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Simple Cooking on the Italian Riviera

For a taste of ancient inland cuisine, I recommend Genoa's Bruxaboschi, in the wooded hills of San Desiderio, a suburb 20 minutes east of Genoa. (It's not easy to find, so ask for precise directions when you book.) A sprawling, cheerful cantina, Bruxaboschi is dedicated to preserving rare regional dishes. Take the pastas. Peasant chestnut flour is the main ingredient in the rustic ribbons of dough called picagge. And there is nothing impromptu about the beef sauce for the ravioli: this classic sugo di carne simmers all day.

The house fritto misto includes such forgotten delicacies as latte brusco, fried breaded squares of thick milk custard, and a wonderfully bizarre fritto nell'ostia, Communion wafers rolled around a veal and pork mixture, attached to a stick, like a lollipop, and fried. On a more familiar note, there is a melting rabbit-and-olive ragù and a bonanza of seasonal mushrooms. For dessert, try the caramelized figs with amaretto ice cream.

Recco: The Best Focaccia
A former trading post, Manuelina is named for its original owner, a beauty called Manuela who resurrected a forgotten focaccia recipe and created one of the best treats on the planet. Luckily for us, her great-grandchildren are still at the helm, making focaccia that draws thousands to this century-old restaurant in the undistinguished town of Recco.

Save room for Manuelina's pasta. Pansotti alla salsa di noci, triangular ravioli in a creamy walnut sauce, and corzetti, flat circles of dough pressed with a decorative stamp, are treasured Ligurian legacies.

Portofino: The Riviera As You Expect It
Stunning Portofino—its setting the ultimate poster image of Liguria—has never won accolades for its cooking. But who cares when lunch by the bay comes with one of the world's most delectable panoramas?At the restaurant Delfino, I completely surrendered—to champagne on ice, views of rust-colored houses with green shutters, yachts bobbing nonchalantly on their pricey patches of aquamarine, swordfish carpaccio, and a cornucopia of grilled seafood and vegetables dramatically served on red-hot volcanic rock.

Besides my heart, I left a small fortune in Portofino. And given a chance, I'd do it again. Michelin's ministers wouldn't agree, but this is one of that exquisite handful of places by the water where, when the cork comes out and the fork goes in, you see stars.

The Grapes of Liguria
The area's wines are little known and a lovely discovery, especially when paired with Ligurian food. Here, the main varietals.
Rossese A vivacious, fruity red, particularly well made in the region around Dolceacqua, near the French border. Try it with game or pasta in a meat sauce.
Vermentino A crisp, light, slightly herbaceous white, good with simple seafood or pesto dishes.
Pigato A white that tends to have a slight almond flavor and a fuller body than Vermentino; the best are produced near Albenga.
Schiacchetrá A sweet, raisiny dessert wine that is a specialty in the five towns of Cinque Terre.

The RestaurantsBalzi Rossi
Frontiera San Ludovico, Grimaldi
Inferiore;1-84/38-132; dinner
for two $125.
Antica Trattoria Piccolo Mondo
7 Via Piave, San Remo; 1-84/509-012; lunch for two $40.
Il Ponte
3- 5 Via Ortai, Badalucco;1-84/408-745; lunch for two $50.
San Giorgio
19 Via A. Volta, Cervo Alto; 1-83/
400-175; dinner for two $95.
Antica Osteria del Bai
12 Via Quarto, Quarto, Genoa; 1-03/
87478; dinner for two $95.
Bruxaboschi
8 Via F. Mignone, San Desiderio, Genoa; 1-03/450-302;
dinner for two $65.
Manuelina
274 Via Roma, Recco; 1-85/75364; dinner for two $75.
Delfino
Portofino Mare; 1-85/269-091; lunch for two $50.

Prices include service (though it's customary to leave an extra 5 percent if you are pleased) but not wine.

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