Nestled high in the Ligurian hills near Rapallo lies one of our favorite restaurants in all of Italy. It is called U Giancu and is a marvelous place to take your family for a gathering. Outside the restaurant is a playground with plenty of garden space for the kids to romp, but it is the inside that is eye opening. Everywhere one looks on the walls are cartoons from famous artists. Dik Browne of Hagar the Horrible fame, Mort Walker, M. Bonfatti, Gary Trudeau, Franco Valussi, Moebius, Bob Gustafson, and Don Rosa are all represented well. The gallery is a must see if you have any interest in the genre. However, it isn’t for the sights that our family went to the restaurant three times in 10 days, it was for the food.
The food at U Giancu is beautifully made Ligurian delicacies. Seasonal delights that change according to the whims of owner and chef, Fausto Oneto. Light pasta with fabulous pesto, Stuffed anchovies, salt cod, wild mushroom pie, and terrific desserts are all often represented. Each time we went, there were different items and all were delicious. So often has Mr. Oneto been asked for the recipes that he has created his own cookbooks, replete with comics, so that the recipes can be shared with the world.
Foremost in the cookbooks are his recipes for desserts; I decided to try the Apple Tart. The ever-modest Mr. Oneto calls it: The Apple Tart that nobody can resist eating at least 2 slices. He then goes on to tell the story of his grandmother Elena who gave him the recipe but also always managed to eat at least three or more slices of this extraordinary tart.
I, of course, had to try this special apple tart for myself. The cookbook, Il Grembiule a Fumetti (The Cartoon Apron) is in three languages, Italian, English and German. However, for the American audience the English is a bit difficult. It is hard to figure out the measurements of a pinch of salt and a drop of milk. I’ve reworked the recipe into something more familiar to us. And I must say it is definitely worth trying. I brought the finished product to my book club, a group of very fit and lovely women. Lunch consisted of a potluck of whole wheat pasta salad, marinated tofu and all that was healthy. I then brought out my tart; there were no leftover slices.
The tart crust rises while it cooks and the apples become embedded in it. The sweetness of the crust goes well with the tartness of the apples. I used Fuji apples, but anything crisp will do. I created a circular tart, layering the apples on top of each other, but I don’t think it is necessary. The best part of the tart is to eat the apples embedded in the crust, so don’t put too many on top. The key is to slice the apples very thinly; next time I might even use a mandolin. I know there will be a next time because my book club has already requested that I serve it again.