My friend, Francesco, grew up near Sestri Levante, and he recommended we that we eat at Ristorante dei Castelli on the Ligurian Riviera in the province of Genoa, or dine at Mario Polpo, both owned by his friend, Rudy. (Polpo was also recommended by Fred Plotkin in one of his fantastic books, Italy for the Gourmet Traveler). After a very very long day of visiting four different towns, and swimming in the cove at San Frutuosso near Portofino, we arrived by train at Sestri Levante, a peninsula that used to be an island.
We decided to walk to Ristorante dei Castelli. Each person that we asked along the street assured us that we only had to walk another 10 minutes, but it was a good 35 minutes from the train station before we found the mysterious door in the side of a mountainside, to the castle restaurant.
We were looking for the ‘lift’ to take us up to the castle restaurant so that we didn’t have to walk up the winding hillside road in the dark.
We opened the door in the side of the mountain, to see a long tunnel with a few lights on the sidelines. After an eery walk in the cave, we find the door, push the button and finally an elevator appears and we go up. When we looked in the elevator mirror, we looked disheveled but happy, because earlier that day we had spent an hour or more on beautiful windy ferry rides, walked in the rain with towels on our heads at Portofino, and then swam at the isolated monastery beach at San Frutuosso.
When we exited the elevator, we walked into a beautiful room with a statue of Venus in the center, but it was quiet, with no sign of a restaurant. After such a mysterious adventure to just find the castle, we began to wonder if we’d ever find the restaurant! We walked through several rooms in the castle, seeing no one else nor any signs, until we found the very beautiful restaurant overlooking the Bay of Silence and the Bay of Fables (Hans Christian Anderson visited Sestri).
We were served by four waiters who gave us devoted service. The food was excellent. The view of the sea was wonderful. And Rudy, the owner of the restaurant, came out to greet us and send good wishes back to our mutual friend, Francesco. (see his photo above with some of us).
When we were ready to leave Sestri Levante at 9:30pm, the taxis has shut down for the night, (which seemed strange to us) so our head waiter arranged for someone from the hotel to drive us back to the train station. It was a long day, as we had left our hotel at 9:30 am but we were happy with our adventures for the day, the beauty we saw, and the incredible food we ate.
Photos: Statue in the castle, the mysterious hallway in the cave that lead us to the elevator.
Photo: Food: testarole pasta with cream sauce, Catch of the day served with olive leaves, sprig of herbs, and olives.
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