Did you know that it is one of the lowest calorie cocktails ever? And that juniper berries have a myriad of beneficial effects on our bodies? There are even those who say that this mix of herbs is an excellent ally against cellulite..
How many more reasons do you need to drink a good gin and tonic? I know, you don’t need reasons, you just need a hot summer and a nice holiday (maybe at the Relais!)
Laughter aside, maybe I can still tell you something you don’t know… for example that in Liguria, gin is produced from at least 10 different producers.
“Martina but of course, we drank one at Relais!”
I know! Oleificio Roi’s Gin Taggiasco, which you know well, is the gin produced with taggiasca olives from our region and we already have it on our gins menu.
But which are the others?
1. Portofino Gin – Asti | Portofino Gin – Asti | Although it is produced in the Asti area, the bouquet of aromatics used comes entirely from the Portofino hills. Citrusy, floral, pleasantly spicy: what an icon!
2. Gin Ginuensis – Genova | “Ginuensis is smooth, clean and fragrant on the palate, with an almost sweet and lovable aftertaste. The spicy nose is reminiscent of oriental scenery… And other similar belinate” is how their creators describe it. Kaffir lime leaves, orange, liquorice and cumin, these are the suggestions of the Genoese gin par excellence. P.s.: and if you don’t know what a “belinata” is… well, click here but don’t be proud of it!
3. Camügin – Camogli (GE) | Camuginis the old Genoese name by which the inhabitants of the seaside village called the town of Camogli. Absolute protagonists: sea salt and the herbs of the Ligurian hills. One more reason to visit Camogli, besides the focaccia!
4. Gin Gino – Cengio (SV)| In the ORIGINE workshop, only raw materials from organic farming are processed. Here the granddaddy of all Ligurian gins is born: Gin Gino. A gin that doesn’t mince its words, so if you prefer soft, round flavours, it may not be for you
5. Gin Legend – Genova | A balanced gin, suitable for every palate but with a unique note that makes it perfectly recognisable (and therefore my super favourite): peppermint. Although…
6. Gin Mä – Genova | ..being in Liguria, I would rather say that the favourite can only be the only gin in the world produced with Basilico Genovese DOP! Two is better than one, said an advertisement, and here it is even better than three, four and five… the only botanicals used are in fact only two: basil and juniper.
7.“U Spessià” Gin – Savona | Didn’t we say at the beginning that gin and tonic is like a balm for the body? This gin produced by the Opificio Clandestino degli In-Fusi takes its name from the ancient figure of the pharmacist, who knew how to heal all ills thanks to his herbal mixes, in the words of Andrea Bruzzone.
8. 969 Gin – Genova | Again the scents of the city of Genoa enclosed in a bottle, thanks to the intense salty notes of the seaweed used as botanicals. In addition: orange peel, to soften its salinity..
9.Rusagni Gin – Rezzoaglio (GE)| From the Liquorificio Fabrizii di Rezzoaglio comes at last a nice warm gin, even in colour. Citrusy notes, local herbs, juniper: these are the ingredients of Rusagni, a gin ‘as it once was’.
The difficult part comes now: which one to choose to include in our gin list!
Aaah, Christmas traditions! Every region, city, town…actually every family has its own!
In mine, for example, we have always only celebrated with lunch on December 25th. And I have often thought: “That’s enough for me!”…and in fact, that’s enough indeed since there is always some leftover! So much so that another Christmas tradition is that of the “Leftovers Dinner”: friends or other family members meet for dinner and each brings a leftover from their Christmas lunch, so the party continues. In short, whether it’s for lunch or dinner, only on Christmas day or going through Boxing Day and starting Christmas Eve, there is a thin common thread that unites every Ligurian during the holidays:food!
Here are the three most common dishes that can be found on our tables during the holidays:
In ancient times, the typical first course was Natalini in broth, but as far as I’m concerned, ravioli is the best you can ask for in life for Christmas lunch. Tradition would like them with “Tocco” – the typical Genoese sauce prepared with minced beef, mushrooms, spices, tomato pulp and red wine – but I also love them the simple way, seasoned with butter and herbs.
