Osteria Gloria - The Pleasure of a Business Lunch

Slow Food Quickly Served 
Osteria Gloria,  Marina di Carrara

At the base of Carrara's marble mountains with the dramatic white quarries, in the flat, rather featureless industrial section of Marina di Carrara , is one of the most enjoyable restaurants in the area, Osteria Gloria.  A Slow Food recommendation for many years in their guide, 'Osterie d'Italia', this restaurant has complete authenticity.  Family owned and run, the place has been a standby since 1979. It is seconds from the autostrada exit, and no hungry traveler should pass it by.

Gnochetti with shrimp.

We went for lunch on a weekday in October.  It was packed, but, unusual for many Italian restaurants, they 'turn the tables', quickly setting up for new guests as happy people leave, and there was no wait.  The walls are covered with vintage pictures of the quarries: tiny workers posed by impossibly huge blocks of stone, with insignificant looking portable hoists and stone cutting tools littering the foreground.

There’s no written menu, but after your water and wine are delivered, a pleasant man with a short beard promptly appears and says in Italian ‘May I disturb you?’ and recites today's dishes. No antipasti were mentioned – it’s a work lunch, after all. For the primi piatti, they offered pasta with pesto, pasta with ragu, vegetable soup with faro, taglierini with beans, and gnocchetti with shrimp.  For seconds, they offered chicken involtini, fried calamari, seppie in humido with potatoes, tripe, anchovies, oven-roasted beef, and rabbit cacciatora.  Whew, that recitation went by fast!  Ancora, per favore!

Taglierini with fagioli.
We ordered the taglierini with beans and the gnochetti with shrimp to start. The soupy taglierini con fagioli is a Carrara specialty and it was hearty, of course, with lots of fresh pasta incorporated, a few delicious dark whole beans to add some drama, and it was accompanied by a liter of olive oil and a big bowl of grated Parmigiano - let your conscience be your guide.  The gnochetti were ½” light potato cylinders, about half the size of a typical gnocco, and just grainy enough to let you know how fresh and potato-y they were.  They were served  sauced with an oil that tasted just like the small shrimp that hid underneath.  This is the inadequate description of a really delicious dish.

Seppie in umido with potato.
For seconds, we chose the fried calamari, the lightest and freshest version we've ever enjoyed, and - the hit of the day - the seppie in umido.  Seppie are cuttlefish in English and they're cousins of squid and octopus. This dish had meltingly tender pieces of seppia, with a sauce just a touch piquant, and the potatoes falling apart to thicken the sauce. This, too, made the best ever list.  Rather surprisingly, there seemed to be no tomato in the sauce – our best guess: a simple base of celery, onion, and parsley, long stewed with a little white wine and a good fish stock.  I watched a man in a suit diligently mopping his plate, getting every bit of sauce with the very good bread they serve, and it was clear that this dish was a constant favorite.

Fried Calamari.

We wished we had room for contorni, which were salad, beans, greens, french fries, etc. but it wasn’t possible, and the desserts will have to wait, too.  After coffee, when we went to pay, the pleasant ending was that the whole wonderful mess including wine, water, and coperti only cost 34 Euro.

Lunch at Osteria Gloria.

Osteria Gloria is located at Via Covetta, 92, Marina di Carrara. Telephone 0585-53876.
Lunch and dinner daily. Closed on Sunday.

Directions: From the A12 Genova-Livorno, exit at Carrara and turn left after the tolls. Turn right at the first traffic light, and Gloria is about 100 meters down on your right.

Written by Martha