If, while wandering around the streets of Livorno, you come across a shop sign that says "Pizza e Torta", stop and go in, and try Livorno's famous Torta di Ceci (a kind of savoury pancake made from chickpea flour). In tasting this delicious local delicacy you will also be gaining an insight into the essence of Livorno, where simple and genuine things - like Torta di Ceci - are what counts. And to create the perfect partnership, enjoy your Torta with a glass of Spuma bionda, a traditional local beverage which is still much loved in Livorno.
If you feel like eating your new discovery while you continue to wander around town, you can ask for it to be served as a Cinque e Cinque (or ‘5+5', the name referring to the original value, 5 cents, of torta and bread). The Torta is served in Focaccia bread or a roll, so is perfect for eating as you stroll along.
If you are curious about the origins of this local speciality, the Torta di Ceci story goes like this. It is said that, in 1284, during the Battle of Meloria, when Genoa defeated Pisa, there was a storm. Sea water flooded the holds of the Genoese galleys which were full of sacks of chick peas and barrels of olive oil and, because of the storm, everything was reduced to a sticky mixture which the sailors tried to eat. Obviously, though, the mixture didn't taste that good, so they left it in the hot sun where it baked into a kind of pancake, which was much tastier. When they got back to dry land, the Genoese tried baking the mixture in the oven, and that is how the Genoese Farinata was born, known in Livorno as ‘Torta di Ceci'.
For those who wish to recreate the speciality at home, here is the recipe.
Mix one part of chick pea flour to three parts of water in a bowl. Add salt and beat the ingredients together to get rid of any lumps. Leave the batter to rest for a couple of hours, stirring from time to time to stop the mixture from separating. Lightly oil a shallow copper tin with olive oil. Add half a glass of olive oil to the batter, then pour into the tin, starting in the centre. It should be about 5mm deep.
Cook in the oven until the top is golden and crispy. Add pepper to serve.