Dining at Bagno Olimpia, in Cecina Marina.
A friend recommended I try a restaurant on the Tuscan coast that is part of a beach club, and although I was a bit skeptical (after all, bathing facilities are not known for fine food) I fell in love. Ristorante Olimpia doesn't look like much from the street, but once inside I found a first-class establishment. The understated decor is modern, with elegantly set tables overlooking the beach at Cecina Mare, a resort south of Livorno. When the weather is nice, dining is on the terrace.
Chef-owner Gianni Santoro's menu uses many varieties of fresh local fish. The selection of appetizers includes a calamaretti salad, and a tasty mollusk saute. For my main course, I didn't even try to resist a favorite classic, spaghetti with vongole verace (carpet shell clams). There is also the red mullet, cooked in the famous Livorno-style, with tomato sauce. The squid fritto del giorno I tried was pleasingly greaseless. Homemade gelato or sorbetto are fine conclusions. The wine list is well chosen, with lots of bargain whites for less than $15.
Ristorante Olimpia, viale della Vittoria 68, Cecina Mare, tel. 39-0586-621193. Closed Monday (and Sunday evening, January through March).
-February 21, 1997