After a long and tortuous but beautiful drive to Triora, marveling at the 119 meter high Loreto Bridge, and thinking “this is the true bridge to nowhere” we started back down toward Molina di Triora. It was 7:30, the official dinner hour in Italy it seems, and Santo Spirito beckoned.
My wife and I entered and were immediately transported back 100 years. We were greeted warmly and a huge open dining room, with 20 foot ceilings and rows of simple tables and very comfortable straight back chairs awaited us. On the walls hung racks of interesting and beautiful plates and platters, and copper vessels of all description. A large black pot belly stove sat on the time worn but spotlessly clean wood floors. This was not a chain restaurant with fake “antiques”- this establishment has been in the same family since 1897, and we quickly realized with anticipation that this was the real deal. Several of the tables were already set with platters piled high with salads and plates of appetizers. As it turns out, these were for the overnight guests, who from the looks of things were fed until they dropped. Another table was set for a birthday party. Near the center of the room sat a table laden with cakes and cheeses.
We were seated and opened the menu. Water was requested and it came not in a bottle from San Pellegrino, but in what looked like an old vinegar bottle - so cold, clean and delicious that there was no reason for bottled water. After all, the local torrente (stream) is so pure that if it is not bottled commercially, it should be. House wine by carafe came in a similar bottle.
Many of the traditional Ligurian dishes were on the menu, and my wife and I decided to try the cinghale (wild boar) and the coniglio (rabbit). The menu has á la carte prices , but one can have a set menuu in virtually any combination of dishes (i.e. appetizer and first, appetizer and second, first and second, etc.) for a low price, usually €18 or so. I ordered appetizer and secondo (main course) and my wife ordered primi (pasta), and secondo. That way we shared and tasted without ordering too much food. The special pasta that night was lasagna with pesto, and each dish was enough for 2 people to each have a nice portion ( the lasagna enough for four). We ate heartily, and finally were finished ,or so we thought, when we were asked if we would like salad, but we were pretty full. Our agreement to “just a little” brought crisp and fresh greens to the table, dressed perfectly, just enough to cap things off.
After a wonderful dessert, we sat back, sipped our coffee and took in the tableaux unfolding around us. The room was about half full, this being shoulder season, but gently bustling. Over at the party table, the cake was served, gifts presented, and a friendly little dog would not stop licking her owner. Overnight guests ambled in bit by bit after a day of hiking. One could see that all were in good spirits. Grandmother in her white apron popped in and out of the kitchen, smiling. Finally Maria came to the table with a bottle of house made limoncello and two glasses. How could we refuse? We sipped and relaxed, not wanting to leave. In that room, time seemed to stand still, in the best possible way. It could have been 1912, not 2012. Really and truly.
The whole bill for 2, including hot and cold appetizers, primi, 2 secondos with sides, dessert, and wine, came to €49. On top of all this love, our meal was a real bargain.
Molina di Triora is not exactly on most people’s beaten path, but if you can visit this wonderful part of Northern Liguria, you will not regret spending a few hours in this memorable and hospitable place.
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