Focaccia will always have a special place in my heart, or rather in my stomach. Food is emotional, and it’s what I remember eating when I first came here twenty years ago. There was a shop around the corner from the school where I worked. I’d go off and buy it for my lunch and then go down and sit by the lake. Now I buy focaccia for my kids, the little ones, the focaccine, and they take them to school for their mid-morning snack.
Which is why any trip to Liguria has to involve focaccia, and no less so than to Genoa. Genoa is great for street food. For a start, it’s the kind of place that encourages street food. (Why go off and sit in a restaurant when you can see all this?) And the food it offers is magnificent. Remember, Genoa is the home of focaccia genovese, and focaccia genovese is to be eaten to be believed.
The origins of focaccia are ancient. Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians all prepared focaccia with barley, millet and rye flour. It’s derived from the Latin focus, meaning hearth or fireplace which is where the bread was traditionally cooked. It’s the bread of travellers and sailors, and nowhere does this seem more adapt than in the heart of Genoa’s Medieval historical centre. Genoa, once a maritime republic, and now a multi-attraction city that is definitely worth the visit.
Focaccia genovese or fugàssa as it’s known in the local dialect is flatter than other focaccia you may find in Italy – generally no more than 2cm high. It’s renowned for the fact that it’s covered in an emulsion of olive oil and flavoured with rock salt. And then there’s the farinata, a kind of pancake made of chickpea flour.
We’d only been in Genoa about, ooh a good ten minutes, and there was the usual “mum, did you bring any snacks? Mum, I’m hungry. Mum, can we eat something?” It’s like that with boys. They need feeding. Often.
Spot a few could-be locals, and “Excuse me, where you can get the best focaccia?”
The directions were a bit vague and neither of them could remember the name of the place (par for course, as you learn), and off we trek into the alleyways or caruggi of Genoa. The place we went to was Focaccia e… on Via San Lorenzo by the cathedral, although to be honest you could go to any focacceria and not be disappointed.
And it was delicious.
Focaccia di Recco (left) and Farinata (right)
The other type of focaccia famous around here is the focaccia di Recco, a thin almost pancake-like bread filled with a soft cheese, stracchino, that is at its best when eaten warm.
On the beach at Recco, just like this was. And no better way to eat it.