Rapallo is an unknown gastronomic destination in Liguria worth discovering. Although overshadowed by the glamour of neighbouring Portofino, it is a delightful year-round destination hiding many culinary delights.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF RAPALLO
The history of the city starts in antiquity, without being clear whether it was founded by Greeks or Etruscans. In the following centuries, it vividly experienced all the events of the history of Liguria and of Italy in general. It was part of the Republic of Genoa, conquered by Napoleon, and liberated by the British in 1814. After World War II, due to its excellent climate, it developed as the winter residence for many of the wealthier Italians living in the north-west of Italy. It is no surprise that the first golf courses in Italy were opened here in 1930.
Also during the interwar period of 1920–1930, Rapallo became a favourite refuge for many famous writers. Friedrich Nietzsche, Ezra Pound, Max Beerbohm, and John Allan Wyeth, among others, lived long periods in the city and wrote important works here.
Today, Rapallo is a pleasant and picturesque destination that can be the base for exploring the entire surrounding area. The city is located in the centre of a green bay and is surrounded by gentle hills. The promenade of Lungomare Vittorio Veneto, with the 16th-century Castello sul Mare (built on the sea) and the Chiosco della Musica (an orchestra kiosk donated by the immigrants of Rapallo in Latin America), is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll. Just behind the beachfront are the picturesque streets of the historic centre. They are lined with well-preserved buildings dating from the 14th century to the 19th century and are an ideal place for unexpected discoveries, shopping, and dining.
A few hundred metres from the centre, Hannibal’s Bridge is one of the oldest structures in the city, dating back to Roman times. This bridge owes its name to the Carthaginian commander Hannibal, who possibly used it during his campaign against Rome.
Of course, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that Rapallo is just 3 km from Santa Margherita Ligure and 8 km from Portofino, two of the most prominent resort towns in northern Italy.
Read also our article: Do you need a reason to visit Portofino?
RAPALLO – A GASTRONOMIC DESTINATION
Although Liguria is one of the smallest Italian provinces, it does not lack culinary traditions. As it is a narrow strip between high mountains and the sea, its cuisine draws characteristics from both of these elements. Nuts and mushrooms from the forests are combined with fresh vegetables from the coastal areas with a milder climate. Liguria also has a distinct tradition of seafood and wine production. Two of the region’s greatest contributions to world cuisine are pesto and focaccia. But besides these two, dishes like pansotti (triangular ravioli filled with wild herbs) and farinata (a pancake made with chickpea flour) originate from the region as well.
The visitor can find all these elements in the markets and restaurants of Rapallo. The city turns out to be a hidden gem for Ligurian cuisine, which not only compares favourably to other more well-known destinations (like Cinque Terre), but excels in several aspects as well.
Among the many restaurants in the city, we chose four that are excellent examples of the food of Rapallo and of Liguria in general.
Read also our articles: Basil, olive oil, cheese and love – The best pesto in the world and Where to taste the best focaccia in Genoa
La Trattoria is our favourite restaurant in Rapallo. The dishes of this restaurant are based on the products and recipes of the region, but with a fresh and modern look. The menu is relatively small but can cover all tastes. Trenette al pesto (pasta with pesto sauce, potatoes, green beans, and pecorino cream) and pansotti (pasta stuffed with chestnuts served with chard’s cream) are two typical Ligurian dishes executed to perfection. Also, the collection of antipasti stands out with its variety and quality. During the summer, the restaurant, apart from its warm interior, also offers outdoor seating just next to Castello sul Mare. (Via Montebello 11)
This restaurant is a very good combination of local and haute cuisine. The warm space and the open kitchen create the right atmosphere to enjoy a small but excellent selection of dishes that are always changing. The lemon risotto with tartar of amberjack and the grilled octopus (from the seafood menu) are two dishes that stand out. They are both tributes to the cuisine of the region. In a quiet corner of the historic centre of the city, the restaurant also offers tables outside when the weather allows it. (Piazza del Pozzo 23/25)
This is an unpretentious place where, among the locals, you can taste the best pizza in Rapallo. Don’t be put off by the crowd that usually overwhelms the place or the groups watching the Italian League on the big TV. The service and hospitality at this place win you over from the first moment. The flavour combinations on the pizzas are too many, but all of them are excellent. The quality of the ingredients is undeniable, and the size of the pizzas is impressive. (Via Magenta 54)
But when you want to try delicious Ligurian focaccia, then the place is Il Focacciaio. It is located near the church of San Francesco and stays open until late at night. Apart from focaccia, you could try the traditional farinata and pizza here. Focaccia with pesto and focaccia al formaggio are perfect in their simplicity. But a good choice at this restaurant would be to try some of the desserts, such as the very good panacotta. (Vico del Pozzo 30)
GOBELETTI DI RAPALLO
Rapallo has its own exclusive delicacy that is worth trying. It is a delicious dessert called gobeletti or cubeletti (which means “little hats”). These are small, closed shortcrust pastries that look like hats and are filled with quince jam. Before serving, they are sprinkled with light sugar. In the centre of Rapallo, you can try them at Caffè Pasticceria Canepa 1862.
WHERE TO STAY IN RAPALLO
Although there are many suggestions for accommodations, we have singled out two. The first one is the Ηotel Riviera, on the coastal road and close to the centre. While the second one is the Hotel delle Rose housed in an old well-preserved mansion just a few hundred metres from the centre with magnificent view.
Rapallo, although a well-known holiday resort in Liguria, is an unknown gastronomic destination that deserves to be discovered. With a series of excellent restaurants, it is the perfect destination to discover the nutritional treasures and traditional dishes of the region while at the same time trying new trends in Italian cuisine.