Whether you hike, take the train or ride the ferry between them, one of the joys of hopping around the various Cinque Terre villages is scoping out the best places to eat in each town. Although we ate most of our major meals in our home base of Manarola, we managed to grab at least a snack or gelato in every village except Monterosso. Here are all the restaurants and gelaterias in Cinque Terre that I recommend!
My favorite food spot in Manarola, and in Cinque Terre as a whole, was Nessun Dorma, a wine bar and tapas restaurant with dreamy views of the village. The view here is so gorgeous, they could easily get away with offering mediocre, expensive food, but the food and drink are great and also very affordable. The caprese salad and pesto bruschetta were excellent, but my favorite dish was a focaccia sandwich with dried beef and stracciatella (stretched buffalo mozzarella) cheese. Cinque Terre is the birthplace of pesto, and Nessun Dorma also offers pesto making classes, which I would have loved to do if we’d had an additional day in the area.
We also had a lovely meal at Trattoria del Billy, a restaurant built into the hillside above Manarola. My husband raved about his pasta with clams, and I had a good veal scallopini and a chocolate almond cake. Reservations are a must, but we were able to make them a day in advance.
My favorite gelato spot in Manarola was Gelateria 5 Terre. I will admit I balked when we walked in and I saw a sign indicating that their gelato was mostly vegan and dairy free, since, at least in the US, vegan versions of non-vegan foods never taste right to me. But this was rich, creamy gelato and I never would have known it was vegan if I hadn’t seen the sign.
There’s one street in Corniglia filled with gelato shops, and for some reason they all have really cute, colorful signs. It was basically my version of heaven. I had a yummy nutella crepe at Un Mare di Yogurt, which has a cute little outdoor patio, and then headed next door to get gelato at Alberto Gelateria.
I couldn’t resist trying the basil flavor, which was drizzled in olive oil and served with a savory cracker. I sort of expected it to be gimmicky and not that great, but it was delicious – cool and refreshing and just what I needed after a long hike and a heavy crepe.
In Vernazza we ate lunch at Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre. It was a bit of an adventure finding the place but the trek was worth it. My husband loved his seafood pasta, and I had wonderful trofie (a short twisted pasta that is a specialty of the Cinque Terre region) with heavenly pesto sauce. You can’t come to Cinque Terre and not have trofie al pesto and this is a great place to do it.
We also had gelato at Gelateria Vernazza, and it was probably my favorite gelato in Cinque Terre. I had dark chocolate, which was very rich and SO dark, and a unique flavor called Crema Cinque Terre, which was crema (egg custard) gelato with chocolate and dessert wine. It was delicious and made even better by the beautiful Vernazza setting. Plus, the portions were super generous (I ordered a small!).
I mentioned before that Riomaggiore feels more like a working fishing harbor than the other villages, and one reason for that is the fact that there are so many food stands selling fresh, locally caught seafood. A mixed seafood basket from Mamma Mia! Take Away and a slice of buttery focaccia with tomatoes from Panificio Rosi were the perfect snacks to enjoy while exploring the town.