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Vernazza: Trattoria Da Sandro

via Roma, 60

Reviewed by: Jeff Whiteaker from CA, review #2539

When: 2007

Okay, so maybe the "frown face" icon is a little harsh for this review of Da Sandro, but honestly, the food here just wasn't that great.

You see, Vernazza has about 7-8 restaurants, and they pretty much all have the same menu. And of course, all of these identical menus come with English translations, and in a small town full of tourists, sorting out the tourist traps from the genuinely great restaurants can prove more challenging than it seems. The usual methods involved in doing so just don't quite work here. So we knew that trying a few of these places might be a crap-shoot. Luckily we only had one disappointing dining experience in the Cinque Terre, and that was Da Sandro.

For primi, I ordered the Troffie with Pesto. I had already tried this local specialty of small, twisty, cork-screw shaped pasta with basil-pesto earlier in the week at a restaurant called Il Baretto - a few doors down via Roma - so I had something to compare it to. Unfortunately, Da Sandro's pesto was strangely and disappointingly bland. I had been consuming pesto like there was no tomorrow in Vernazza/Cinque Terre, and Da Sandro's pesto was the only one that truly underwhelmed.

My girlfriend ordered the Ravioli in a Walnut-based cream sauce, which was actually pretty good, not to mention fairly distinctive and interesting. Despite that, it wasn't thoroughly mind-blowing, although it proved to be the only promising dish of the night.

And now to the grand insult, the dish that earned this review its "frown face" icon - the secondo of fried seafood. This dish was disgusting. A greasy, crusty, bland culinary disaster. Now, I realize that it is touted all over town as a local specialty, and I will give Da Sandro credit for making sure the calamari was reasonably tender. But honestly, the bulk of this dish - consisting of a big bowl of greasy, fried fish and various frutti di mare - was inexcusably bad. Sure, I like to try regional specialties, and I'll admit that I cannot vouch for the authenticity of Da Sandro's version. However, except for the tenderness of the calamari rings, this was like something you'd expect to get in a big box at Long John Silver with a wedge of lemon and cheap tartar suace. "Hey, it's fried fish, what did you expect?" you may be asking. Well, I'm not sure! I think on some level we thought it would be fried in a more tender, non-greasy way; maybe something vaguely akin to the soft, light, tender consistency of good quality Japanese Tempura? Why did we harbor these vague assumptions? I don't know!!! All I can say is, if you go to Da Sandro, stay away from the fried fish!

After we finished choking the stuff down, we bailed on dessert and went up the hill to Il Pirata for their life-altering chocolate-almond Semifreddo. To sum up - Da Sandro's pasta was okay, but that fried fish really tained the overall experience, and I would not return.

Reviewed by: Evets from USA, review #2007

When: 2006

Outstanding dinner and great friendly service. The best pesto in the world.

Directions: Starting from the harbor, it's about 2/3rds of the way up to the train station on the right-hand side.

Go to this restaurant! This is without a doubt one of the best meals we have ever eaten, period.

We passed on the antipasti although it was very tempting and we saw many people with piles of mussels on their plates. We just weren't hungry enough to partake of every possible course.

My wife and I started with Trofie con pesto(Trofie is the local fresh pasta). It was without a doubt the best pesto we have ever tasted and believe me, we have tasted many a pesto. The kids also split a primo but I can't remember what they had.

For secondi, the kids ordered steak and veal as I recall. Seafood is what you should eat in the Cinque Terre but they are not big seafood eaters- their loss. In any case, they enjoyed their meals. My wife ordered Tegame, a local specialty consisting of potato, olive, anchovy, and tomato, similar to a salad nicoise. She loved it. I tried it and concurred. I ordered the 'specialita del giorno', tuna encrusted with pine nuts and pistachios. It was excellent.

For dessert, we ordered walnut cake that came with a sweet amber-colored wine. Also excellent. The service was warm and friendly. The bill came to 90 euros for 2 primi, 4 secondi, 2 deserts, soft drinks, water, a carafe of wine, and the cover charge for 4 people.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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