So I find myself in Sestri Levante today on the Italian Riviera. It’s such beautiful part of the world; the fresh air, the sound of the waves crashing on the beaches, those little stone laneways with the petit bars and cafes and of course the view of the Bay of Silence.
I am at a beautiful restaurant today called Portobello Restaurant & Bar for lunch today and I am quite excited.
The restaurant is perched directly on the beachfront and enjoys panoramic views of the Bay of Silence. I eventually am seated and the view is magnificent, although it is drizzling today and I am stuck undercover.
I decide to start with a wine. The wine chosen is a Cantine Lunae Bosoni Niccolò V Colli di Luni (primarily a Sangiovese / Merlot blend). The wine is probably not ideal to be paired with seafood, but its my choice just for today given the freezing cold weather. The wine has an intense spicy aroma with the strong ripe red fruit flavours with hints of spice and a dry earthy minerality in the finish. A classic full-bodied wine with lovely rich fruit flavours to warm-up on a cold day.
I choose the following dish for my starter…
Anchovy Spaghetti with olives, pinenuts and rich tomato sauce
What I love about this part of Italy is the focus on local produce. The waiter talks me through the dish, how the pasta is made, where the ingredients are from and he points to the anchovy and then points to the ocean and says, “we caught them from just there”.
The dish is about simplicity which delivers on all counts. There is the oily richness of the anchovies, the intensity of the tomato, the Mediterranean tang of the olives and the crunch of the pinenuts with the al-dente spaghetti which just holds the flavours and the textures together and a rich wheaty twirl. There is the herbiness of the oregano which slides in at the end to round out the experience. A wonderful dish to start.
I choose the following dish for the main course…
Fish of the Day (Black Ruff) with tomato, olives, pinenuts and baked potato
The fish of the day is again a Mediterranean fish, caught in the vicinity of the restaurant. I am told its a fish which primarily (or only) eats shrimp. Well this fish has good taste! Again the waiter points in the direction where the fish was caught. It is beautifully presented with ripe cherry tomatoes, olives, pinenuts and some baked potato on the base with a good dressing of olive oil.
This would have be one of the best fish dishes I have ever tasted. It is soft, flakey and so succulent and full of flavour. The fish has the most amazing rich sweet, smoky oils which arouses every taste bud. It is truly an classic dish. The tomatoes and olives provide a rich Mediterranean flavour, while the potato chimes in with its mix of crunch and softness to provide a good base to the dish which is dominated by the flavour of the fish.
I am quite full, so I decide to skip dessert. Overall it was such a pleasant experience at Portobello, with some good wine, fantastic service, amazing food, stunning view (pity about the weather though) and some old school charm and service. The bill is even brought out in a little wooden fish to weave in with the nautical theme!