So, I have a thing for Liguria. Visiting the Italian Riviera for the first time five years ago was a dream come true and if you had told me then that I’d one day be visiting this gorgeous azure seaside regularly, I would have brushed it off as wishful thinking. But now, this pristine coast line has become my happy place, and there’s one restaurant there that’s my happier place: La Cantina di Miky in Monterosso, one of the Cinque Terre towns. (Yes, I love Cinque Terre and I’m not afraid to shout it from the rooftops!)
Disclaimer: Before I proceed, I should say that I’m friends with Cantina’s owners Christine and Manuel, but my personal relationship with them doesn’t affect or sway my writing. I swear I’m not shilling for them…I’m writing from the heart!
So, when it comes to restaurants, next to the company, I’m all about good vibes and eating well, and La Cantina di Miky not only delivers on both fronts, but exceeds all and any expectations. Located on Via Fegina, Monterosso al Mare’s main drag, the inside is inviting and super cozy (and air-conditioned!), but outside is where it’s at. Who doesn’t want a view of the crystal blue Ligurian sea? Even when it gets dark, you get to listen to the calming soundtrack of the gentle lapping of the sea on the pebbly shore and inhale the salty air as a breeze blows. It’s heaven.
La Cantina di Miky is my favorite restaurant. The Ligurian fare is simple, yet SO SO SO FLAVORFUL, and it’s the type of food I want to eat everyday. When I’m there, I feel like I’m at home. And since I’m by the sea, I’m just 100% happy all the time, so it’s like feeling 100% happy at home, and it’s glorious. My only problem with the restaurant is that everything is so wickedly good, it’s really hard to decide what I want. Anything I haven’t yet tasted sounds so darn enticing, but the mainstays are quite tempting. I should note that anything anchovies are a must; and if you can’t decide between the different preparations, you can get a sampler of seven different variations so you get to try a little of everything.
When I visited for the feast of San Giovanni, I was torn between riccioli with amberjack or the pesto, a classic I love. I decided on the amberjack pasta for dinner and decided I’d have the pesto for a late lunch before my Sunday train. And just when I thought the riccioli with amberjack was the ultimate summer pasta, they managed to outdo themselves on my most recent visit with a pasta so divinely gloriousness that I scarpetta’d the plate clean: House-made squid ink tagliolini with cicale (mantis shrimp), tomatoes and asparagi di mare (salicornia). It’s been on the menu as of late July 2017, and if you visit there this summer, you have to try this. I honestly haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since!
Christine knows everything about Ligurian cuisine, and if you ask her about a plate or a recipe, she’ll tell you the story behind it. The stuffed mussels were life changing, filled with milk soaked stale bread crumbs (Ligurians waste nothing, says Christine), mortadella, majoram and cheese, then sealed and cooked. Per Christine, it’s a very old, traditional Ligurian recipe, and one that’s few and far between on local restaurants. Not a lot of places like to make them because of the work that goes into them. Anytime I see them on a menu, I have to have them. Cantina has replaced the stuffed mussels with anchovies filled in the the same manner and then fried, and they’re just to die for.
Now to drink, Cantina has my drink of choice: freshly made lemonade! A beverage that yes, is few and far between in Italy, but not as hard to find in Monterosso as lemons are typical of the terroir.
Cantina’s cocktail list features their own take on classics, such as the Monterosso Mule with local-herb-infused vodka, lemon, sugar and ginger soda; Sprtiz Cantina with St. Germain, Prosecco, passion fruit,Passoã and soda: and Fragola e Basilico (strawberry and basil) with tequila, fresh strawberries, basil leaves, lime and sugar.
When it comes to wine, Christine can talk you through anything on the wine list, which has strong focus on local winemakers. Liguria doesn’t get as much as love on the wine front as Italy’s other regions, but Cantina’s wine list is testament to some local winemaking talent. Cantina recently introduced me to Vetua, a white made from Vermentino, Albarola, and Bosco in the style of a Cinque Terre D.O.C. However, the winemaker decided to forego the D.O.C. restrictions and do his own thing with the grapes to make the wine he wants to make. I loved sipping it! The wine encompassed the terroir, with saline and citrus notes coupled with an a herbal/mineral quality.
I appreciate beer yes, but I’m not much of an expert. I do prefer wine and cocktails to beer, but I do know Cantina has a solid selection of Italian artisan brews. Again, Christine can talk you trough all the beers.
Now on to the vibes! You’re most likely already in good company and just sitting outside at Cantina just makes the company even better. There’s such a happy, upbeat convivial energy, and I can’t tell you how many great people I’ve met sitting at the table beside me, some of whom I still keep in touch with! This energy is rare and special. Honestly, I can’t wait to go back again.
If you’re planning to visit Cinque Terre, go to Cantina di Miky. If not, keep the restaurant in mind for any future Cinque Terre travel plans, and follow them on Instagram and Facebook in the meantime.
La Cantina di Miky: Via Fegina 90; 0187 802525; website
Open Thursday to Tuesday: 12pm – 11.15pm
Note: La Cantina di Miky is seasonal, so it’s closed during the winter months. It usually serves its last dish of the season in late October or early November and re-opens in Mid to late March, just before Easter.