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Italian Riviera, Focaccia, Food Wine and Snow

Photo: copyright Alison Harris

From the homeland of focaccia… Rocky the Italian Riviera is, and yesterday it was also sunbaked. But today it’s raining, sleeting and snowing again. Gorgeous nonetheless. The shades of gray are amazing—a world of slate, from sea to shore to mountaintop. Teetering olive trees, some still being picked. The world’s best olive oil—sorry Tuscany (and elsewhere), the real Ligurian thing is just the subtlest, the most perfumed and delicious anywhere. And yes, despite 16 years of Berlusconi in Rome, and the unstoppable spread of factory farming, the world’s most irresistible flatbread still comes from here.
We’ve only been back a few days but have already dropped by our usual focaccia-source favorites along the stretch of coast southeast of Genoa, between seductive Sestri Levante and Recco—wreck-oh!, bombed to oblivion by the RAF and USAF in the Second World War.
Recco may be homely to look at but it’s a study in how to make and eat the ideal focaccia.
As I’ve noted elsewhere, in cookbooks and articles, the authentic item is crisp outside without being tough, porous and tender inside without being undercooked, and is more or less half an inch thick. Forget the 2-inch stuff laced with Parmigiano or other delicious but unneeded ingredients, the stuff baked up and down the coasts of America these days.
Look for telltale moonscape surface—the marks of the bakers’ fingertips—and you’ll be on the right track. Despite rocket science and social media, no one has yet figured out why Ligurian focaccia is so good. And the mystery of why it’s so great on the Sestri Levante-Recco coast also remains.
In my book (literally and figuratively), Panificio-Pasticceria Moltedo in Recco still wins the best-focaccia contest. Crisp, unctuous and flavorful, this is the quintessence of focaccia. Of their two bakeries the original one practically under the railway viaduct continues to produce the best focaccia of all.
But rival Tossini (two locations, on Via Trieste and Via Roma, plus other outlets in Rapallo, Avegno and Santa Margherita Ligure) is a close second. Their focaccia has a slightly cake-like consistency, and it’s preferred by many locals, usually because it’s made with less olive oil.
We’ll be in Santa Margherita Ligure and Rapallo in coming days, and will report back. In the meanwhile, feedback, please!

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