Best Bites of Cinque Terre #2: Trattoria dal Billy in Manarola

Monday, August 25, 2014

This is the 12th and final post in my Best Bites of Italy series, a round-up of the best eats during my 2 week trip through Rome, Venice, Florence and Cinque Terre. Previous posts include... Rome: highlighting Renato e LuisaLa Gelateria del TeatroFried Artichokes at GiggettoLa Pizza del Teatro in Rome and Osteria Le Mani in Pasta (truffle heaven!); Venice: Osteria Alla Frasca and Cip Ciap Pizza; Florence: Uscio e BottegaTrattoria San Lorenzo and La Beppa Fioraia; Cinque Terre: Gastronomia San Martino
Whoever coined the saying "Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner", have probably never experienced a lobster dinner in Cinque Terre.

For our last meal in Italy, J and I had a lobster dinner and it made us feel like winners. With every bite, we were giving each other the look, like totally #winning! ^_^ Best meal ever! This meal pretty much summed up everything dining in Cinque Terre and Italy was supposed to be. Delicious seafood paired with fresh pasta in a effortless fresh tomato sauce. Can I scream, NOM NOM NOM, any louder?
When I told my coworker Irina that I was heading to Venice, she told me that I must go to Billy's in Manarola of the five Cinque Terre towns for dinner. She is one of the pickiest eaters I know and is the opposite of what I would call a "foodie". Irina doesn't eat seafood (who doesn't like seafood!?!) but said her husband ordered what must have been the freshest he had their whole trip.

After taking some failed restaurant recommendations from other coworkers in Florence, I was feeling wary about taking Irina's advice. But, Trattoria dal Billy is also the ranked as the #3 restaurant for Manarola on TripAdvisor so I decided to stop over thinking it and just have dinner here.


Since this was going to be our last dinner in Italy, there was a lot at stake. You know how I have major food-fomo and would hate to think that I could have gotten a better meal anywhere else. Billy's is located on a hillside of a random street, even with Google Maps it was a bit hard to find since the roads aren't mapped out correctly.

Dining here was a bit of a last minute decision, but we were told to make a reservation in advance so that we could get a table with ocean views. We walked over to find the restaurant so we can physically go and make the reservation. We were hoping to enjoy the view during sunset (which was around 9pm in May), but all the tables for that time were reserved already.

In Cinque Terre, you reserve tables by placing name cards down with your name and reservation times. There's usually only two seatings at night. The only choice we had was a table that wasn't right by the water but it was ok since the space was so small we could just look out at the beautiful scenery.  
Dinner started out with a delicious thick balsamic vinegar - Crema di Balsamico. I didn't want to stuff myself silly with bread since I was really anticipating some of the food. Our plan was to have dinner here and then to just one last bite of the wonderful Trofie Pesto at Gastronomia San Martino - so we went the "lighter" approach, ordering just one starter and two pasta dishes.

All the fish are fresh caught and served as carpaccio so we ordered their skipjack carpaccio for the night. It was drizzled in the best olive oil and topped with a few herbs and tomatoes. This seemed like a popular preparation of fish here. Personally, I prefer sashimi at a Japanese restaurant, but this was wildly fresh too.

All the pastas at Billy's is pretty simple in preparation. Squid Ink Pastas. Pastas with Seafood. Trofie Pesto. We ended up going with the lobster pasta for two. The other pasta that we were obsessed with in Rome was a pasta for two as well - perhaps that's a sign for the future in ordering delicious pasta in Italy?

When the dish came out, it didn't look TOO impressive besides the fact of how massive the serving dish was. It just looked like a ton of fettuccine pasta in tomato sauce.

As we began to serve ourselves and dig around, we found that there was an entire lobster buried underneath all the pasta. I just had to laugh because the folks at Billy's wasn't here to impress you with presentation. I feel like if I ordered this anywhere else, the lobster would always be on full display. This gave the whole thing a whole "homemade" feel that made me love this place just so much more.
Since the lobster was cut lengthwise in half, and incorporated into the whole dish, all the oozy lobster parts (lobster tomalley and roe for those who wanna get technical) were mixed into the sauce as well, deepening the flavor of the pasta. Honestly I couldn't be happier as I was eating this, though it did need a bit of kick since I'm a spicy food fiend.

That's when the I asked for red pepper flakes for my pasta and they handed me their red pepper olive oil that's clearly housemade. This oil was not only amazingly flavored, but it had a seriousss kick. Looked like just chili flakes and olive oil, but who knows! It took this dish to a whole other level. I could not stop eating more!

As J and I looked out into the ocean, happily eating easily one of the best dishes that we had all trip, we couldn't help but regret not staying in Cinque Terre for another day. Our overall impression of the five towns was that since each town was so small, even the more touristy restaurants here would end up pretty authentic. We could have stayed here all week. Cinque Terre stole my heart like San Sebastian did. 
We finished dinner at around 8:30PM and the sun was just starting to set. Sunset was at 9pm, so we took a stroll over to the best spot in Manarola to view the entire city. There were already a few photographers camped out with their tripods waiting to capture that perfect postcard moment.

Trattoria Dal Billy | TripAdvisor
Via Aldo Rollandi 122, 19010 Manarola, Italy

This post marks the last in my Best Bites of Italy series. Thanks for reading through each of these posts, I really enjoyed sharing my favorite noms of this trip with you. Personally, I can't wait to go back to Italy to explore more of what it has to offer. But until then, I will just have to live in these delicious memories. :)

If you've been to Italy before, what are some of the meals that stands out most in your mind? Would love to hear about them and have a chance to try them in the future!

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