In more than 20 years of traveling and eating my way around Costa Rica, no restaurant has so consistently knocked my socks off as La Pecora Nera in Playa Cocles. If I had just one meal left in Costa Rica, I’d haul ass to the Caribbean coast as fast as I could. Ilario Gionnoni is a whirlwind in and out of the kitchen. I almost never order off the menu, opting instead to ask Ilario what he recommends. There are always nightly specials, most built around ingredients from his little garden, chicken coops and the fresh local catch. The breads are fresh-baked and delicious. The gnocchi achieves a combination of texture and flavor that mesmerizes. He’ll take pork fat from a pig he himself has slaughtered and then press it between cedar planks leaving it to cure for three days. I once had a plate of fresh ravioli in a ragu de gallina, with Ilario explaining how after stewing long enough, the wattles and comb dissolve, adding texture, depth and distinction to the sauce. One night, a fairly standard shrimp cocktail appetizer came with large steamed shrimp arranged around the edge of a martini glass, only the slightly spicy dipping sauce was made out of beets. Another night, between oohs and ahhs of delight, I started up a conversation with the table next to me, and it turns out one of the guys there was a sous-chef for Jean-George Vongerichten. He’d eaten at La Pecora Nera five nights in a row. “This guys a genius,” he says.