Cinque Terre, 2008

Da Billy was a restaurant two minutes' walk from our apartment in Manarola. It was something we stumbled upon because we had arrived late to Cinque Terre and were famished. Manarola was one of the less touristy towns among the five 'terres' and if you aren't spending a night here - or indeed at Da Baranin bed and breakfast for that matter - you would probably not come all the way up the hill to sample the food at Da Billy.

Prize catch

The seafood was excellent and the two waiters charming. Plastered on one wall were snapshots of people going fishing in small boats. Dark, muscular men with long, Seventies hair, in speedos, towing their two-metre trophy catches. It was not a particularly pretty wall. But it felt real and it made you smile.

There was a time when all the fish served at the restaurant was caught on the same day by one of the waiters. He has outsourced the fishing now, to a friend. The fish is still as fresh.

Japanese TV

We decided to return on the third day of our stay. A Japanese man was just leaving when we got there. As he came out up the steps to street level, he saw the chef, who was having a break outside. The Japanese man couldn't contain his joy.

"I'm so happy! We've seen you on Japanese TV!"

This probably meant that Da Billy was quite well known, at least in Japan. It was no surprise, since we had already sampled the food and liked it. The second time was just as good.

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