Looking for a good place to eat in Genoa?
Finding a good place to eat in Genoa can actually be quite difficult. I know that might come as a surprise, after all Genoa is in Italy and Italy has the best food in the world… right? Not quite. I used to live in Bologna (aka “the City of Food” and “the Fat City”) where it is nearly impossible to eat bad food. It is truly a foodie mecca and paradise. In fact, I’ve also written a post all about where to eat in Bologna.
Yet, in Genoa it’s a different story. The Genoese have a long standing stigma for being quite ‘stingy’ and ‘cold’. Of course that’s a generalization, but from my experience, the stereotype is still somewhat true today. After living here for more than a year, I’ve eaten good pesto and just ‘okay’ pesto and pesto that will BLOW YOUR MIND. I’ve also had my fair share of typical ‘Ligurian hospitality’ which is basically an ironic way of saying ‘terrible service’. It’s not uncommon so I’ve written below any places where you might expect bad service, but still eat a really good meal. I’ve tried quite a few restaurants, including the tourist traps and overrated Trip Advisor recommendations. In this list, I’ll spare you those and get straight to the good stuff.
Where to Eat in Genoa: My Favorites
Pasta al pesto, pansotti, farinata, seafood
Il Genovese – Simple, but good food. Trofie al pesto here is my favorite. Attentive service and crisp, clean ambience. They claim to hand make their pesto in a mortar and pestle and I’ve read that the owners are one of the associations behind the Pesto World Championship held in Genoa every two years. You’ll notice their trophy-like mortar and pestle at the counter. Via Galata 35
Osteria di Vico Palla – This place is a fried food galore, which is a good thing. You’ll find a lot of fish on the menu (a lot of fried fish) which is typical of Genoa. Of course there’s also non-fried food (like the Ligurian style seabream) and pansotti pasta. Portions are generous and casual dress code is a must. Warning: Service is iffy. Just go with it and focus on the food. Vico Palla 15r
Cavour 21 – Winner of the Pesto World Championship in 2012, this place has some pretty bangin’ pesto. They have all the traditional dishes, trofie al pesto, pasta pesto with green beans and potatoes, pansotti, fried snacks, and a wide array of seafood and fish dishes. It’s defintiely a “hole in the wall” type place and the service is nothing short of …well… Ligurian (in other words, rude). You absolutely must book ahead of time as this place is always packed, but it’s worth a try if you’re looking to try some of the best pesto in the world. Piazza Cavour 21
Italian food gets makeover
Antica Hostaria Pacetti – I love when I find an Italian restaurant that serves up something a little unusual, and Hostaria Pacetti is just that. Traditional Genoese ingredients, turned upside down (like their spinach flan served in a creamy walnut sauce). Excellent seafood. Contemporary. Attentive service. Via Borgo Incrociati 22r (Behind Brignole station)
Trattoria Rosmarino – Fresh food, contemporary dining, centrally located. Menu changes daily. Does it get any better? You’ll find this small restaurant tucked away on a side street just off of Piazza De Ferrari (the main square in Genoa). Salita del Fondaco, 30, 16100 Genova
Bagni Medusa – This place is little bit off the beaten path, as it’s located in Nervi (a little village just outside of Genoa). Not only does it have amazing seafood, but it’s situated right on the water. In fact, in order to get here you have to walk along the Passeggiata di Garibaldi in Nervi – a coastal footpath (don’t worry it’s well paved and there is ample railing! It’s nothing scary, I promise). Bagni Medusa also has an amazing sitting area and a saltwalter pool carved out of the cliffside rocks. It’s like eating at a fancy spa or resort without having to pay for a spa or a resort. Reservations are a must! Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi, 27/A, 16167
EATING ON A BUDGET
or just because you love focaccia…
Forno di Ghia – Focaccia, savory vegetable pies, take-away. Crazy Genoese ladies wearing hairnets. This is one my go-to lunch spots and my favorite focacceria in the city. Via Galata 39/r
