The Best Meal I Ever Ate: Italy

If you asked me point blank what my favorite cuisine is, I wouldn’t say Italian. I’d say Thai or Indian, but keep it mild. If you asked me where my favorite wine is from, I would disregard the ever-present Chianti or Italian table wine, and instead claim the best reds come from Rioja, in Spain.

And yet, two of my all-time favorite dining experiences fall into the Italian category. Whether the opportunity and availability dictated this, or the pure comfort that arises from a bite of fresh bread immersed in olive oil washed down with a mellow white aged in ancient stone barrels, were the cause of this, I know not. But when I think about the best meals I’ve ever eaten, my mind goes to two places simultaneously- Il Pirata (the Pirate) in Vernazza, Italy and A16, in San Francisco, California.

When I asked my cousins and aunt what we should do in Italy, they all (independently and resoundingly) told us to eat at Il Pirata. Described as one of the best meals they’d ever eaten, they were still salivating over it 5 years later. I was told to make sure to try the pesto (on whatever I could), the pasta, the desserts, EVERYTHING! (direct quote).

My mom and I made it into Vernazza in the late afternoon, and found Il Pirata was closed for dinner. We resolved to come back for breakfast, and ate a lovely seafood meal overlooking the water.

En route to Il Pirata

The next morning, we woke up and walked up the street to the restaurant. We ordered a little of everything, sweet and savory, coffee, orange juice, and granitas (like a fruit icee), pastries, pesto toast with prosciutto, tomato, and fresh mozzarella.

Every bite was divine, and we relished it. While we hadn’t been able to try anything beyond the pesto and bread, we were convinced and in agreement with the rest of our family that this was easily the best meal we’d had in Italy, maybe ever.

After spending the morning hiking between Vernazza and Corniglia, we decided to return to Il Pirata to have lunch, where we were able to try gnocchi in pesto, raviolis, a coffee granita, and a panna cotta covered in fresh fruit. Again, everything was divine, and we were so content in our food choices, some of the best of the trip.

The next day, we went to Barcelona, where we had amazing food as well, but nothing to rival Il Pirata.

Where to go, if you go: Il Pirata delle 5 Terre, Vernazza, Italy,

Part 2: A16-Coming Soon


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