Cinque Terre is a collection of 5 small seaside villages located on the west coast of Italy. Each village has its charm and all of them boast breathtaking views. On a recent visit, we dined at Trattoria dal Billy in Manarola. We ordered the “Taglierini freschi alla Billy” and what ensued was the best seafood pasta meal I’ve ever eaten anywhere. The restaurant itself has a beautiful view from the dining area and the staff were both friendly and funny. So what makes this pasta so special? I can give numerous reasons but I’ll try to reign in my enthusiasm to provide a concise list of what makes this pasta spectacular.
- Homemade Pasta
For anyone who is lucky enough to have tasted fresh pasta, you know that there is no substitution for the texture and flavor. This delicious pasta absorbed and locked in all the flavors from the sauce it was prepared in. True to Italian standards, the pasta was perfect al dente.
- The Sauce
The use of fresh local tomatoes as the base of the sauce tied in all the other layers of flavor. Seafood pasta can be ruined by an overly “fishy” sauce but this was perfectly balanced with an unmistakable ocean flavor that was not overpowering. The pine nuts were a perfect addition that added a nice texture to the sauce.
- The Shrimp
In my 20 years as a chef, I’ve prepared and tasted thousands of Shrimp and shellfish but these were by far the best. The Shrimp were served whole and were perfectly tender with a mild sweetness. With product that delicious and fresh, the chef knew to keep preparation simple. He showed great restraint and finesse, allowing the natural flavors to shine through. When I asked our waiter where the Shrimp were fished from, he was very apologetic and said that they were not “local”. They came from La Spezia, a town only 15km away. The fact that they consider this not to be local speaks volumes as to their standards.
When you work in the food industry you inevitably come to expect dishes that are prepared with the same level of care you put forth. This restaurant far exceeded my expectations and I will absolutely be returning. The technique was flawless and the flavors were a true culinary delight. If you get the opportunity to visit this place, don’t pass up a meal of a lifetime.