Food & Wine

Food & Wine

Sicilian Gastronomy

"They eat as if they were to die and they build as if they were to live forever". That is what Diogene said talking about the Megaresi of Sicily. They arrived in Syracuse in order to know the ancient inhabitants of Sicily. This has been the native island of: Epicarpo from Syracuse, who was the first in writing about the art of cooking in 485 B.C.; Ladbaco, who created the first hotel school in 380 B.C.; Terpsione, who made a careful study, of what would be called the food science; Archestrato, who organized lunch for the Greek VIPs in 320 B.C., and Procopio de´ Coltelli who, in the 17th c., exported to France the unique Sicilian tradition of the sorbetto, that became famous with the name of ice-cream. In conclusion, speaking about gastronomy in Sicily, means speaking of the same Sicilian DNA, that has still today, a very high faith in the so-called "mangiata" (a lunch that lasts the whole afternoon). So, we can try to describe one of these sumptuous lunch, trying to show some of the typical recipes. We can start with thistles and artichokes put into a special creme (called pastella), made of flour and water, and then fried, the sausages (the Chiaramonte Gulfi salami or that one of Sant´Angelo di Brolo), the olives "acciurate", that means olives immersed into the extra-virgin olive oil together with typical pot-herbs, and the caponata, a receipt containing eggplants. Not to miss "panelle", slices of chickpea flour fried, incredibly delicious with a spray of lemon. Then the cheeses, from the caciocavallo to the maiorchino, from the ericino to the piacentino and the fiore sicano...

 

 

Go on with pasta. First among them is the "pasta al forno", that is a timbale of anelletti stuffed with everything the cook´s fantasy says: tomato sauce, mince, egg plants, cheese, salami... For delicate palates there is also pasta with sardines, delicious. In summer, you cannot miss the "pasta con tenerumi", that is the bud of the long zucchini plants. As easy as the "pasta alla trapanese", that is with the raw tomato and garlic, or as the pasta alla norma with the tomato sauce and fried eggplants.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go on with the second plate, that is fish cooked in different ways (generally roasted) as the sword fish, tuna fish, bass, and so on...without forgetting the "sarde a beccafico", stuffed sardines rolls, with bread-crumbs, pine seeds, raisins; or speaking about meat, the delicious sausages, fried or grilled, mutton, traditional dish during the Easter Monday together with the kid meat. About the use of the pork meat it is possible to write an encyclopaedia. As vegetables, there´s the classical salad: tomato, fennel, onion, lettuce... and more you have more you put. Obviously, together with all this, there´s the bread, that one backed in the wood stove, with an unmistakable smell. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After fruit, the confectionery. There´s the "cassata", but actually there are also further masterpieces such as the "buccellati" with figs marmalade, the "frutta martorana" with sugar and almond wheat, the "cuddureddi", pastries with honey or ricotta cheese or candied fruit, the almond biscuits or the "reginelle", biscuits covered by sesame. Above all, the "cannoli", present in the whole island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Street Food and Ancient Markets

Street food is the term used in order to refer to the typical barrows of Palermo, where it is possible to try different traditional recipes. Those barrows are still present in the whole city and above all in the popular districts at the edge of big historical markets such as: the Vucciria (from French boucherie - butcher´s shop), the Capo, Ballarò (perhaps the most multiethnic corner in the city) and Borgo Vecchio. You can get it following the strong smell of fried food: put in big vessels covered by paper, the typical "panelle", above mentioned, are on show behind the glass, to be tasted with big bun of bread and sesame, often combined with the fried "cazzilli" (that is croquettes made with potatoes and then fried with oil). Not less delicious are the fried aubergines or the "cicireddu", that is, a very small fish dipped in flour and fried at the moment. The sign "pani cà meusa" still exists at the door of different food shops. This means in those shops the tradition is really respected. It´s a very tasty food, but it is reserved to people who have strong palates. The ox entrails, spleen and lung, are fried in lard, and then put inside the bread with lemon on or in some cases with ricotta or local cheese. Not less popular is the "stigghiola", skewer of sheep or calf grilled. Born with Arabs, sicilian ancient markets preserve intact the Arab roots of the sicilian culture even in the way of putting the fresh fruit, the orange above all, dried fruit, but also a big variety of exotic products, such as the spices coming from the near and far East, and the olives with their incredible variety and smell of garlic, wild majoram and chilli. Wonderful are the counters of fish, as in the famous Mercato del Pesce of Catania (Fish Market of Catania). Here big sword fishes, dark groupers, gilthead and sargo, mussels and clams, octopus and many others shellfish dominate. They are rich in blue fish, among them: sardines, mackerels, silvery spatula and gurnard. Lobsters of Mazara del Vallo, are well known. Inside the markets of Sicily you can speak, negotiate and live immersed in a world that seems almost a theatre.

 

The Routes of Wine

If 3 is the perfect number, 3 are also the vertex in which Sicily is enclosed, but 7 is the number of Creation... and the number of the wine routes in Sicily. So 7 are the extraordinary itineraries that lead to the discovering of a country blessed by the sun. Its fertile ground generated, together with many classical myths, an extraordinary agriculture that can be expressed by one of its most appreciated product in the world: the wine. Starting from Palermo, following the way of the Monreale DOC, that is 16.000 hectares of vineyards where the Catarratto is sure the king. The DOC produced by these hills are the Contea di Sclafani, the Contessa Entellina and the Monreale, whose name sure remember the nice little Norman town with its very famous Cathedral. The Alcamo doc route stretches towards west, including the DOC of Erice and Marsala (Terre d´Occidente and Val di Mazara). Trapani is one of the provinces with more vineyards in Italy. Following the curve that leads to the bank of the Canale di Sicilia, here is the Strada del Vino Terre Sicane, in the province of Agrigento, where the oenological culture could be esteemed as one of the most important activities for the economy of that area. The DOC are also those ones of Santa Margherita di Belìce, Sambuca di Sicilia, Menfi and Contessa Entellina. Going inside the heart of the island, you can get the Strada del Vino dei Castelli Nisseni, where the famous Nero d´Avola vine is situated together with the archaeological area of Morgantina, Piazza Armerina and Sperlinga with its beautiful castle. The DOC is that one of Riesi. As famous as the Nero nisseno, the Cerasuolo di Vittoria signs the Strada del Vino del Val di Noto, with the baroque capitals of Noto and Modica, just to say a couple. Syracuse is a real enchantment, above all if you "taste" it together with the homonymous Moscato. To close the scenery of the south east Sicilian vertex we have to remember the Etna, whose wine route leads to the slopes of the volcano. It´s a special climate, a fertile ground made by fire and lava for the unique vines as the Carricante, white and endemic. From the hard volcanic ground to the sweet slope of the Aeolian island. To finish the oenological tour with the wine routes of Messina. The DOC of Faro or the new one of Mamertino go with the unmistakable taste of Malvasia, a sweet wine warm and full of passion as Sicily is.