A couple of nights ago we ate at I Tre Merli, one of Genova’s oldest inns. How is such a perfect restaurant created? Easy, take three crazy graduates, two architects and one literary man – which in Genova are usually called “Merli” and allow them to create freely with their ideas and their care for details. This place is found in the heart of the superb Genova, a few steps from one of the world’s most beautiful streets, Via Garibaldi, is surely full of detail.
Great emotions hit you already when you arrive into the Strada dei Palazzi dei Rolli, or Via Garibaldi – Unesco Human Heritage Site – at night is fantastically illuminated. Light shine on buildings full of history and suggestions. One feels as if they’re in a very special place. A fantastic show which we suggest You visit soon.
The entrance of the Tre Merli Antica Cantina is still the same way a man called Borasio once built it. This man sold wine by use. At the time people would visit him with a container and they would buy only what was needed. Some bottles and barrels with this name may still be found on the floor above.
When entering one will immediately notice the paving in original Bedonia’s stone, a type of sandstone hard as steel, which was chosen so that it could resist to the weight of all the horses passing by. During the 1300s this place was a horse stable for the building’s nobles. At the centre there is still the original manhole which was used to drain the water. In that point the floor is bent to ease this task.
The feeling one gets inside is one of being in a very ancient time, still preserved in detail. These sensations are triggered for example by the plates of the time, hung on the walls which were used to brand the old barrels. All the original red brick arches, the old wood beams and the pastel coloured walls are still present.
The tables are made for two people, have straw-tied chairs, a sober furniture which adapts itself well to the contest. The bar’s sinks are made of marble of the time. The atmosphere is very secluded, intimate, one dines by candlelight and feels immediately in a good mood.
As soon as we sat down we let ourselves be guided by gianmaria, the place’s manager. He likes having his first name not capitalized. We suggest you do the same. This restaurant recommends various dishes from the Genova culture which are very rare. Let him help you with the choice of wines, too. The manager knows his stuff and is very passionate.
Our culinary travel through time could only have started with the “Cappon Magro”, a typical dish of Genova’s peasants. Especially the port’s “Camalli”, which are the fish discarded by the fishermen, made up this dish rich in boiled vegetables and sailor’s gallette (thin hard wheat crackers), suitable for lasting during long navigation.
Then we tasted the “Strozzapreti”, a short type of hard wheat pasta which the I Tre Merli buy from a special supplier down south called “Latini”. This craftsman creates them the same way it was done in the past, which guarantees a perfect cooking.Gianmaria tells us of how hard to prepare this type of past is, because it becomes “al dente” at a precise time which gives out a fantastic taste, but becomes soft immediately after.
Sometimes they are substituted by half rigatoni, supplied by the same “Latini” and are dressed in sausage sauce with slivers of Castelmagno, a low Piemonte cheese, which is right after the border of Liguria. Well now! Amazing taste. Bitter, but it goes perfectly with the dish.
One of the place’s strong points is the Octopus. It changes depending on the season, from boiled, cut in thin pieces, or in a warm salad with potatoes, olives and dry tomatoes. It is a traditional dish which is highly regarded by the managers.
Perhaps our favourite will be the “Ciupin”, the typical Genovese Fish Soup, which is here cooked in stone pots, which keeps it warm even with no fire under it. gianmaria told us that at the time this dish was used to socialize inside the family. They would sit all around the table and share the soup while telling each other the facts of the day. It is fantastic, with a very tasty broth which tastes great with bread.
We should also point out, even though it isn’t a typical Genova dish, the Fondue Bourguignonne, always present in the restaurant’s menu.
At the end of the meal, during the dessert, you should try the Latte Dolce Genovese con panera. These are small cream cubes which are covered in bread crumbs and fried. A fantastic house specialty. They are served here with dark chocolate. You should try the Flan, a bitter hot chocolate pudding with white chocolate cream. It’ll give you fabulous sensations. There are also the Cantucci and Vin Santo, typical of the Tuscan culture.
For the wines we suggest asking gianmaria. The I Tre Merli are second to none when it comes to wines. They have more than 300 different brands which added to the ones in their second restaurant Porto Antico di Genova, go over 500. For every dish there are specific wine suggestions, to create the perfect match.
Starting from the Liguria tradition with the light Pigato and Vermentino wines, the Piemonte Barbaresco and Barbera starting from ’89, Barolo from 82, all of them full-bodied with a strong taste. The red wines from Veneto are Amarone from ’90, the Tuscan ones with the multi-awarded Brunello di Montalcino, starting from ’71, theChianti Rufina from 1990, passing to the Trentino wines with the Merlot, from 2002.
Almost all the Italian regions are represented with selected wines.
The I Tre Merli also offer various Champagne wines, from which we point out theCristal Brut Reims of Louis Roderer, and the Grand Cuvée of Krug. There are some treats even within the liquors: the Rosolio, a rose distilled for women and theBarolo Chinato.
At night it is possible visiting the I Tre Merli as a pre-dinner and just try a good glass of wine.
They will serve you with Genova focaccia croutons, which are homemade.
If you’re interested in wine, although we suggest it also to the less expert, ask them to visit the wine cellar. It is still preserved the way it was in the past. It used to be a rain water tank which supplied the nobles’ homes inside the building. You’ll feel as if you just dived back into history, inside a cave with great walls and arches, and a lot of bottles ready to be loved.
Marco Secondo, one of the owners of the I Tre Merli Group, told us of the technical adventure that was trying to preserve all the original settings from the time. For example, inside the main hall a loft has been built where some tables are placed in order not to remove the cribs, where the horses would eat after the long travels pulling the nobles’ coaches.
Inside the small hall on the floor above, there are still the certificates for the selling of the wines of the time.
If you have sons/daughters between the 16 and 25 years of age, the on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday nights, while you peacefully enjoy a few wines or you’d rather enjoy to the background music while gianmaria tells you about stories from Genova, then send them after dinner to the Gottineria, also by the I Tre Merli, in Piazza delle Erbe, behind the Palazzo Ducale. It is but a few minutes walking distance.
They will find hundreds of university students who all gather there to play music, socialize, and live the cheerfulness which comes with their age.
In conclusion, if you want to propose, if you want to be forgiven, or simply live a suggestive evening, I Tre Merli Antica Cantina is the right place. 30 minutes before dinner will allow you to walk around Via Garibaldi, which is a fantastic show which we absolutely suggest You try.
Free parking is available in Piazza Fontane Marose and if you’d like to be more secure, there is a paid silos behind Via XX Settembre, exactly in Via 12 Ottobre just before Piazza de Ferrari.
The price varies between 40 and 70 Euros per person, excluding the wines. We suggest booking beforehand and tell gianmaria with our name. You’ll be greeted in a special way
Ristorante I Tre Merli
Vico dietro il Coro della Maddalena, 26r
Phone 010.247.40.95 (ask by gianmaria)
Portofino World, a world apart.