If you are going out for dinner in La Spezia, you might find in the menu Testaroli and Panigacci, delicious dishes you will only find in the La Spezia area.
Panigacci and Testaroli are actually typical of the Magra Valley, the inland area towards Tuscany called Lunigiana, but are very popular and common in La Spezia too. Also among locals you might hear different stories about the difference between the two, the origins and ways to cook and appreciate them at their best are very contentious too.
These two specialities of the most genuine inland cuisine are possibly two variations of a single tradition: the use of a sort of cast iron or terracotta pan called testo (hence testarolo) which can be put directly into fire to cook a flouer and water batter. The result is a kind of pancake, which can be eaten in the panigaccio version, just out from the oven, with ham and cheese, or tore into pieces and boiled like any pasta dish, in a pesto or oil and parmisan cheese dress.
Apparently the panigaccio is typical of the Podenzana area, whereas Testaroli are more typical of the town of Pontermoli, more north. The panigaccio bakes in terracotta testos (size and diameter are established precisely) the Testarolo cooks in a huge testo of cast iron. Some say (and cook) also panigacci as if they were testaroli (entire and boiled in water), with added oil or pesto sauce.
Some years ago, people in La Spezia who wanted to have Panigacci or Testaroli had to go off for about 20 miles, as it was considered a Tuscany dish. It is yet a typical food for an excursion off town, or for a Sunday in a countryside cottage. But now, if you want to try these specialties also in town, you just need to make sure you choose a restaurant which has a wood oven, essential requirement to make the right panigacci and testaroli.