The Cook

Passing through Liguria over the summer, we decided to try The Cook: a relatively new restaurant located in the town of Nervi, just along the coast from Genoa. Awarded one Michelin star, it offers playful and innovative variations on classic local dishes.

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We chose the tasting menu, and were presented with a selection of seafood amuse-bouches, mainly involving small slivers of fish with unusual toppings: shrimp with white chocolate, baccalà with caramel, others with porto or salsa verde. We’ve encountered this combination of shrimp and sweetness before at the excellent Ristorante Palma, farther along the Ligurian Riviera in Alassio, and I think it works very well (in small doses).

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Next came something a little unexpected for August: the classic Christmas dish cappon magro. To my mind the flavour of the salsa verde was a little overpowering, but it was otherwise an enjoyable and well-constructed miniature (the traditional version is much larger and is cut into slices).

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Next came a broth containing rouget, lupo di mare, oyster, shrimp from Santa Margherita (where we got married, by the way) and sea asparagus. I like broths; the liquid is delicately flavoured which still allows the ingredients to stand out.

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Not many Michelin-starred restaurants I know would put pasta carbonara on their menu, and I was a little puzzled when we were served with this small portion (the fork handle at bottom should give an idea of the size), but it was beautifully creamy, and contained a surprise inside: squid ink. You can see a little spot poking out at the top.

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The wines, by the way, were excellent, and the next course was particularly well matched with a strangely caramelly Verdicchio: gnocchi, beetroot and smoked scallops. I could gladly have eaten a much larger bowl of this.

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Then we switched to a Pinot nero from Trentino which had an amazingly velvety bouquet but was slightly more fruity and acid taste than expected in the mouth. It accompanied fried baby cuttlefish with balsamic zabaglione. Fantastic flavours.

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And so to dessert: nespresso ice with caramel (chef Ivano Ricchebono seems to have a soft spot for caramel).

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And some final sweet nibbles served with an interesting dessert wine from Sicily called Ben Rye. The biscuits in the foreground are canestrelli; another Ligurian speciality.

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All in all a lovely meal in comfortable and intimate surroundings, but the cherry on the cake (well, three cherries, I suppose) were the staff. The chef, his wife and their waitress were extremely friendly and very willing to spend as much time as we wanted them to at our table (although not so much that we felt crowded) chatting, explaining the dishes and telling us stories about how the restaurant was born and developed.

Definitely worth a visit if you’re in or around Genoa.