As with a trip to virtually anywhere in Italy, one of the great joys of a journey to the Cinque Terre is eating out. Dining on ultra-fresh fish and seafood from the Ligurian Sea and produce grown in the terraced hills around the five picturesque towns, and drinking local wines from the vineyards that frame the villages—these are Cinque Terre experiences not to be missed.
Combine those premium ingredients with the setting of a cozy trattoria or an outdoor restaurant with a spectacular sea view, and you'll see why so many people recall the Cinque Terre as one of their favorite places in Italy.
"No pasta or pizza" is the disclaimer of this beloved seaside eatery in Manarola. Instead, Nessun Dorma serves up plates of appetizers (antipasti in Italian) accompanied by local wine or refreshing cocktails and a million-dollar view. The location just above the Manarola scenic viewpoint means walkers can stop in for a quick drink and a snack, or linger and make a meal out of several small plates. They don't take reservations, so get there in plenty of time if you want the best view for sunset.
A lot of Cinque Terre restaurants satisfy guests with heaping plates of seafood, served fried, sauteed, or part of a pasta dish. At Ristorante Miky, a long-standing favorite right on Monterosso's busy seafront promenade, the focus is on refined, artfully prepared small plates of the best of the bounty of the Cinque Terre. Snag a table on the shaded front patio and watch the world go by, Monterosso-style.
Trattoria dal Billy
Homey Trattoria dal Billy is delightfully perched atop a flight of stairs at the very top of Manarola—meaning near vertigo-inducing views from one of its terraces or window seats. Fans flock to this unassuming restaurant for well-priced, well-prepared, and generous portions of just-caught seafood. Points go to the friendly staff as well. Be sure to call ahead for a table at lunch or dinner.
With a rustic interior of stone and recycled wood and a beachy feel, Rio Bistrot is a fine choice for a lunch or dinner of stylishly presented seafood entrees and appetizers. Sure, it's touristy, but this is the Cinque Terre. Try to snag a patio table for a view of Riomaggiore's busy harbor. For a worthy splurge, try a tasting menu with wine pairings and sample a wide range of the restaurant's offerings.
Osteria A Cantina De Mananan
Many travelers to the Cinque Terre pass right through tiny Corniglia or worse yet—they skip it altogether. They're missing out on the town's charm, as well as a chance to eat at cozy, cramped Osteria A Cantina De Mananan. Simple, hearty seafood and land-based dishes are on the menu here, and the pesto comes highly recommended.
L’Ancora della Tortuga
Perched over the sea and carved into the cliffside of Monterosso, settings don't come much more romantic than L'Ancora della Tortuga. There are sea views from both the nautically-themed dining room and the outdoor patio. Fans rave about land- and sea-based specialties and the desserts that are delicious works of art.
Close to the train station in the new section of Monterosso al Mare, this simple bakery and pizzeria can keep you going from morning to night. Cappucino and cornetto (the Italian version of a croissant) along with other baked goods are served warm from the oven in the morning. At lunchtime, it's panini and pizza by the slice. After 6 p.m., come in for pizzas made to order in a wood-fired oven.
Il Pescato Cucinato
When you're hungry but don't want to sit down for a formal meal, head to this simple takeaway joint on Via Colombo, Riomaggiore's main drag, for a paper cone full of freshly fish and seafood. Don't skip the anchovies! Add an order of fries and you've got a tasty meal to go, and one that is emblematic of the Cinque Terre. Vegetarians will find a few options here, too.
A Pie’ de Ma’
Set just above the train station in Riomaggiore with a fantastic view of the sea below, this friendly bar fits the bill for a quick glass of wine, or for a longer sojourn for snacks and wine tasting or a sit-down meal in their restaurant. The menu features salads and antipasti plates, while the restaurant has a short, satisfying menu of pastas, seafood, and meat.
For a mid-afternoon (or mid-morning—we won't tell) pick-me-up or a tasty finish to dinner, head to Gelateria Vernazza, widely regarded as the best artisanal gelato in the Cinque Terre. If you're feeling daring, try chocolate and wasabi or chocolate and basil flavor, or stick to the familiar classics. No matter what you choose, it will be delicious.