One Hundred Years of Happy Eating in Sarzana

La Scaletta - a Restaurant Institution in Ligurian Lunigiana  

Trattoria La Scaletta  Sarzana, Liguria
Trattoria La Scaletta  Sarzana, Liguria.
Pretty, narrow country roads of Sarzana are only minutes away from the historic center, and as you leave the last vestiges of town, you’ll find a blind corner and a stairway with an open gate. Just around that corner is the parking for the very affordable Trattoria La Scaletta. Pull in and start relaxing. According to the manager, this restaurant has been in business for over a hundred years at the same location, and when you look around the simple dining room full of people enjoying lunch, you can believe it. The ambiance is fresh, clean, and straight ahead –  each table is set with a business-like oil, vinegar, salt and pepper - with bright sheets of plastic covering the tablecloths,. The d├ęcor is interesting, a little plain, a little idiosyncratic, with oddly hung paintings and prints of landscapes, clowns, farms. In warm weather a huge side porch provides an airy alternative to indoor dining.

After you choose a seat, a waitress will greet you, and possibly the people at the next table will nod hello. Pretty soon, you’re asked what you want to drink, and the waitress tells you which primi piatti are offered that day. On our recent visit, there were four: spaghetti ai frutti di mare (seafood); tagliatelle with pesto; tagliatelle with ragu; pappardelle with sugo di lepre. It isn’t particularly important what you choose, they will all be good.

Spaghetti ai frutti di mare, spaghetti with seafood.
Spaghetti ai frutti di mare. Generous seafood with deep flavor. 
The spaghetti with seafood was surprising, since few restaurants really get the seafood taste into both the sauce and the pasta. This version was simple and just right, a touch of tomato, a tiny hit of hot pepper, spaghetti that stood up for itself without sticking in your teeth. The house-made pappardelle were a sturdy bunch, thicker than their inland cousins, and really well suited to the hearty rabbit sauce. It was disconcerting to find little sealed packages of pre-ground cheese on the table, but it turns out that the weird packaging keeps the cheese fresher than the cheese in many a bowl we've been handed.

Red house Wine, V ino della casa
Fresh, fruity vino della casa.
There were 6 secondi piatti offered at our Friday lunch - platessa al forno was a big seller, which is an oven roasted flat fish called plaice in English. There was also a plate of mixed roast meats; chicken cacciatore; tagliata, as in steak; and baby lamb, either grilled or fried. We chose the lamb, and got one order grilled, one fried. Grilled is the clear winner - a generous portion of meaty little chops were nicely cooked, presented simply with lemon, just right. With them we got an order of caponata, which always seems to vary, and this version had lots of tender baby zucchini, roasted peppers, little bits of eggplant here and there, and green olives, all melded in a nice fruity green olive oil. They also offer green salad, mixed salad, spinach, and the ever popular fried potatoes.

Pappardelle with sugo di lepre (sauce with hare).
Pappardelle with sugo di lepre (sauce with hare).

When the menu is presented verbally, you never know how much things cost. Our Italian friend from Bologna says that it’s sort of a tacit arrangement: you don’t have to ask, they won’t cheat you. In this case, you can take that to the bank – our lunch for two consisting of two primi, two secondi, two coperti, water and a ½ liter of tasty house wine cost just 28 Euro.

La Scaletta   Via Bradia, 5   Sarzana SP   Phone:0187 620585
Open for Lunch and Dinner. Closed Tuesdays. No website.
No credit cards or bank cards, cash only.

For directions, look at this map Sarzana: Walk, Shop, Eat 
Written by Martha, May, 2015.