How to eat in Genoa and outback (it’s surrounding area)

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Landscape of Genoa

In Genoa and its surrounding area, it’s possible to find various places to eat a quick snack or a full meal. We would like to offer some useful tips for visitors to help you understand the different categories of establishments available. Bearing in mind this is merely a general overview and not a guide to individual establishments.

It might also be of use to note that the common eating hours for lunch or dinner in the Genoa area – as in most of Italy – are as follows: lunch between 12 noon and 2 pm; dinner between 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm.

Outside these hours it is however possible to find places offering hot or cold snacks.

In tourist areas you may find these hours to be more flexible

In the cities and large towns

Traditional establishments offering snacks or local street food

Sciamadde: traditional shops whose name comes from the “flames” – in genoan language sciamadde – used to cook and add a unique flavour to the food coming from the wood burning ovens. They hold a selection of hot or cold food to take away or eat at the counter. The local specialties to try are:
farinata, a chick pea flour pancake
panissa, a type of chick pea flour polenta
verdure ripiene, oven cooked stuffed vegetables (zucchini, aubergines, onions, peppers, artichokes and potatoes)
polpettoni, a green bean and potato bake
torte di verdure, vegetables pies
frittate, a type of vegetable and herb omelette

Many of these dishes are prepared using eggs, grated parmesan and fresh herbs as well as seasonal vegetables.

Friggitorie: like the Sciamadde, these shops hold deep roots in the genoan culture and traditions. They make and sell above all fried foods, again to be eaten at the counter (some have also seating spaces) or to take away. Specialties to try are: fried fish of different species, frittelle (fried balls of batter mixed with diced vegetables, herbs or fish), fried vegetables, battered salt cod (baccalà). On occasion you may also find other non fried food in these establishments.
Torte e farinate: these establishments are similar to the Sciamadde, with the difference that they do not have a traditional wood burning oven. They prepare the same local specialties sometimes including pizzas and focaccia.
Panetterie or panifici or forni (bakeries): produce and sell predominantly bread and focaccia only to take away.
Rosticcerie: make cooked dishes to be taken away. Normally part of the shop is dedicated to cheeses and salamis.
Salumerie: these are specialised shops selling salamis, cured meats, and cheeses.
Pasticcerie: these are bakeries specialised in preparing exclusively sweet pastries and cakes. Sometimes there is also a bar where is possible to order drinks and eat some pastries and a slice of cake. There are also more specialised shops in this category producing and selling hand made chocolate and candies (known as confetterie).
Bar: these generally have a wide selection of sandwiches (panini or tramezzini) and sweet an savoury snacks. If a bar has a “tavola calda” it means that hot food is available. Bars have generally long opening hours and will be able to prepare at least a “toast” (ham and cheese toasted sandwich) at any time of the day. Otherwise it is the place to go for breakfast for a “caffè, cappuccino and brioches” (but remember: if you really want to try the genoan breakfast, you have to ask for a slice of focaccia and a cappuccino). They also have a small selection of alcoholic drinks.
Caffetterie: these are bars specialised in coffee and offer a wide selection of flavoured coffees and drinks. Usually they also have sweet a savoury snacks.

Traditional establishments for a sit down meal

Osterie e Trattorie: usually they are places offering simple fare at a low price. The food on offer will include traditional local dishes such as: minestrone, stoccafisso (air dried cod, stewed with potatoes, olives, pine nuts and herbs), trippe (stewed tripe; you may come across a traditional shop specialized in tripe to take away called tripperia), verdure ripiene (stuffed vegetables, see above), zuppa di ceci (chick pea soup), to name a few. At lunch time they cater for local labourers on their lunch hour. In the evenings some trattorie or osterie have more elaborate menus and become more like restaurants.
Enoteche: these establishments aren’t strictly traditional but specialise in sourcing a wide wine selection, but often offer quick lunch time menus and more elaborate evening meals too.

We would like to point out that some establishments holding the name osteria or trattoria, often offer a higher quality of menu and service similar to that of real restaurants.

Traditional establishments for lunch or dinner

Ristoranti: offer a superior quality of service and a more refined menu. As well as innovative dishes and modern cuisine, many restaurants also prepare excellent traditional dishes.

There is a huge variety of traditional dishes on offer to visitors but it’s impossible to list them all. However some dishes are not to be missed. For example: pesto (a sauce of basil, pine nuts, parmesan and garlic, normally served with different tipes of pasta like gnocchi, trofiette or trenette); cima (a cold meat dish stuffed with: eggs, vegetables, meat, cheese, herbs); pansoti al sugo di noci (herbs stuffed pasta with a creamy walnut sauce); coniglio (rabbit usually stewed with olives and pine nuts); buridda di seppie (cuttle fish stewed with potatoes and sometimes artichokes); to name a few…

In the mountains, small towns and villages

Traditional establishments for a light snack

In the towns: you will still find many of the types of establishments listed in the city section. Having said that, it’s quite rare to find sciamadde, friggitorie and torte e farinate.

In the villages: in the mountain villages the choice is quite limited. For a light snack you are best to look for:
Negozi di alimentari or commestibili (food shops): these small shops selling food essentials will be happy to prepare filled sandwiches.
Bar: as in the city they have savoury snacks, sandwiches, pastries and sweets.

Osterie and trattorie: sometimes a light lunch is available especially on the weekends. In some cases they also prepare sandwiches.

In general the traditional cuisine of the inland area of Genoa does not include sea food with the exception of stoccafisso, baccalà (see above) and anchovies.

Traditional establishments for lunch or dinner

Osterie, Trattorie and Ristoranti: both in small towns and villages on occasion it is possible to find establishments of a very high quality. In general the trattorie – above all at lunch time – prepare rustic local cuisine at relatively low prices. There are also some excellent restaurant to be fund in more isolated corners of the surrounding countryside.
Agriturismi: link to an azienda agricola (farm), usually on pre-defined days of the week, prepare a menu using their home grown produce. By law fifty percent of food served has to be produced on site.

We have not listed pizzerie as they are already well known to visitors.
There is also a series of other establishments not listed as they are not considered to be specifically traditional to Genoa but never the less serve food (focaccerie, paninoteche, pubs, birrerie, spaghetterie, risotterie…).

Text and graphic design by Sergio Rossi
Translation by Harriet Metcalf