Ostaja San Vincenzo – If you’re one those people that simply can’t decide what you want to eat or just want to try everything, then this place is for you. This osteria noted for its ‘down home cooking’ makes just about everything typical of Liguria, from farinata and savory vegetable pies to pasta al pesto and pansotti. It’s great for both take away or a quick sit down meal. Via San Vincenzo, 64
This stuff never gets old
Ristorante Montallegro – The specialty here is meter-long pizza, but they also serve up Farinata (chickpea flatbread), focaccia al formaggio and other local specialities. Bonus: the view is amazing. It’s located in Righi – an area high above the city, so you either have to catch the Funicular or take a car to get there. Reservation recommended. Via Mura delle Chiappe 30/R
COFFEE, BREAKFAST, & SWEET STUFF
How to wake up good in the morning…or in the afternoon
Pasticceria Tagliafico – I happened upon this place one day when I was looking for a bar to have coffee. It isn’t too far from where I work and I had never tried it before so I popped in. I couldn’t believe how beautiful all of their pastries were, all perfectly decorated and arranged. It’s defintely old-style Italian and very traditional, but that’s what I like about it. I tried the cannoli and an espresso and I was immediately sold. Amazing coffee, amazing pastries of all kinds, and great service. Via Galata 31
Torrefazione Bahia – My landlord first brought us here when we moved to Genoa. We were meeting to sign our housing contract and he invited us to go a for a coffee after. I thought nothing of this place at first since on the outside it doesn’t even look like it serves coffee. The inside too is so small that you’d think it would be impossible to serve coffee here. But they have a little bar counter where they serve 2 to 3 people at a time and it works. So what makes this place so special? The quality coffee. They roast their own coffee beans using machines that date back as far as the 1940’s, visible from the bar counter. That’s the trick. Fresh roasted coffee beans. THEIR COFFEE IS LIKE A DRUG! It’s worth a stop if you’re a big coffee lover. Plus, here you can also buy all sorts of specialty teas, chocolates, biscuits and other dried goods. Via San Vincenzo 167
Wine me please!
Cantine Matteotti – My favorite wine bar in the city. In fact, I’ve got an entire blog post dedicated to this place. Open only in the evenings. Archivolto Baliano 4-6/r
Calice – My second favorite wine bar in the Castellato zone (another good place for a panoramic view). Small plates (cold cuts, cheese, bread) and good selection of wine. Excellent prices. Spianata di Castelletto, 9
Taverna Zaccaria – A secret bar. Ok, not really, but it is so off the beaten path that you might have a hard time finding it. Really relaxing atmosphere in small alleyway. Good for an aperitivo in a small groups. Vico di S. Cosimo
Ai Troeggi – I think this is probably some of the best bruschetta in the world. Two locations: Table service bar is at Via Chiabrera, 61r; street food location Via San Lorenzo
Lick, slurp, yum!
Gelateria Profumo – Artisanal 5-star gelato. Favorites here include pistacchio, cream and lemon cream. Very clean and simple flavors, but top quality! In the summer the line can run out the door so be prepared. Vico Superiore del Ferro 14
Viganotti – I’d like to think that this place is a secret, but I’m pretty sure anyone who has read Genoa, ‘La Superba’ by Nicholas Walton knows about it (if you haven’t read it, it’s a great read for anyone visiting Genoa), as Walton makes numerous mentions of this place in this book. Viganotti used to be an old chocolate factory and the cool thing about it is that they still use their old machines to make their chocolate. Of course they also make gelato in a wide variety of flavors, both traditional ones like pistachio and chocolate, and strange ones like chocolate orange or pear and cinnamon. The gelato is super rich and creamy and dreeeeeamy. Vico dei Castagna 14r
This list is ever-growing, which means I’ll be adding more when I discover new things. If you have a suggestion on where to eat in Genoa, let me know in the comments below.
Curious to know more about Genoese cuisine? I’ve outlined some important dishes to eat in Genoa here, so be sure to check that out too.
Happy eating! Buon Appetito!
*Please note that this post contains affiliate links, which means that I’ve included some links products I really love. If you buy the product through that link, I make an eensy weensy profit. Of course I only link to products that I truly recommend!