cheese, tripe, potatoes and savoury doughnuts – to begin with at €8 (£7.32). Trofie with pesto at for mains along with gnocchi also with pesto both at €9.50 (£8.70).
Within half an hour of sitting down the restaurant was packed. People in their reviews really weren’t joking about the popularity of this place. A large party of Italians out to lunch plus tables around us of businessmen really made for a noisy atmosphere but an interesting experience being surrounded by locals.
The Fritto Misto arrived for us to share – figuring that one each might just finish us before we had even got started. The courgette flowers were superb and the batter on each item was light. Who doesn’t love fried cheese? Also a shout out to the savoury doughnut’s which were very good indeed. As it turned out we were one of the lucky ones – many tables were experiencing delays in getting their starters mainly due to the restaurant being so busy so quickly. My advice would definitely be to arrive early.
A break before the main courses was greatly appreciated. Giving us time to people-watch and figure out which dishes were the most popular. To my left i could see the serving hatch which was a hive of activity between the kitchen and the dining room. Many of the locals opted for the pesto dishes, incidentally the trofie which would head my way later. Also a special dish of rabbit orecchiette pasta was going down well.
Our main courses landed on the table looking very green. Simplicity is an Italian philosophy when it comes to food and it doesn’t get much simpler than this. Decent home made pasta and gnocchi in a freshly made vibrant green sauce with grated parmesan to sprinkle over. The trofie was insanely good, like little slithers of pasta coated in pesto with a huge flavour of basil, rich in flavour but light in texture. Outstanding and probably one of the freshest plates of food of the entire trip.
The gnocchi were well made, light and superb in texture. A taste of real Italy. To our right the Italian businessmen also nodded in agreement that their dishes – a replica of our order- were equally as good. Ligurian food really doesn’t get talked about enough for me, many people choosing to favour bolognese (or ragu to give the official title) and of course pizza further south.
A shop selling tempting cakes just a few doors down from Il Genovese had caught our eye on the way down so with that in mind we decided to get the bill. A final total of €35 (£32) inclusive of ‘coperto’ or ‘cover’ charge for the bread seemed a pretty fair deal for two of us given the quality of food.
It isn’t fine dining, nor should it be. Il Genovese is how restaurants have been run in this part of the world for years (apart from maybe Facebook reservations). Simple arrangements, no frills and just good food that’s stood the test of time. It’s the food you come to Genoa to try. The kind of food you want to be good but end up being blown away by. It’s very very good.
Opening times: Monday-Saturday 1200-1430, 1900-2230
Nearest train station: Brignole