Rapallo offers excellent ice cream, specialty foods, wine and house-roasted coffee
A sophisticated Italian Riviera resort, Rapallo is also home to some of Liguria’s best artisan ice cream. At my personal favorite, Gelateria Frigidarium, (Lungomare Vittorio Veneto 4, Tel: 0185 50044; daily in high season 10am to midnight; in winter closed on Wednesdays), you’ll find all the Italian and Ligurian classics, plus seasonal specials and only-in-Rapallo house specialties.
The gelateria is on the southern end of Rapallo’s seaside promenade, facing a tiny medieval castle. This could just be one of the region’s top three or four ice cream parlors. Everything is what the owners call “natural,” which means no artificial colors and flavors, no stabilizers or thickeners or colorings of any kind. This ice cream is pure milk, cream and, where applicable, fresh fruit. There’s not much sugar, but the ingredients are so good there’s no need for it. Try the Panera flavor—a Riviera version of ice cream cappuccino!
Some of the Italian Riviera’s very best specialty food producers are lucky enough to sell their products at Rapallo’s top gourmet shop, La Bottega dei Sestieri. The shop’s other name is “parlacomemangi.com.” Don’t ask why or you’ll be there until midnight. It’s on the main pedestrian street in the medieval part of town (Via Giuseppe Mazzini 44 and Piazza Martiri della Libertà 11, Tel: 0185 230530. Closed Sunday).
The shop’s young, ambitious owner travels the length and breadth of Italy buying top food products and wines, including many from the Italian Riviera. Don’t miss the farmstead cheeses, including one that’s particularly hard to find (and delicious) from the village of Stella, on the eastern side of Liguria, the Riviera di Ponente. There are 1,000 or so wines here, so you’ll stand a fair chance of finding one of the Riviera’s best bottles on display. Yes, the prices are high, but then so is the quality.
If wine is your main objective, you might want to head first to Cantine d’Italia, nearby on Via Mazzini (#59, Tel: 0185 50538; daily 7am to 10:30pm, later in summer, closed Thursdays in winter).
This wine shop and caffè is a Rapallo institution. Family run, it’s been in business since 1910. The current owners took over recently – in 1962! If you’re in Rapallo before the wine hour arrives, Cantine d’Italia brews good coffee. But my favorite activity here is to sit at an outside table in the bustling caruggio – the alleyway – and sip a glass of Ligurian wine while nibbling a snack, focaccia, for instance, or local black olives. You’ll find around 60 of the region’s best wines available to buy (with a fairly large selection you can taste by the glass).
If you love coffee as much as I do, you’ll want to stock up on freshly roasted Arabica from Rapallo’s best roasting establishment: Torrefazione Caffè Pagliettini. It’s on the tiny square where the daily fruit & vegetable market is held (Piazza Venezia 29, Tel: 0185 50023, closed Sunday and Wednesday). The place is family run and has been since 1925. Of the several pure-Arabica blends, my favorite is “Super Dolce,” the same one the owner uses every morning when she wakes up and smells (and roasts) the coffee. It’s half Colombia Excelso, 30 percent Costarica and 20 percent Caracolito Brasiliano.
(Also see: Getting High Above Rapallo)