The Place for Seafood in Livorno, Italy
I had never heard of Livorno, Italy before. At least not until this past Spring when I was staying in Tuscany. Driving with my friend Andres to the coastal town of Livorno, we met up with more than a dozen of his friends to converge on the historic restaurant of Cantina Senese that is located within walking distance of the town’s port. It is a favorite among the locals and Italians throughout the Tuscan region that drive from more inland areas to enjoy an evening on the beautiful coast and some of the best seafood in that part of Italy.
Livorno is located about 25 – 30km south of Pisa and directly on the Mediterranean coast. The “Ristorante Cantina Senese” is still located in the same location and with the original bar that dates back to the late 800’s. The street it lives on is an average looking street, tucked away from the main and larger roads of the town. When we arrived at the front door, it was nothing that stood out to me and automatically qualified in my mind as a great “hole in the wall” discovery, which can lead to a great experience of the local culture. In its past, it was managed by one of the old wine merchants of the area and since 1988 continues to be managed by the Sanna Family that ensures its traditions in service and dishes are carried on. They are known for cooking the local dishes of Livorno with simple recipes that use the freshest produce, seafood, and seasonings of the area. Some of their most popular dishes they are known for is their specialty fish soup, their salty breakfast, and dishes with cuttlefish and eel. They still have a wine cellar as well and are known for serving their traditional Vino da Tavola which they produce locally.
I think it’s fun to be surprised with what dishes are brought to the table. To be able to sit back and let others order is nice every now and this is how I enjoyed a traditional dinner of fried and grilled fresh seafood that was brought to our table. Dish after dish was brought as well as wine bottle after wine bottle. Accompanying all of this was the local olive oil that we drizzled over everything. We shared large platters of mussels, jumbo shrimp, filet of cuttlefish, squid, sardines, and fresh bread, all washed down with the sweet and refreshing Vino da Tavola.
At some point towards the end of dinner, I took in the scene around me and what I was enjoying…the smells of olive oil and savory scents of warm bread complimented by fresh fish…new friends seated beside and across from me at a long wood table and laughter as we all licked our oily tasty fingers and toasted with our fingerprint smeared glasses of vino. Looking further around, I saw this similar scene among all the tables and groups throughout the restaurant. The overall scene was casual, warm, and welcoming. It reminded me of many more dinners I was to have in Italy soon after this…the experience of a shared meal bringing even new friends together as family. This is the cultural richness of Italians and how their love for each other, others, and food welcomes you in with open arms and sends you off with amore…and a full stomach.