It’s the middle of summer in Italy.
Portofino (not to be confused with Positano) is a small, yet super popular Riviera town in the north of the country, overlooking the Mediterranean.
The little harbour is lined with pastel painted buildings, fishing boats and expensive villas.
Walking along the waterfront, every eatery was crammed with wine-sipping tourists, the stores were chock-full of white linen, souvenirs and shoppers, while just offshore sleek, beautiful luxury cruisers and yachts were anchored.
Unable to get a table in the tourist drop zone and asking for a recommendation from a white linen shop saleswoman we, (six friends from Brisbane) wandered towards the end of dock where local fishermen moor their boats and among the ropes and seagulls found the best restaurant and ate the most memorable meal of our travelling lives.
It was right on the water and we were the only ones there!
Initially a bit dubious due to the lack of patronage, but very hungry, we stopped.
Wearing a tired-looking bandana, red scarf and a black apron Geraldo ushered us to our “choose wherever you want”table.
Naturally it was the best in the house, harbourside, shady with incredible views back towards the bustle of Portofino yet contrasted by the simple line-up of old, wooden fishing boats berthed bedside it.
The usher is also the owner and head chef at the “STRAINER.”
Geraldo had worked in London and Dusseldorf for 15 years but returned home to Italy to open and operate his Portofino Ristorante.
He had designed an enticing menu of fresh seafood and other Italian staples, but directed us to his signature dish-a homemade ‘Tagliolini Con Tartufo Nero,’ which is basically pasta with black truffles.
Geraldo cooked his pasta to perfection then completed constructing the meal in front of us, wheeling over a trolley with a giant Pardano cheese bowl on top.
The hot pasta melted the local, slow-ripened cheese, which is similar to a Parmigiano, but believed to be created by the Cistercian monks in the 12th century and aged for at least two years.
He then grated a generous serving of truffles over the top.
Basic, but simply exquisite.
Everything about this meal, the taste, the cook, the company, the view was delicious.
The Tagliolini Con Tartufo Nero cost $38 euro, which for Aussies is pretty expensive for pasta.
But don’t forget it is Italy in summertime.
So here’s the trick to making a meal or more at Strainer Ristorante more palatable.
Instead of spending holiday time and money staying in the prolifically expensive Portofino, we booked Hotel Helios in Santa Margherita, just a mouth-watering five kilometre walk away.