Brisk Business

Penny De Los Santos

Trade and exchange are the very identity of Genoa, Italy, once the most important port connecting Europe and the Far East. This is a city where business gets done. So it has been since the Middle Ages, and so it still is at the Mercato Orientale (via 20 Settembre), the busy market in the heart of Genoa. Here, shoppers eye the porcini with purposeful shrewdness, make their choice, and swiftly move on to their next quarry. There's much to choose from: the most delicate zucchini for stuffed vegetables, cheeses from all over the world, and a steady supply of the region's famous bright green basil bouquets. Here are bins of sardines and bizarre little local fish called rossetti, no bigger than your fingernail, waiting to be fried and tossed with your weeknight pasta. During the short days of winter, plump tomatoes arrive from Sicily, great for roasting whole with garlic and thyme (see ** Roasted Tomatoes**), and all types of greens are delivered from hothouses across Europe. Over each bin of produce, handwritten signs announce the product's provenance: "Di Pisa" for the pine nuts from that central Italian city; "Di Sardegna" for the Sardinian artichokes—reminders that Genoans, so accustomed to receiving goods from afar, care deeply about where their food comes from. The most prized goods are the ones raised locally and simply labeled "nostrani," which means "ours." —Laura Schenone, author of The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken_ (W.W. Norton, 2007)_