“What should I eat here tonight?”
The increased tourist interest in the area of La Spezia has made this question more and more frequent.
Faced with tourists’ questions (asking questions like: “What can we eat? How is the typical food in La Spezia?”), locals often need help to reply. This is because they wonder whether the non-locals will understand the simple yet so tasteful local cuisine.
Leaving aside the pesto pasta, which usually meets everyone’s taste and is a Ligurian dish rather than a specialty from La Spezia, local gastronomy offers more than a few delicacies.
Fancy some seafood? Mussels and anchovies are typical seafood in La Spezia
“I fancy some fish, but I am on a budget,” say those who know how expensive eating seafood in many Italian cities can be. The nice thing is that if you want to eat carbon-free in the La Spezia area, enjoying seafood at affordable prices is possible.
Mussels, the “Muscoli” in La Spezia
The local sea cuisine can only do with mussels and anchovies if there are two things. These local products, with little expense, will send you in awe. The former are bred in the Gulf of La Spezia and are a genuine local pride; the latter is caught off Cinque Terre.
How are they prepared?
As a condiment for pasta (if you fancy a pasta dish), or in many ways if you are looking for something different. Anchovies can be a tasty appetizer marinated or served in oil. An excellent second course if fried, filled, or done in scabecio (cooked in vinegar). However, I associate two anchovy-based dishes with the local cuisine: the bagnun (a sauce with abundant anchovies and slices of toast) and anchovies and potato pie.
On the other hand, mussels can be prepared alla marinara (plain: boiled with some lemon on it) or – a real, local delicacy – stuffed (a must).
A debated food in La Spezia: the filling of the stuffed mussels, no mortadella, according to the Chef.
I want to go out for dinner but am in shorts! “.
You might often get the impression that there are only fancy restaurants in the area. But actually, Val di Vara, Val di Magra, and Lunigiana are the places to be for a more chilled atmosphere.
Restaurants in La Spezia and its surroundings offer alternatives to the “usual pizza.” Translation: cheap and filling food.
Very few people complain about a meal based on testaroli, panigacci, and sgabei.
Compared to the past, moreover, you don’t even need to venture to Lunigiana (although it still is the ideal option). Val Graveglia, Val Durasca, Sarzana, and, lately, La Spezia count places that offer these dishes. In this case, the most challenging thing may be understanding the differences between the various words.
Testaroli is a typical dish of Lunigiana (more precisely, from Pontremoli). They are made of a mixture of water, flour, and salt, then quickly boiled in water and topped with pesto, sauce, oil, and parmesan cheese.
Panigacci – spread throughout Liguria Lunigiana – are batter disks stacked one above the other. Still hot, they are served stuffed with cold cuts and cheese.
Sgabei – typical of the Val di Magra – are made with a yeast dough with flour, water, salt, and oil and then fried in plenty of olive oil. Tasty food, plain or stuffed.
AND THE VEGETABLES? MINESTRONE, VEGETABLE PIES … AND MESCCIÜA …
But where can I eat some fresh veggies? – asked the tourist.
The answer is easy: everywhere.
You might think that Italian cuisine is only based on carbs and become tired of pasta. But Italian and La Spezia cuisine does not just exclude vegetables. They include them widely.
The truth is you can enjoy soups everywhere. Still, the minestrone with some pesto sauce is something extraordinary that you can have only in the area.
Remember to consider also the very typical vegetable pies. Taken for granted by locals, they are barely offered to tourists. However, the vegetable pies (which can be made with rice and chards or contain the most diverse vegetables) will eventually conquer you.
Finally, don’t forget the mescciüa (an unpronounceable name for non-La Spezia people). This soup is a La Spezia dish and brings in its name itself the sign of its origin. In the local language, the word means “mixture” and indicates a mix of legumes and cereals. It was often made with the surplus of goods transported to the port of La Spezia, collected to produce a dish of considerable substance.