A man of few words, he is introverted and shy, does not like the spotlight, and commerce is not one of his strengths: these are the characteristics of a true artist. His name is Vincenzo, but everyone calls him Enzo, and he is an old friend of my father. He is a master of the art of cooking, and of fish in particular. I am on vacation in Varigotti and having just returned from the Ristorante Muraglia I couldn’t not write about this extraordinary fountain of culinary knowledge. When Enzo cooks, he expresses all that he cannot say in words. The kitchen is open-plan and he insists on working alone. His hands move with tremendous speed, but the movements are delicate, and bear the stamp of experience, talent, and love for this work. My father has known him since they were young and he helped him at the bar when he owned the family hotel. We are not talking about a five star restaurant, but I assure you that the quality is of the highest degree. For me, the highest degree is when refinement of taste is at the core of the culinary approach. The fish is prepared according to traditional and simple methods. The plates are presented well, are never over the top, and at the heart of every dish is experience and passion, nothing more.
When you pass by a restaurant that serves lots of fish, you are normally struck by a characteristic stink that permeates your clothing and follows you home; at Muraglia no. In fact, as the older generation says, fresh fish doesn’t smell. And now, since I know you are curious to know what I ate, stay calm, I am about to tell you. For the appetizer, a trio of octopus with sun-dried tomatoes, sardines, and fried baby octopus with leeks, steamed mussels with basil, and a mixed grill fit for an emperor and starring angler fish, oysters, and a very tasty Ligurian ribbon fish.
I drank Timorasso, a wine from the Colli Tortonesi produced by Walter Massa. Like nascetta it is a rediscovered grape variety that is yielding results of excellent quality. Obviously this post is not going to launch me into a career as a food critic, first because that’s not what interests me here and second because I don’t possess the basic requisite knowledge. Every so often, however, I come across a place that while not perfect, is made unique by the food that is served and the cook who prepares it. If you are traveling along the Ligurian coast, stop by Enzo’s. You won’t regret it!