Sa pésta is Genoese dialect for sale pestato meaning ground salt and refers to the process of manufacturing the precious substance on which the Antica Repubblica di Genova had a monopoly for centuries. Coarse salt was stored in warehouses in the port, then ground using a mortar and pestle so that the end product (table salt) could be sold here to the general public. Subsequently, a Republican state monopoly was also placed on the sale of bread and wine. It was hardly surprising then, that these premises should turn into a tavern serving quick meals with a broad customer base. Hence, at the start of the 19th century, one of the city’s most appealing trattorias opened its doors for business. One of the staples was (and is) farinata, a kind of chickpea pancake, which remains a favourite in Genoa. In the 15th century the Latin name for this dish was scripilita on account of the typical crackling sound heard when it cooks in the copper baking tray still used to this day. Also on the menu are the local vegetable pies made according to the traditional method using prescinsêua – curd cheese – and baked slowly in the wood burning brick ovens, plus other specialities like stuffed anchovies and vegetable meatloaf. Patrons round off the meal with a glass of “Camatti”, a bitter liqueur from Recco. In the 1950s, when the old quarter was Genoa’s main central business district, the trattoria was taken over by Francesco Benvenuto. Today it’s his children Antonella, Paolo and Cinzia who continue the great tradition of Sa’ Pesta.
Take a trip back in time with the age-old taste sensations on offer here: the interior has retained its 19th century appeal with splendid barrel and cruciform vaults, tiled floor, wooden tables and stools, and white tiles – some original – on the walls and on the outside of the two wood burning brick ovens.