Most people would say they worked up their appetite in the Cinque Terre by hiking the Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Path) that links the five towns of the Cinque Terre together. The hike is something one should do in a lifetime; however, I would suggest pacing yourself as the total hike is about 5 1/2 hours. The walk from Monterosso to Vernazza is about a 1 ½ hour hike with a steep incline. The views of the towns as you walk down into them will take your heaving breath away.
Since I’ve done the hike a few times, I decided instead to work up my appetite by laying under one of the colorful umbrellas along Monterosso's beach, swimming a few laps, and watching men in speedos walk by (yet another reason why I love Italy).
For dinner, I decided to stay in Monterosso. Seafood (frutti di mare) and Risotto make one of the most beautiful combinations. The rice, while not as creamy as other risotto dishes, is full of the flavors of the sea. The only problem is that you need a minimum of two people to order it. You'll usually see the dish on the menu as Risotto alle Due. I was dining solo but REALLY wanted seafood risotto. I asked the waiter if I could order it only for myself. He said YES! I was so excited, that I picked the first “risotto alle due” on the menu without looking to see that it was risotto al nero di seppierisotto ai frutti di mare instead of . Those of you that read my post on Nero di Seppie from Venice know that it’s a dish I had only planned on trying once. Risotto ai frutti di mare, on the other hand, is quite possibly my all-time favorite dish in Italy. My disappointment when I saw the dish of black rice the waiter set in front of me was worse than that of a child whose sand castle was just demolished by a wave. But, what could I do? I didn't want to say, "Oh, I made a mistake and meant to order the second risotto alle due on the menu" (called risotto alla marinara, NOT this black plate you've specially prepared for me (called risotto Lampara on the menu) So, I ate some, and some more, and some more. After my third serving, I picked the rest of the calamari out of the risotto because I was just too stuffed to finish the whole bowl.
Chef Ciak runs things from his long narrow kitchen at the back of the dining area. One side of the kitchen has all the seafood used in the dishes on ice and ready to go. The other side has stoves ablaze as “Ciak” moves swiftly from one dish to the other preparing each dish looking up only to call for a pick up. The waiters call out the orders and when Chef Ciak's finished he calls back to them to pick it up. If waiters don't pick up the order quickly enough, a louder shout comes from the kitchen.
I’ve been to Ristorante Ciak, also called La Lampara, many times before and every dish I’ve had there is delicious, but the Risotto ai frutti di mare is still my favorite. Other dishes I’ve had that are good are the spaghetti allo scoglio and spaghetti al pesto. The antipasto selection also looks good, and is on the list to try on my next visit.
Besides the delicious meal, another good thing about staying in Monterosso for dinner was the view of the beach under the moonlight.