As loved as it is for its Cacciucco, Livorno’s cusine is not just about this peppery, powerful fish stew. In fact, many dishes you come across in other Tuscan cities you may find called alla Livornese, in the Livornese style, which usually means the star ingredient is cooked in a rich tomato sauce, such as the popular salted cod dish, Baccala alla Livornese.
Another local delicacy, cecina, is actually found all along the coast further north in Lucca and as far up as Liguria. Made with chickpea flour (cecimeans chickpea in Italian), it is something roughly between a thin pizza base and a pancake that’s probably best left without a translation. The Livornese version, called Cinque e Cinque (five and five) is a foccaccia filled with cecina – a tasty snack that you can grab on the run all over town.
There really is nothing like a visit to Livorno’s Mercato Centrale to define the authentic personality of the port city today. Housed in an enormous and beautiful 19th century Liberty style building just off one of the canals, over 180 stalls of fruit and vegetables, cheese, bread, fish and meat, including Kosher meat – a nod to the important Jewish community of Livorno – offer a wonderful look into the daily life and cuisine of the town. An early visit to the fish stalls for a gawk at the unique local catch is a must.