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Martini Ristorante
Via dell’Edera 16, 56018 Tirrenia-Pisa
www.ristorantemartini.it

This is part of a series of stories on food and wine from Tuscany, Italy by South Florida Gourmet editor Simone Zarmati Diament  

 

  

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A Perfect Day in Pisa:
the Leaning Tower and Seafood on the Ligurian Coast
 
by Simone Zarmati Diament
 
 
The seven or eight miles from Pisa to Tirrenia, a seashore town on the Pisan coast,  past Camp Darby  - the US Army Garrison near Livorno -  are absolutely worth the drive when the destination is Martini Ristorante.  
 
It might even be a must to mitigate the sense of bewilderment and wonder that the Leaning Tower and the surrounding Piazza inevitably engulf you in, especially if you have climbed the umpteen steps up to the top of the tower: no matter how often you have seen it, it never ceases to surprise and delight you and make you believe that nothing equals its splendor. But there is a whole province out there, including a coast rich in history and delicious food.
 
Caught between hills to the east and seashore to the west, Pisa was an important port from Etruscan and Roman times to the Middle Ages supplanting Genoa and Venice in trade volume and fame, up until the 13th century, when on August 6 1284, the numerically superior fleet of Pisa was defeated by the Genoese fleet  in the dramatic naval Battle of Meloria.
 
Memories are long lasting in that part of the world, and that is because tradition is anchored to history in every street corner.  In Tirrenia, whose name invariable reminds me of a mythical republic out of Mission Impossible , tradition lives on at Martini Ristorante which brothers Francesco and Cuocco Martini have owned since 1961 – Francesco on the floor and Cuocco in the kitchen and a family member or another filling in on whatever position is needed.
 
An unassuming street corner opens up into one of the best seafood restaurants  where the freshest catch of the day awaits to be prepared into any of the many antipasti of the house (€12 to 15) including delicious mussels gratinéed, warm octopus salad and grilled scampi tasting of the Ligurian Coast.
 
While they are all freshly made by brother Cuocco, our primi piatti of preference was on the occasions we went a seafood pasta in cartoccio (€ 15): a basketfull of seafood and fish sautéed in a light sauce of fresh tomatoes , garlic and parsley is mixed with spaghettini cooked for a couple of minutes, finished in a pouch (cartoccio) in the oven, and open with flourish at the table. 
 
The list of Secondi  -meat and fish , grilled and prepared in the oven and on the stove– goes on and on, and we chose a branzino freshly brought in from the nearby fishing port cooked in a salt crust. The moist and firm flesh is simply drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and freshly  squeezed lemon… and washed with a quart of Vermentino.  What can be better than that?
 
Our waiter, Raffaele Diana, a Robert J. Downey, Jr. look-alike, suggested a Zuppa Inglese from the long list of desserts and cheeses.  … this is a dessert that varies from place to place both in taste and nature and leaves room for an ample margin ranging from greatness to gooey cloying sweetness. But he was right: at Martini’s it is a delicate biscuit soaked in liquor and covered with crema pasticciera and chocolate strands, washed with a complimentary glass of Sardinian liquor, followed by a bitter and heavenly espresso.
 
Both the Tower and the lunch linger on… each pulling in a different direction and different memory strings, both making a day in Pisa a perfect day. 
 

 

Martini Ristorante
Via dell’Edera 16, 56018 tirrenia-Pisa
Tel:               +39-050-37592         +39-050-37592, www.ristorantemartini.it
Closed Monday at lunch and all day Tuesday.