For Valentine’s day, my husband took me to dinner at Il Settimo Cielo (Seventh Heaven), a beautiful restaurant which sits atop a hill overlooking the entire bay of La Spezia. Now, eating out for dinner in Italy is a very different process than in an American restaurant. Your evening starts by ordering your vino and an antipasto, or appetizer. After these are brought to you, the waiter will leave you alone for a long while, as this is your conversation time. When you are good and ready to move on to the next course, il primo, you call the waiter to order your pasta, and the story repeats. When you are ready for the next course, il secondo, you call the waiter over to order your meat dish. And so it goes for i dolci, or dessert course, your caffé, your amaro, or after dinner drink and il conto, or check. It would be considered rushed and unnecessary to order all your dishes at once and your waiter will never come around several times to check on you or interrupt your meal without you calling for him.
Our evening started by taking the wine recommendation from Mauro, the manager: Le Macchiole, a fantastic blend of merlot, syrah and san giovese. Then we ordered our antipasto of sgabei [sgá-bay], a traditional Ligurian dish of fried pizza dough balls served with a selection of salumi (assorted cold-cuts) and cheese. But here, they serve oven baked—not fried—sgabei and our salumi plate featured prosciutto crudo, salami, pancetta and coppa; the cheeses were stracchino (a fresh cheese somewhere between crème fraiche and cream cheese), pecorino nero and gorgonzola dolce (a nice, mild gorgonzola with a layer of mascarpone).
For our primo, we chose panserotti di spinaci con salsa di noce. These were lovely triangles of pasta filled with fresh spinach and ricotta cheese, covered with pulverized walnuts and walnut oil. It was a very simple topping, but the lightness of the walnut oil and the delicate hint of freshly grated cinnamon went amazingly well with the earthy spinach scented with fresh nutmeg. I was pleasantly intrigued by this dish, as Italians rarely use spices and usually don’t stray from their traditional pasta recipes. Buona.
Our plans of sharing the tagliata di manzo (large fillet) were over-rided by our full bellies and the desire for dessert. This is where ordering course by course is great because if you get too full, you don’t have to order the next course. So we opted to move straight to dessert. My husband got a thick, fresh slice of pineapple and I got the panna cotta ai frutti di bosco (creme custard with wild berry sauce).
Pizzaria Il Settimo Cielo
10 Baccelle Lizza, 19123 La SpeziaTel: 0187737844