Paolo Cassini- - Award Winning Isolabona Olive Oil Producer.
''With my oil we have chosen the path of quality, a hard road, but it can give great satisfaction: the first, the biggest, is receiving compliments from those who taste our oil, this is essential and is an incentive to do even better. The main objective, and I say bluntly, is to create a product that is at the top of the Taggiasca variety, obtained paying maximum attention to the whole chain of production and transformation: a goal that is achieved very often as evidenced by the many awards and also awards the prestigious national and internazioni magazines.I modestly I think one of the last real producers that there are in Liguria, unfortunately we were not in many.I hope to continue my work for a long time, helped by my family and my co-workers, producing these olives and extraordinary this oil that I care very much.''
Search for mountain classics such as turta verde, a delicate pastry pie stuffed with ricotta and wild spinach; and turta di patate, the humbler but no less delicious potato-based version.
I fagiolo biancho di Pigna, a large white bean grown only here, with locally made olive oil. A more tender and creamy bean can't be had.
Ask for something a little hot, and if you are very very lucky a jam jar will be produced with local chili chutney, chilis home grown, receipes from the mists of time.
Pesto..Liguria is where it comes from, this is the home of Basil. Ligurian passion for just the perfect Basil is legendary.
Courgette flower as the bass note in the lightest vegetable flan with hot Parmesan sauce, under a tetto of flakes of fresh Parmesan.
Wild Boar and rabbit dishes abound. Seek ravioli stuffed with borage and wild spinach collected from the hillside.
The right of mushrooms. From the second week of July until autumn, Ligurians head to the forest en masse to pick mushrooms, each guarding their plot of fungi as jealously as a fisherman does his fishing spot.
On the high mountain passes, flocks of brigasca sheep graze and shepherds make a fermented cheese called brusso from their milk. Mendatica is the home of cucina bianca, white cooking, so called because nearly every dish is dairy based and a shade of white.
The food of Liguria is unusual and delicious. As seafarers, over the centuries, they developed their own distinctive preparations for anchovies and sardines preserved in olive oil for consumption on long sea voyages.
My Great Grandmother Alice Meynell loved and was a frequent visitor to Liguria in 1909 she wrote;
"Moreover, in Italy the vegetables–the table ones–have a wildness, a suggestion of the grass, from lands at liberty for all the tilling. Wildish peas, wilder asparagus–the field asparagus which seems to have disappeared from England, but of which Herrick boasts in his manifestations of frugality–and strawberries much less than half-way from the small and darkling ones of the woods to the pale and corpulent of the gardens, and with nothing of the wild fragrance lost–these are all Italian things of savage savour and simplicity. The most cultivated of all countries, the Italy of tillage, is yet not a garden, but something better, as her city is yet not a town but something better, and her wilderness something better than a desert. In all the three there is a trace of the little flying heels of the runaway."
Agliata a garlic sauce found with fish, meat or vegetables.
Ligurians live longer than other Italians, the centre of their diet is fruit and vegtables. The proximity of the sea, and the rivers ensures fresh fish are on most menus.
Parmesan is frowned upon on some fish and pasta dishes as divergent.
The home made ravioli is worth the air fare alone. Wonderful rabbit and herb mixes.
Coniglio con le Olive. Rabbit cooked with olives and herbs. A world beating local dish, different in every mothers kitchen.
Olive Oil from their own trees. "Amuse Bouche" from grand ma's recipe book.
The Light. As sweet as the views and breathtaking as the scenery it is the changing light which draws the heart to love Liguria. Claude Monet "a jewel of lightness" description of a local bridge he painted.
The Smell. The olfactory sense is at least as satisfied as the visual. Riviera di Fiori the flower Riviera. Flower growing has for many years been a mainstay of the economy. The hillsides are covered in wild majoram, basil, rosemary and thyme. All finding their way into the local kitchens. Aglio (Garlic) is a frequent player in the Ligurian kitchen.
A visit to Isolabona is a step back in time, a time when there was a close connection to the soil. The labyrinthine medieval passages delight the sense of exploration, and the courtyards splashed in sunlight, the joyful feeling of discovery. Eggs from the local free range chickens. Liguria is known for its excellent quality olives, local food stores & grocery stores in the village. Isolabona known as the town of Oil. It is usual to find the connection between bars and restaurants and their very own Olive trees serving their own Olive Oil. In the shops buy the best award winning local Oil. Several varieties of pastries and cakes, both sweet and savoury, or vegetables directly from local gardens of the village. Post office, chemist, butcher, seamstress & hairdresser. The two grocery stores are superb, to call them delicatessen makes them seem contrived and sound French. This is the best of Italy. The gourmet's treasure trove. In mushroom season watch the local cognoscenti disappear into the woods with their large wicker baskets. Be sure to book a table in the village that night.
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Isolabona Gardens Wander through the "ancient passaggios" of the village and find the small gardens. Tended with love and attention the gardens are as pretty as any picture and are themselves artistic statements.
In Isolabona food is a way of life not just a passion. Eat out or shop in the local shops and eat in. Make the fresh local ingredients in the rustic kitchen.
Pizzeria Dal Vecchio Forno - Isolabona has the best pizza restaurant in the world, better than Patzera and Family NYC. Try the lamb chops cooked perfectly by Danny and crew in the wood fired pizza oven. Avvoccato pizza option. Totally local Macrobiotic veg and salad with artichoke anchovy salad and not mozerralla, but local mild sheeps cheese...historic!.... Or classic Margherita for just 5 euros! Via Roma, 53, 18035 Dolceacqua IM, Italy+39 0184 208187
Bunda Bar- Be totally spoilt by the new and wonderful Bunda Bar. Fast becoming the heart of Isolabona. Fresh salad, fresh bread, olive oil made from their own trees. Try the Bunda Spritza! Don't miss the gratis Tapenado at 6pm, simply wonderful home made fresh pesto on home made bread amongst a conveyor belt of local fare. Try her MENU at lunch time 13 euros, plain simple excellent fare. Hot Parmesan and lemon sauce yum. This is genius cooking of Samantha's kitchen.
Bar Piombo- Via Roma Riverside Restaurant and Bar. Ice Cream here. On the main drag as you drive in. Local Bar. Real Italian experience. This is the place to have a mid morning expresso or late morning Prosseco.
Ristorante Da Bruno- Amy has eaten here. The food is fab. Corso Limone Piemonte, 55, 18039 Ventimiglia IM, Italy+39 0184 356272
Antico Frantoio Resturant- Here you need to book. Specialises in food of the region. Also has its own shop. Via Molino, 41, 18035 Isolabona IM, Italy. +39 0184 208485
U Cian Ristorante- Walk ten minutes east along the road towards Pigna from Isolabona to find U Cian restaurant.
Alimentrai Sorelle Noaro- "Born in 1898 we have more than a centenary experience. We are processed in time in accordance with the needs of our customers. Every day to all our guests we give freshness and quality maintenance. We offer a range of Biological and typical products. We serve with kindness, courtesy and capacity in meeting the needs of each of you".
Da Luciana Alimentari-Via Roma 45, 18035. Superb grocery store feel the passion for food as you enter. This is the best of Italy. The gourmet's treasure trove. A pleasure to spend money here on really splendid fare as featured in "Italia" magazine.