Trattoria Dal Billy (Gourmet Chick in Italy)

You have to know about Trattoria Dal Billy to find it. Tucked away in a back street at the top of the hill in Manarola in Italy’s Cinque Terre region, it is not the sort of restaurant that you stumble upon. There is a benefit to all the stairs you have to climb to get to Trattoria Dal Billy though (besides a sense of justification for the huge quantities of food you will consume) the view. From the lower terrace there are sweeping views of the steep hills lined with vines and through to the ocean framed by the crumbling pastel coloured buildings of the village itself.

Walk along the cliffs from Riomaggiore to Manarola

The terrace is the place to be and you will need to book to get a seat there (although the day before is fine). Billy himself works the floor and speaks enough English that with some miming and our very limited Italian we are able to order with ease. Trattoria Dal Billy’s style is home cooking, fresh ingredients and unadorned simple food.

A case in point is the Acciughe al Limone which is a dish of fresh anchovies “cooked” like a ceviche in the lemon sauce that they are served in. These are not the brown, dried and stinky anchovies that come in tins or on top of your pizza. The anchovies are fresh from the sea and a translucent white. Slippery and salty with the foil of lemon this is the best dish I eat on the Cinque Terre. Equally refreshing is the Italian classic of wedges of melon wrapped in prosciutto. Such a simple dish but with top quality ingredients the combination is unbeatable. The serving size at Trattoria Dal Billy is home style as well and MTV’s plate contains almost the whole melon with at least half a cured pig.

Anchovies in lemon

On the way down to the terrace past the upstairs kitchen we spy them making squid ink pasta to order cranking it through the pasta machine by hand. Obviously we are going to have to order that night’s special dish of squid ink pasta with local seafood. Served in a large platter to share, just like your Nonna would make if you had one, the oily black curls of pasta are dotted with seafood. There are scampi, prawns, clams, mussels and a local specialty which was almost like a mussel but housed in a long, thin shell and is found on the rocks in Manarola according to the waiter.

It couldn’t all be brilliant of course and the cheese platter was overpriced and stingy. There was no sign of a generous board of cheese to choose from, rather we were presented with a plate containing a few fridge cold wedges of Parmigiano, Pecorina and Gorgonzola. Still, this was the only disappointment in what was otherwise a brilliant meal in a charming local trattoria. Anchovies will never be the same for me again…


Details: Via A Rollandi, 122 (Ph 0187 920628)
Damage: Reasonable


If you liked reading this you might like to read about our meal at Dau Cila in nearby Riomaggiore on the Cinque Terre. For a seafood feast in London it is hard to go past J Sheekey.


  1. I love anchovies cooked like this!!
    Don’t you just love Italy?!!

  2. Ooh, love the idea of anchovies made into a ceviche. This place sounds interesting – and I like how you can justify eating extra because of the climb to get there 🙂

  3. Lesley – Yes and yes – the anchovies were amazing.

    Laura – I can always justify extra eating somehow…

  4. I’ve wanted to go to Cinque Terra for the longest time! Lucky you 🙂 The anchovies do look divine… and isn’t it funny how the most passe dish suddenly makes new sens in its national context and with top notch ingredients?

  5. Hello everybody, just want to invite you and your readers to our site about the cinque terre
    ( in my signature ) and to the blog where you can also vote the nicest of the 5 Terre.
    Also a video section is online: Video of the Cinque Terre, a different point of view..

  6. We first went to Billy in Jan 2000-it was the only trattoria open in winter and we were the only guests- we were treated like family and had our best meal in Italy- a eally simple but magnificent grilled branzino. I went back in the summer of 2008 and was not disappointed- the anchovies are better than described

  7. […] Trattoria Dal Billy (Manarola); […]

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