2. Cappon Magro
If you have the time – 1 hour of preparation, 4 of rest, 2 of cooking – this is one of those dishes that will raise you to the level of starred chef. Cappon Magro, a dish which is difficult to say whether it is tastier or more spectacular, comes from the Genoese gastronomic tradition. Take a pen and paper and mark on the shopping list: capon, potatoes, green beans, carrots, prawns, tuna, octopus, beetroot, black salsify, white wine, bay leaf, juniper, olives, capers, pine nuts. It takes patience for this dish, but the result is truly mouth-watering.
In Borgomaro we know it well: the Pandolce prepared by Forno di Nonna Pierina, in fact, is a must both as a dessert at the end of a meal and also as a sweet present! The town eagerly awaits the first batches in November, when the streets smell of butter, raisins and pine nuts, which are the main ingredients of this delicacy. Even on television they talked about it and here we wrote about it too: Christmas in the village: christmas traditions in Liguria
Many of them already shone in this wonderful celestial vault, some are rising now: look up and admire with us the new stars of the culinary panorama of Western Liguria.
Joining the veterans in the field, including one of our favourites right in Imperia – the Sarri restaurant – there are some new entries in the 2023 Michelin Guide.
First of all the Balzi Rossi restaurant. Enrico Marmo brings the star back to the historic and renowned restaurant in Ventimiglia, with two surprising menus. The first one – “Riviera” (6 courses € 90 + pairing of 4 wines € 60) – is surprising for its predominantly vegetable imprint; the second – “Momento” (8 courses € 100 + wine pairing € 80) – as per the name is literally built on the surprise effect: the dishes served are prepared according to the daily market offer.
The second place decrees a podium for two-thirds intemelio: it is the Casa Buono Restaurant. Keyword? No menu. Like many Ligurian restaurants and trattorias, the preference is for the tasting menu (€ 80). Here too, Chef Antonio Buono focuses on the quality of the raw material: every day he brings to the table what is freshest on offer.
Bronze medal to the Vignamare restaurant of the PEQ Agri group, which is the only one to boast the Green Star (a special recognition to kitchens that show particular attention to sustainability) throughout the region. The menu changes according to the season (9 courses € 120 – choice of 4 courses from the proposals € 90 + a small menu € 30 per course approximately – 5 glasses of wine € 60 – 9 glasses of “Super Ligurian” € 100)
From this year two Imperia must-try are also mentioned, but not (yet) starred...two regulars in the Relais del Maro Restaurant Brochure: Osteria Didù and Casa della Rocca!
That of small towns is a simple world, where everyone knows each other and where you can still go to the small shop and ask for “the usual”.
Do you also miss small-town shops? Then follow us for a tour of traditional shops of Western Ligurian that we have collected for you: in these unique places, you will find the aromas and flavours of the past, with top quality products, sourced directly from local farmers or in some cases even produced by the owners.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
Il forno di Nonna Pierina bakery in Borgomaro For everyone, she is aunt Bruna and for years she has been dedicating her passion to the creation of the typical products of Borgomaro. Do not miss the focaccia, the savoury pies and the delicious desserts; among the latter are the very famous Brutti ma Buoni biscuits which you can often taste accompanying coffee at the Relais.
Here, you will find freshly baked bread on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Don’t forget to book her delights, or you can come and taste them and order them at the Relais del Maro! Via P. Merano 36, 18021 Borgomaro | Tel. +39 018354057
Alimentari Re a Borgomaro
If you feel peckish in Borgomaro, this is the place for you! Alimentari Re is the typical town shop, with lots of fresh foods: fruit, vegetables, fridge products, eggs and bread. The counter cheeses are very good. Piazza F. Cascione, 8, Borgomaro Tel. +39 018354076
La Strega di Triora a Triora
From a selection of cheeses to Triora bread, from mushrooms to the specialities of the Argentina valley: all this and even more. Their delicious jams often make their way into the heart of our customers. For breakfast, at the Relais, you can enjoy a selection of three different ones, in daily rotation. Orange and Lemon, Winter Memories, Delizia di Bosco…it’s hard to choose the best one! On reservations, they also organize rich tastings. Corso Italia – Triora | Tel. 0184 94278 www.lastregaditriora.it
Agaccio in Ponte di Nava A whole market in one shop. Don’t be frightened by the number of people you will see at the entrance when you arrive in the parking lot in front: this is a very famous place. At Agaccio you will find any kind of treat: at the entrance, there is an exhibition of fruit and vegetables that would be the envy of a street market stall, then on the left, you will see bread, focaccia, vegetable pies. The counter continues flaunting rich cold meats including ham with herbs and delicious salami, up to the royalties of this exhibition: fresh and seasoned toma cheese! Before exiting the shop, have a look at the chocolate…yum yum! Ponte Di Nava 55, Ponte Di Nava | Tel. 0174 399927
These are just some of our favourite traditional Ligurian shops around the Relais.
