Genoa | Sa Pésta

Sa Pésta has been baking traditional Genoese dishes and farinata in the same woodburning oven for generations. It’s one of the last remaining  fiammanti in town, a traditional eatery where food is cooked in the ‘flaming’ oven, in this case burning since 1882.

It’s in the heart of the old town, near the port, where the narrow, winding streets buzz with nightlife. White tiles line the walls at Sa Pésta, and the heavy wooden tables seem to have been there forever. On your way to the dining room you pass three ancient ovens where fifth-generation cooks remove huge copper baking trays containing Ligurian treats.

Peasant origins make for simple regional recipes featuring humble ingredients: fresh vegetables, pulses, anchovies, yesterday’s bread, and a cheese curd somewhere between feta and cottage cheese known as prescinseua that gets put into practically everything but espresso in these parts. Result: savoury cakes, bakes, pesto and of course farinata.

Farinata is about as typical as you can get here. It’s a soft flatbread made with chickpea flour and  baked like a pizza in a large tray.

Try it at home…

2/3 cups chickpea flour
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil from Liguria
salt to taste
3/4 cups water
a sprig of rosemary (optional)
Put the flour in a large bowl and add water a little at a time, mixing and seasoning with salt until the mixture is
smooth; add the rosemary at this point.
Let it rest for 4 hours or overnight.
After this time, use a spoon to remove the layer of foam on the surface.
Remove the rosemary and add the olive oil, stirring well: the mixture should have the consistency of mashed potato.
Grease a baking pan with olive oil – the authentic pan is called a testo, made of tin-plated copper, about an eighth of an inch thick, perhaps a little more;  a small, deep Pizza pan will do.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Remove from the oven when a uniform golden colour.

If you have a cruise ship to catch, you can get Sa Pésta delicacies to go.