5 dishes from Liguria

5 dishes from Liguria, written with love by Cecilia

What is the most popular Ligurian dish?  I would say Pesto Alla Genovese. In this article, we will talk about Pesto, Farinata, Focaccia, Babrajuan and Mesciua.

I will reveal the history behind these dishes and share my favorite spots to try them.

Disclaimer: do not read if you are on an empty stomach😅.

Farinata: simple and delicious

Farinata di chickpeas aka fainà in the local dialect Ligurian is a very shallow savory and simple salad cake. In fact, there are only 4 ingredients: chickpeas flour, water, salt, and oil.
This dish has crossed the border into Tuscany and even France. As a consequence, there are different local names: cecina in Pisa and Lucca, calda calda in Massa-Carrara, and socca in Nice.


According to popular legend, Genoan sailors created the fainà in 1284, after Genoa’s victory over Pisa in the Battle of Meloria. On their return by sea, the victors encountered a  storm. In the turmoil, some barrels of oil and sacks of chickpeas were soaked in saltwater. Supplies were limited, so they needed to make use of all provisions. For this reason,  they were given bowls of chickpea puree and oil. Many of the sailors refused to eat the mixture, which was left in the sun to dry out, resulting in a kind of pancake. The next day they were hungry and would taste the pancake and discovered how good it was. Back ashore, Genoese sailors introduced this dish. Instead of sun drying it, they cooked the puree in the oven. Finally, to mock the losers of the battle they called the dish ‘the gold of Pisa’.

My top places to try it

La Spezia: restaurant “al capolinea”, pizzeria “La Pia”, restaurant “Da Caran”, pizzeria “Pagni”.
Genova: trattoria ‘Da Domenico’, restaurant ‘Farinata S. Zita’, restaurant ‘Ostaja San Vincenzo’. In the alleys there are dedicated street fryers, called sciamadda.
Savona: restaurant “Vino e Farinata”, tavern “La Farinata”, restaurant “Esco Pazzo”.
Imperia: restaurant “U Papa”, restaurant “A Sciamadda”.

5 dishes from Liguria farinata

Focaccia : cheesy bread

The focaccia of Recco is probably, to all Italians, the quintessential Ligurian food. Water, flour, oil, and cheese, that’s all it takes to create a delicious dish, that is almost 1000 years old.


In the chapel of San Fruttuoso abbey, during the 1189 Pentecost of roses, crusaders were getting ready to depart. They used to eat spelled loaves, fish carpione, and semolina focaccia stuffed with cheese before leaving for the holy land. In addition, legend has it that when the people of Recco took refuge to escape the raids of the Saracens, they only had oil, flour, and cheese, thus inventing the very famous focaccia of Recco.

My top places to try it

You need to travel to Recco to experience the original focaccia. As well as enjoying this dish, you can visit the small town and spend the rest of the day walking along the seafront.
In Recco, the most famous restaurants for this traditional dish are undoubted ‘La Manuelina’ and ‘O Vittorio’, two pillars of Ligurian tradition offering all the typical dishes of the region.

5 dishes from Liguria focaccia

Genoese pesto, just add garlic

Our pesto is a traditional Ligurian condiment and it is listed as a traditional Ligurian food product (PAT). It is made from basil, salt, pine nuts, garlic, oil, and Parmesan cheese, all crushed in a mortar (pesto). It is the method of preparation, in fact, that gives the name to this sauce, for which Liguria is famous.


The first example of Genoese pesto dates back to the 1800s, but it is certainly indebted to other crushed sauces such as the garlic and walnut agliata, which was also popular in Liguria during the Genoese maritime republic. Liguria has always been famous for its aromatic herbs, and it is no coincidence that La Spezia owes its name to the ancient spice trade that was based in the area. In antiquity, spices were only used to flavor the poorest dishes and enrich the main courses for the elite. For this reason, the creation of Genoese pesto as a Pasta sauce was a true innovation. The book “la cucina genovese” (1870) by Giovanni Battista Ratto documents Pesto as we know it for the first time.

My top places to try it

Once again, I recommend tasting pesto alla Genovese in its place of birth: Genoa. In particular, I recommend the trattoria “alle Due Torri” and the restaurant “PestoBene”.

If you decide to try the dish in other provinces, I suggest:
La Spezia: trattoria “All’Inferno”.
Savona: “Zio pesce” restaurant
Imperia: osteria “Dai Pippi”.



Mesciua : lentils’ soup

Mesciua is a traditional La Spezia dish, a soup based on cereals and lentils, the name coming from the word ‘mixed’. It is part of the tradition of poor, essential, and nutritious cuisine.


According to the legend, wives of the camalli (=mariners) used to collect, on the quays of the port where their husbands unloaded their ships, the pulses that came out of the sacks and use them to make delicious soups. It could also be that the harvest was not so poor, but that the families of the dockers brought home some of the goods they carried every day in varying quantities, and that each time, from this ‘mixture’, a slightly different dish came out.

My top places to try it

Head to La Spezia and check out in traditionalist restaurants such as ‘Da Caran’, osteria ‘Dei Camalli’, trattoria ‘al Negrao’.


Barbajuan : fired ravioli

Fried ravioli, called barbajuan in dialect, is a typical Ligurian dish, although legend has it that it is trans-regional and takes us closer to Provence and the Côte d’Azur. This raviolo does not have a typical filling, but rather, according to one’s preferences, one can choose the most suitable condiment.


Legend has it that a man named Jean did not know how to season the ravioli dish in the absence of a sauce, so he decided to fry the pasta, hence the creation of the dish. In fact, the name in dialect means ‘uncle Jean’ in Monegasque, not surprisingly ‘U Barba’ means ‘uncle’ in Ligurian.

My top places to try it

This dish is cooked both in trattorias and in starred restaurants, such as the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. Fried ravioli is also used as an aperitif in the regional tradition.
Genoa: Trattoria “Du ruscin 1893”, Trattoria “La Brinca”.
La Spezia: Osteria “dell’uva”, Osteria “Da Gianni”.
Savona: “di Mauro” restaurant
Imperia: restaurant “Il Giardino”



I hope you enjoyed learning about these 5 dishes from Liguria and that you will be able to try them soon.

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