My husband and I were taken to lunch at La Madia by friends two days before Christmas. We live in Florence and the restaurant is in Livorno, about an hour's drive away. It was a grey, rainy day but when we entered La Madia and were greeted by Fernando, it felt as if the sun had come out. Maria Rosa, the chef, came out to say hello, too. We already felt welcome. The restaurant has two smallish rooms with about twelve (?) tables in all. Comfortably elegant furnishings. The menu: it was clear from the beginning that choosing was going to be the hardest thing about this day. We opted for the mixed antipasti and little did we know what a wise, wonderful choice we'd made. As we waited, Fernando brought us some tasty spiced toasted bread. And then the antipasti started coming ... four bits on each plate, one for each of us ... and coming and coming and coming. Each one even better than the previous, though the breaded mussel plate was probably my favorite (even though I don't usually eat or like mussels!). All the other dishes (first and second courses) were delicious and the desserts are a work of art, but the next time I go back. I'm going to concentrate on the antipasti!
My husband and I felt as if we'd had an early Christmas, both because of the food and because Fernando and Maria Rosa, two exceptional people who love what they do (and it shows!) in an out-of-the-way hidden gourmet treasure of a restaurant. It costs about €50-60 per person, with wine, but it is definitely worth it if you want to taste real fish prepared superbly.