Antica Osteria del Carugio
Antica Osteria del Carugio
Restaurant in Porto Venere
The Carugio “style” dates back hundreds of years and exists ever since the Middle Ages. It was a kind of cooperative: the owner allowed others, mainly farmers and fishermen, to bring in raw materials and sell them. Needless to say, it was a gathering place for the locals and a venue that the travelers and pilgrims who visited Porto Venere knew and visited. It was a meeting point for all, from local Ligurians to those, originally from regions with no access to the sea, that came here to spend their holidays, and/or had their summer abodes in town. At our Carugio, we aim to recreate the ambiance and emotions of that era. Our vegetable garden in Porto Venere, and the selection of local products we offer, enhance our traditions without neglecting to be mindful of current needs.
Alessandro’s role and vision. Family continuity
Ourpassion for our job started with my grandparents, restaurantowners since 1960, and continued with my mother, who kept the tradition going and passed it on to me. My journey began in the family restaurant, Il Timone: that’s where I started learning the basics, working side by side with my mother.
But passion is by no means enough! I attended ALMA, Gualtiero Marchesi’s International School of Italian Cuisine, graduating in Food and Beverage Management, and rounded out my knowledge in wine by taking the AIS Sommelier Course. Then, I embarked on a path that I had, in some way, been on forever. I delved into the dishestypical of our land and heritage, those specialthings that I, and we, felt and feel belong to us. A wholeworld opened up to me: connecting with people, with my customers; the passion for food and wine; Liguria.
It’s all marvelouslygratifying and fulfilling, and it happened very simply and naturally, like a bud gently opening into a flower.
The AnticaOsteria del Carugio project allows me to express who I am: “a contemporary innkeeper“, quoting Gualtiero Marchesi. The greatmaster and father of modernItaliancuisine liked to recall that “simplicity is complexity resolved”. And simplicity is the value that identifies the essence of my osteria.
The role of tradition in the culinary choiches of Osteria del Carugio
Our cuisine mirrors our region’s layout and comprises its sea and land. Just look at a map of Liguria: it’s a bow-shaped strip of land that encloses mountainside and seaside, all in a few kilometers. Our local culinary tradition is rooted in the vegetable gardens and farmyards, with their white meat, chickens, rabbits, and vegetables. The latter are expertly stuffed, yesterday and today, with tasty savory fillings, even mortadella.
Why mortadella? Because, once upon a time, there was a trade route called the “salt route”: Ligurians used to take salt to Emilia-Romagna, and bring mortadella back.Mortadella was so precious that we learned to make the most of it, including it in our stuffings too. And why seafood? Because the sea’s right under our feet, and anyone – even a child – can catch octopus, cuttlefish, or any fish, for that matter. Our Osteria’s cuisine is strongly linked to the shape of our region, a thin, narrow ribbon of land that stretches between the sea and the mountains.
The beautiful fresh produce our vegetable garden yields allows us to offer a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes. All are deeply rooted in Ligurian tradition: our Mescciüa, for instance, made with chickpeas, spelt, and cannellini beans, our vegetable soup, rich in garden-fresh homegrown vegetables, and our ever-present Ligurian-style stuffed vegetables. Our vegetable garden is nearby, in Porto Venere, so providing our customers with fresh, high-quality, local traditional products is very easy. Our bountiful olive grove offers yet more added value: we make our own extra-virgin olive oil and are extremely proud of it. We started our garden some six years ago because we wanted to use homegrown products to make our traditional Ligurian dishes. Ligurian caponata, for instance, a simple tomato caponata made with capers and dried tuna fish. Our garden-fresh capers and tomatoes enhance the flavor, allowing those who taste it to discover the true flavor of Portovenere, La Spezia, and their surroundings.
At the Antica Osteria del Carugio you can enjoy the finest of typical Ligurian cuisine. Our dishes are mostly made with fresh, local, seasonal products, specifically ingredients supplied by small-scale local producers, and the vegetables and herbs that we grow in our very own garden. Home-produced high-quality EVO made with the olives from our olive grove located just above Portovenere’s main square is another one of our main ingredients. We harvest the olives in early October, before they turn black, cold press them to ensure long-lasting fragrance and persistence, and package the EVO in pretty bottles. The land comprises some 8,000 square meters, and is in a wonderful position, sun-kissed from dawn to dusk! Our olive grove comprises 420 olive trees of four different cultivars: the Razzola, Leccino, Taggiasca, and Preveza. The latter, typical of Porto Venere and cherry-shaped, adds an elegant note to our oil, and our recipes.
Our dishes recount the rhythm of the seasons of both sea and land.
At the Antica Osteria del Carugio we have always endeavored to emphasize our strong link to traditional and local products while keeping present-day preferences and needs in mind. We offer our guests typical fare, prepared according to Portovenere’s culinary legacy, aiming to recount our wonderful land’s unique scents and flavors in every dish.
One can easily identify the Antica Osteria del Carugio with a traditional Ligurian staple: Mesciüa.
But what is Mesciüa, exactly?
It’s a typical soup, deeply bound to the core idea underlying our Osteria, made with chickpeas, white cannellini beans and spelt. It’s incredibly simple but has an extraordinary flavor. The three ingredients are soaked and cooked separately, and then assembled. We add our extra-virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper at the end.
Where does Mesciüa come from?
We make it every day, and we always have. This dish comes from La Spezia, a commercial port about ten kilometers from Porto Venere. The ships that once docked there used to transport pulses, mainly chickpeas and beans. Those who worked at the port (my grandfather, on my mother’s side, for instance) used to collect the leftovers, the goods that fell out of the sacks when they cleaned out the ships’ holds at the end of the day. They managed to get some beans, some chickpeas, a handful of grains, a mixture, “mescià” in the local dialect. Hence, mesciua: an extraordinarily simple dish.
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Via Giovanni Capellini, 66, 19025, Portovenere (SP)
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