It had to come to an end. An so it did, this string of delicious, fresh satisfying meals came resoundingly, thuddingly, hectically, and rudely to a halt last night at what is supposedly the best restaurant in Manarola, the harborside Marina Piccola. This gets mentioned in most of the guidebooks and online articles as the place for the freshest, most well prepared food in town.
We wasted a precious dinner, and the most money we had spent on any dinner on this trip. Here’s what we got: A harried floor guy who brusquely shows you to your table. Menus and wine list thrown onto the table. A female server, looking like she had either just had or was in need of her next fix, running, literally, back and forth past your table with food, water, stopping by the kitchen door for a quick drag on her cigarette every chance she got. Very mediocre apps come quickly, but after tasting them you wish they hadn’t come at all. More people show up, filling even more tightly the cramped outdoor dining room. Chaos edges ever closer, threatening to engulf the entire place. Unfortunately our entrees arrive, w’s a barely acceptable plate of roasted sardines in a too thick tomato sauce. Mine is even more ludicrous. I ordered an oven roasted branzino, expecting a finely prepared, fresh piece of local flavor. What I got was a whole fish swimming in a pool of olive oil. Had he still been alive, I swear he could have done laps. All around us, things appear to be spiraling. Waiters rush by with hot plates of food in their hands and confused looks on their faces. Going from table to table, trying to find out who ordered what. Newcomers are seated at tables that haven’t even been cleaned after the exit of the last unfortunate souls who sat there. There’s an air of hostility swirling about. I grab a server, pay the ransom, and we beat a hasty retreat.
What I’m saying is, if any of you should find yourself in the natural wonderland that is the Cinque Terre, don’t ever, no matter what you read or hear, let yourself get hooked into Marina Piccolo. Consider yourselves warned!