PokerStars Blog does not court controversy. But at the risk of inviting ridicule and scorn from apparently everyone in the poker community, we have something to declare: “Mare Blu” is not the best restaurant in Sanremo.
Even if you have never been to this stop on the EPT, you will almost certainly have heard of this apparently legendary place. It features prominently in players’ blogs, Twitter timelines and video updates, and somehow this one restaurant has become synonymous with this event. Its pizzas and pastas are spoken of in revered terms across the board.
It has become the standard eating place for the poker cool set, and to call the ravioli anything but divine is akin to blasphemy.
But here’s the truth. It is pretty good – if it’s the only restaurant in town you’ve ever been to. But there are dozens of places making pasta in Sanremo, many of them with an even more authentic flavour.
Just as a Londoner will tell you that the Angus Steakhouse in Leicester Square is no place for fine dining, and a New Yorker will tell you that you shouldn’t book a table at the Olive Garden on your first visit to Manhattan, the people of Sanremo would tell you to try something a bit more adventurous than the place in the centre of town, which caters primarily to tourists.
A street in Sanremo which probably has a restaurant on it
“If you go to Mare Blu now, can you actually hear someone speaking Italian?” said Luca Vivaldi, one of the floor staff on the EPT, who was born and raised in Sanremo and lives here still.
Vivaldi says that if you want to find a great restaurant in any town go to where the locals eat. “It’s only the waiters and the owner who speak Italian,” Vivaldi said. “Everybody else speaks English, French and German – and they’re the customers.”
Instead, Sanremoans go slightly further afield, out of the town centre to neighbouring districts a short drive away.
“We go to Byblos,” said Vivaldi. “It’s three kilometres away in a town called Ospedaletti. It’s towards France, so if you keep the sea on your left side and keep driving you’re going to find Byblos.”
For local people, eating out is about eating fresh food that was swimming in the sea at sunrise, and is swimming in sauce by nightfall.
“Byblos is a fish restaurant. Every morning they have four fishermen who work for them, catching the most beautiful fish that’s really, really fresh. In the Ligurian Sea there are little white fish called bianchetti (whitebait), and they make a kind of fish cake with that. That’s the speciality round here. I suggest you go there.”
Keep an eye on the live tournament reporting from EPT Sanremo for all the news from the tournament floor.