Of all the places in Italy my girlfriend and I had visited, Cinque Terre (a series of five seaside coastal villages in the Italian Riviera) was by far the most memorable with its exquisite beauty. Each town we had visited had its own distinct charm and there were spots worthy of photos of the year everywhere. We were also lucky that we were traveling Italy at the beginning of off-peak season as I heard Cinque Terre can now be really crowded with tourists. I didn’t have high expectations for food in this region and planned this leg of the trip more for the scenery, but surprisingly my best meal happened in Cinque Terre too. I honestly thought most if not all restaurants in Cinque Terre would be over-priced and dull tourist traps; Rio Bistrot in the town of Riomaggiore is definitely not one of them and my lunch here was such a wonderful memory that I can still picture the restaurant’s lovely dining space and awesome food.
The concise menu at Rio really emphasizes the freshness of local ingredients in Italy that I’ve been encountering at other restaurants in the country. I’ve had several outstanding caprese or other similar salads in Italy by now, but the one at Rio might’ve been the best, with the texture of mozzarella cheese that I have hard time forgetting even to this day. Then came a simple yet exquisite spaghetti dish with seafood that was just perfection in the firmness of the noodle’s texture, the level of seasoning and oiliness of the plate and the way fresh seafood interacted with the noodle. In terms of seafood pasta, the one at Rio is really something you should be eating if you’re on the seaside. What about the fritto misto? I’ve had this dish countless times in New York City and elsewhere, and this assortment of fried seafood is surprisingly not easy to pull off very well; many places put too much salt into the dish, and other times the fried shells just come out too soggy. Rio really shows how this dish is done right. The mix of squids, anchovies and little shrimps was fried at more or less perfect level of condition, with minimal seasoning to make sure the freshness of seafood shines. I was almost starting to feel baffled why no other Italian restaurant I had visited prepared the fritto misto this way and wonder whether I would ever try this dish elsewhere in the future. Add a delightful plate of chocolate cake with caramel sauce and the lunch at Rio turned into an amazing affair that put an exclamation point to an already magical Cinque Terre trip.
Adding to the delicious food is the beautiful space overlooking the marina area of Riomaggiore. We were lucky enough to get seated next to the terrace overlooking the marina and I’m not going to be able to forget that magical moment when we were watching people and boats in action on a perfect October day. If you feel adventurous, try a bottle of Cinque Terre wine (it seems the region’s strength lies in white wine). Rio is an absolute must during your stay at Cinque Terre. I was somewhat surprised that the restaurant was still relatively quiet even after it was covered in a New York Times article with a very favorable review. It shouldn’t be!
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 9.0/10
- Ingredients: 9.0/10
- Flavor: 9.0/10
- Texture: 9.0/10
Address: Via San Giacomo, 10, 19017, Riomaggiore, Italia