Do you want genuine products and heart-warming places?
Just ask, it will be a pleasure to reveal other hidden gems!
From time to time, on Sundays, it happens to wake up with that uncontrollable desire for…a Sunday lunch!
Does it happen to you too?!? Today we live in a world so dynamic and always in a hurry that, I must be honest, even just enjoying in messudí (literally “a midday”, as my grandmother would say) sitting at the table with the whole family seems just a distant memory.
Are we too busy to even find time for a good Sunday lunch? Impossible! I am sure it just takes the right excuse and…I’ll give you five!
Here are the 5 typical Ligurian trattorias/taverns where you can eat a lot, and for cheap!
Trattoria Nazionale in Chiusavecchia
Don’t get offended, my other innkeeper friends: the Trattoria Nazionale is a must! Their kitchen proposal features classic Ligurian cuisine and, of course, like many serious restaurants of the hinterland around here, it offers a rich tasting menu at a fixed price (but don’t worry: if you want you can order even just a dish of their delicious ravioli).
Often you don’t buy in Liguria: you cook what your neighbour has collected the day before.
At Trattoria Nazionale they follow this rule, and the quality of the products used by Marco, Selma and Silvia is unquestionable, as well as their mastery in cooking them. Price: average for the area, that is 30/35 € including drinks. Menu: try their supreme ravioli and the rabbit rollè! Location: a real small-town trattoria, now featuring a new nice terrace on the village square.
Censin da Bea in Borgomaro
Let’s be clear: this is for people who love eating a lot!
Yes, let’s say that if you have recently started a diet, here you will be in danger…as you will risk biting off more than you can chew! We tried to count the starters and we are already lost, just saying!
You also need to know that Censin da Bea (lit. Vincenzino of the River, dialect abbreviation for Vincenzo – Vincenzin – Censin) is the fixed stop for those looking for a party in addition to Sunday lunch. Yes, because here there is always a party going on!
Marco is the embodiment of the ideal host: he will always find you a seat, he will try to stuff you from appetizer to dessert, he will entertain you with his gags but above all…he will make sure to quench your thirst! Invite him to the table for the final grappa and listen to one of his many incredible stories!
Price: on the average for the area, 30/35 € per person, all-inclusive. Menu: Ligurian cuisine with a little bit of madness, and if you are lucky, you will taste his incomparable snails! Location: an old mill on the river that exudes the history of our valley!
Osteria Didù e Osteria Bugamatta a Imperia
Until last year, I would have had no doubts about where to direct you to savour the tastes of our area by spending a trifle: Osteria Didú.
Here, in this tiny restaurant on the outskirts of Oneglia, you can enjoy true typical Imperia cuisine for both lunch and dinner, with particular attention to the freshness and genuineness of the product.
I say until last year, because since 2019, arm in arm with Didú, the new Osteria Bugamatta in the centre of Oneglia, became one of my favourite places.
They both are on the same wavelength in terms of menu and service, so I don’t know how to give a preference: know that whichever one you choose, here you will find good food, REAL good food, and you will come out with only one question: how did I manage to spend so little? Price: the menu is à la carte, or rather on the blackboard! Both won’t charge you more than 35 € each! Menu: fresh pasta, tasty and amazing! Location: you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Osteria Cadò in Cosio d’Arroscia
To try this tavern, you will need to drive for half an hour to reach Cosio d’Arroscia, but it will be a journey worth taking!
Recently opened, the little Cadò tries to blow fresh air down the valley, bringing some innovation to the Imperia gastronomic panorama.
