The first restaurant I want to write about is Baldin (1 Michelin Star; 2 Forks/81 points Gambero Rosso). A gem in the worse part of Genoa (Sestri Ponente). If you ask any Genoese how that zone of Genoa is, they will open their eyes wide and shake their heads wondering why, with all the beautiful places in Genoa, you are going there. This being said, you are now ready to face the bad looking houses without being surprised when you first arrive at the train station. The restaurant is situated at a 5 minute walk from the train station and it’s quite easy to reach (if you call the restaurant, the chef will be glad to explain you the way there) – you’ll hardly have time to notice the glum surroundings.
The atmosphere in the restaurant is quite charming: with white painted high vaulted ceiling, the dining room seems quite large and fresh. Newly renovated with a modern style balanced by a traditional touch, given by the structure of the room, with the high vaulted ceiling. An unexpected and welcome contrast with the badly kept square in which it is situated and the hot +30°C we had outside the restaurant. The young Chef de Cuisine Luca Collami welcomed us very warmly and, in a moment, we found ourself sitting at our table. The restaurant was quite empty, it being a lunch on a week day in mid August, so we had almost the whole dining room to ourselves.
A complimentary glass of Franciacorta was given us before starting the meal. It was very different from any other Franciacorta I had had before. It was quite fruity, and not as dry as it normally is. A perfect match with the tasty and marvelously oily focaccia we had.
The sommelier helped us choose the food and the wine.
I had the “Colazione di Lavoro” menu and WJT had the “Della Regione” menu. They are available for lunch only and allow you to have great food for good value.
We also had a complimentary starter called “frisceu”, a typical dish from Genoa which consists of fried leavened bread dough. Very soft consistency, with a lot of air incorporated, the result was a delicious and not too heavy; perfect basis for the dished to come.
After this, we had our starters. I had scallop with mashed potatoes and black truffle. The very BEST dish of the meal (if not of the summer). The presentation was reminiscient of a painting: the mash had been put on the dish as with a brush stroke creating a background that could make stand out the other two ingredients. These finest ingredients were mixed together and they would melt in your mouth in a perfect marriage. Perfect balance created by the strong taste of truffle (they were also in the mash) and the sweetness of the scallop was just stunning. The scallops were very soft and tender complementing the crispness of the truffles (which were surprisingly very fresh, even though completely out of season).
WJT had “Cappon Magro”, a starter composed with fish, muscles, pesto, potatoes and green beans. Very colorful dish, like a picture on a children book. A collection of individual tastes that did not really mix uniformly but rather did stand out each alone. There was not a very savory ingredient, yet the pesto was an excellent proof of real pesto Genoese.
My primo was vermicelli with garlic, oil and botargo (which is the roe pouch of tuna or grey mullet, or sometimes swordfish, in this case it was tuna. It is obtained by massaging by hand the roe pouch to eliminate air pockets and then it is put to dry and cured in sea salt for a few weeks. The result is a dry hard slab, which is coated in beeswax for keeping).
The botargo was the freshest I had ever had, you could recognize the tiny separate pieces. Very salty taste, balanced by the acidity of some (almost row) tiny tomatoes. The vermicelli pasta is a traditional type of pasta round in section that is thicker than spaghetti. It was very fresh and rough, making the oil and botargo stick to it. Cooked “al dente” to enhance its flavor and consistency.
WJT’s primo was “Straccio al pesto”. A few sheets of five cereals pasta with very fine and fresh pesto. The original recipes for pesto is: basil, oil, parmigiano cheese, pine nuts, garlic and salt. There are many variations of this old recipe, which replace parmigiano with other cheeses and pine nuts with different nuts or remove garlic. The pesto at Baldin was made following the original recipe, very fat, rich, creamy (although you could spot the single pieces of basil, for how fresh it was). The pesto was maybe not enough for the pasta, which resulted quite dry and a bit too heavy. Overall, good ingredients but not well mixed.
My secondo was “Zuppetta di pesce sostenibile al profumo di rosmarino”, a little fish soup perfumed with rosemary. The little squids were perfect with the tomato soup, but other fishes were not quite a great match as those. The only exemption was constituted by the muscles: I did not know muscles could taste so good before trying those. The sommelier explained us that the best period for muscles is August, so this could be the reason. The taste was quite mild, making this dish enjoyable but not memorable (apart from the muscles, of course!).
WJT’s secondo was “Stoccafisso della darsena”, stock fish with tomatoes, pine nuts and olives (a very traditionally ligurian combination). Very savory fish of a meaty consistency, good reproduction of a traditional dish. Maybe it would have been more interesting to try a reinterpretation of this dish.
The whole meal was accompanied by Vermentino wine from Colle Di Luni. This wine did a very good job in supporting almost all of the dishes, it had enough structure to balance the fat of the pesto but it was not too aggressive, so that it did not ruin the delicatessen of the scallop.
Dulcis in fundo, we had their “Piccola pasticceria”, some tiny desserts, good but not really outstanding. The best was a chocolate praline with white truffle (tops right corner). This was accompanied by a sweet wine, Malvasia. Great style, it made the dessert more interesting.
Overall, in my opinion, this restaurant deserves its one star but not more. Very well executed dishes but not enough courage to break some rules and reinvent traditional dishes. WJT and I like the menu “Colazione di Lavoro” better than the other one.
Very friendly service and awesome sommelier, who helped us choose local wines, but also knew a great deal of food.
The chef was most warm, both when we arrived and when we left, making us feel at home. Very good experience indeed.
Highly recommended if you are traveling around Genoa!
Prices (available for lunch only):
Colazione di Lavoro: 40 €
Della Regione: 45 €
Piazza Tazzoli 20R 16154 Genova Sestri Ponente
Tel. 0106531400 Fax 0106504818