Portofino + the Italian Riviera

Restaurants in Portofino + the Italian Riviera

Most restaurants in the Italian Riviera serve up the region’s local cuisine, which includes seafood dishes (notably sea bream prepared with black olives and roasted potatoes, and mussels stuffed with cheese), and a number of pesto dishes, as the region is the birthplace of the popular basil-based sauce.

Visitors would be hard pressed to visit one of the locally owned Italian Riviera restaurants without finding some variation of torta di verdure; a vegetable pie seasoned with winter herbs. Another local favorite is the ‘Farinata,’ a twist on the traditional pizza. The dish, made from chickpea flour, is typically topped with local ingredients, typically cheese and onion.

Although the local cuisine is so delicious vacationers may not want to eat anything else, there are also plenty of Italian Riviera restaurants that serve dishes from around the world. It’s possible to get everything from noodles to sushi to pub food (those looking for burgers or hot dogs shouldn’t leave without eating at La Tana del Luppolo, considered to be one of the best restaurants in the Italian Riviera for American fare).

In a village without a butcher's shop or a school, the hub of life is a 95-year-old bakery that serves freshly baked Ligurian focaccia, topped with onions or cheese. The pastries (miniature meringues, macaroons) are irresistible, too.

The ricciola, a fish similar to pompano, is topped with wafer-thin potatoes soaked in olive oil, ringed by olives, then baked in a very hot oven.

Come in for salsa di noci (a walnut-cream sauce combined only with pansotti pasta) and savory tarts.

You may have to compete with celebs, such as Denzel Washington and Giorgio Armani, for one of the 15 outdoor tables on Puny’s patio, but fortunately, there are another 14 tables inside. The simple dishes like handmade pappardelle pasta with tomato and pesto taste as good indoors as al fresco.

Dine on traditional Ligurian food while taking in the stunning views of the coast.

The scent of fresh basil from the chef’s made-to-order pesto greets you as you enter the hole-in-the-wall near the San Fruttuoso Abbey (a half-hour boat ride from Portofino). The menu depends on the daily catch, so this is a destination for the culinarily adventurous.

Luca Collami's restaurant feels like an exclusive private club. Sugarello—a kind of mackerel—is served raw with basil oil, chopped olive, and red pepper. Or, in contrast, try the equally delicious steamed zucchini flower stuffed with heavily anchovied stockfish.

Focaccia col formaggio is Recco’s most famous, and one verifiably indigenous, dish. It consists of two layers of papery dough sandwiching Stracchino, a delicately creamy local cheese; baked for eight minutes, it emerges firm on the outside, molten and often bubbling on the inside.

The restaurant (formerly named La Bitta nella Pergola) has Genoa's only Michelin star. Order the roasted branzino, thickly sliced and served skin-up with diced potatoes, small olives, and fresh dill.

Hidden off a blind alley, the Antica Osteria di Vico Palla looks like it hasn’t changed in a century, though its current incarnation dates back only 11 years. Wooden tables are set haphazardly under a low ceiling, and a small chalkboard is propped on each to serve as the menu.

When the VIP crowd gets to be too much, Portofinesi decamp to the family-run trattoria. For all the shipping memorabilia on the walls, there’s no sea view, but the food—like fresh sole with creamy pine nut and white wine sauce—is transporting enough.

Come for the best plain focaccia.