Starting from the first appetizer, you will experience the passion of Antonio, the owner, as he shows you the origins of the proposed recipes. These are the stories of our ancestors, of those who lived in these places for decades and were able to bring out the best even from the smallest spontaneous herb, transforming it into a very tasty frisciö (Liguria’s traditional savoury fritters). Price: 35 €, drinks included (you will also have a nice choice of drinks here). Menu: the recipes are niche if you think about the research behind some proposals, genuine if you keep in mind the simplicity of the product, innovative if you think about plates as pumpkin and amaretto tagliatelle…that would make my grandmother jump in the chair for the surprise! Location: the terrace: unforgettable!
Agriturismo Cà Sottane a Borgomaro
Do you try to imagine heaven but can’t? Maybe because you haven’t been to the beautiful Ca Sottane farmhouse yet! An enchanting place, surrounded by the green Ligurian hills and completely immersed in nature. Here Laura and Brigitte, daughter and mother, have learned to combine catering and agriculture thanks to their small orchard and their various two and four-legged friends.
A simple cuisine, based on what the earth and animals can give, but which already conquered many! Enjoy a lunch on their veranda, surrounded by the magical rustle of the olive trees! Price: very cheap, 30 € including drinks! Menu: tends to be Ligurian with some Provençal influence due to Mamma Bri’s French origins! Location: peace and tranquillity, care and love but above all colours!
The strength of Italy comes above all from its great culinary tradition: each region, or rather, each small town in the country offers unique specialities.
Street food has taken an increasing space in recent years with dozens of dedicated festivals: even the famous Salone del Gusto in Turin devotes an important space to food trucks that offer any type of takeaway dishes.
Surely you know that in Liguria focaccia is king, but what about all the other street food that our cities can offer? Since we are great foodies and street food fans, we have many to suggest.
Why not start from those places that remind us of our teenage years afternoons in Imperia?
These are the kings of Imperia’s street food, and to try them is a must:
1) The hot focaccia baked 24/7 by the Blengini Bakery
It’s easy to find good, hot focaccia in the morning, but what about the rest of the day?
It is precious to have a snack with a hot “slerfa” (how locals call a focaccia slice) in your hands whenever you want: the Blengini bakery in Imperia can be recognized immediately by the long lines outside its door. Children and adults cannot resist the perfume that invades the nearby street. A stop here is a must.
2) U Papa’s farinata
The name of U Papa has been part of Imperia’s history for decades: for over 120 years this historic tavern has accompanied the days of workers in the nearby port of Oneglia.
Their speciality is farinata, a dish typical of western Liguria made with a humble recipe that uses just chickpeas flour and oil, plus sometimes onions.
In the evening, the “testi”, typical trays used to cook this dish, come out hot from the wood-burning oven to get on our tables or to accompany our walks under the arcades.
3) Madama Dorè’s Pizza
The real “piscialandrea”, which is the typical Ligurian pizza with lots of garlic and anchovies and without cheese, is said to be originally from Sanremo.
But even in Imperia, we have our special spot: Madama Dorè is a historic bar on the market square of Oneglia, considered the place where the best red pizza in the city is baked.
We personally prefer the version without garlic and anchovies, made only with tomatoes and olives (sacrilege for the more traditionalists!): be warned, once you bite the first slice you can no longer stop, especially if you taste it hot, just out of the oven, with its crunchy and oily crust.
4) La Peppina porchetta sandwich
For this street food, we move to the Porto Maurizio district and more precisely to Borgo Marina. In this wonderful corner of Imperia, you will find a small bar that at first glance might not seem special, but where you will find the best sandwiches in the city.
La Peppina is owned by the family that for decades has accompanied our summer afternoons because at the time managed a famous kiosk beside the beach.
For some years now it has moved – just a few meters – and has begun to delight the palates with mouth-watering creations: one of them is the sandwich with porchetta, rich, tasty, accompanied by its special secret sauce.
If you don’t eat meat, don’t worry: you will be happy with their awesome tomato and basil sandwich.
These are our street food spots; now we wait for advice on your favourites as well so we can go and do some quality tests…we never back down! 😉