“Sicilia bedda! Sicilia mia! Ti pensu sempre cu nostalgia!” (Beautiful Sicily! My Sicily! I think about you with longing!”). This was the chant of the Sicilians who went to find their fortunes abroad in the last century, hoping to return to their beloved land sooner than later.
Today some of the Sicilians who we met during our stay in Sicily say it is difficult to escape from Sicily, perhaps there is little cash or perhaps there is too much beauty from which it is impossible to part. I will not lie by saying that the Sicilian food is one of the main reasons why I would go back there tomorrow!
Back home, I was already missing this rich but simple cuisine, so I improvised one of the typical Sicilian food dishes, pasta alla Norma. A dish that collects my idea of perfect cuisine, a cultural experience not just a culinary one. There are flavors of this land in this recipe: the warmth of the sun on the tomatoes, the color of the earth in the eggplant, sea salt in the ricotta cheese that looks like snow on the Etna in Spring. In Sicily the abundance of local and genuine products ensures that every dish is a masterpiece.
Sicily is the largest island of Italy and the Mediterranean, but we are surprised when we learn that eating fish out is expensive as in any other region of Italy. Unfortunately, the catch is heavily taxed and therefore it’s not easy to find good fish dishes at a budget price. The fish markets offer more affordable food to those who have the possibility to cook. Do not be intimidated by the reputation of sellers, who would be able to sell snails for oysters, the markets are a sight that cannot be missed! Full of what makes the food of this region so special: the traditions of its people, the bright colors of the vegetables, the brilliance of the fish, the aromas of herbs and spices. All is life, all is show, also preparing a sandwich, becomes a source of attraction. During our exploration of Ortigia in Syracuse, we run into the small but very busy Dairy Borderi, where Mr. Andrea masters the art of sandwich stuffing while skillfully entertains the hungry audience. His sandwiches are an institution, they are so good that we had to go back a second time … and had we stayed longer probably a third time too! The wait is long but the sandwiches and Sicilian cannoli, prepared with their fresh ricotta, are so tasty that perhaps it is fortunate that we don’t live in Sicily!
Here’s a list of the other places we’ve been and where we ate during our tour of eastern Sicily.
- Wine Bar Razmataz || a hidden oasis in a tiny square in the center of this baroque city. The cocktails are a bit expensive but it has a good selection of wines and spirits that you can enjoy under the shade of the ficus trees that covers the square.
- Trattoria’ U Fucularu || a small family-run restaurant that offers fantastic cold starters including their famous caponata.
- Pasticceria Savia || it’s a paradise for foodies, you cannot miss their arancini – my mouth still waters thinking about the one with the eggplant!
- Fish Market || impossible to pass by Catania without visiting it, even if only to buy an apple.
In Syracuse (Ortigia):
- Market of Ortigia || this is a typical southern market that bears all its flavours and smells. I can still smell the grilled peppers, yum! Olfactory memory can be a problem at dinner time…
- Dairy Borderi || at the end of the market going towards the seafront. Try their ricotta, smoked mozzarella, cheese with pistachios…well everything!
- Irma la Dolce || it’s a very nice bar with excellent homemade desserts and appetizers. If you feel the cold sitting outside, you can warm up with the colorful and sweet crocheted blankets.
- Bam bar || we were not able to try their granita, but it was still worth a visit to see their beautiful ceramics.
- Taverna il Paladino || we capitulated to this restaurant after the Easter procession. The staff is pleasant and very efficient, fast service, and the parmigiana with swordfish…do I even have to say how good it was?
- Al Grappolo d’Uva || small but well-stocked wine bar, which also offers appetizers. The staff is really friendly and knows well his wine, if in doubt ask for their advice.
- Da Cristina || arancini, pizza, and other delicacies to take away and enjoy through the streets of this city. P.S. arancini are giants!
If you are in Sicily and visit one of these places let me know what you think, but I think I have recommended you well!