Yesterday I was having lunch with an old friend, and a new friend, and we were discussing my favorite subject in great length, Italy. There was a moment during the conversation where I tried to convey that between all the sights, scenery, and everything that Italy has to offer, at the end of the day my favorite thing to do there is simply eat. Those are the moments that stay with me longer than anything else. I explained how two trips ago, I realized that a day that includes a 3 hour lunch, and a stroll in a small town or winery, is as magical to us than a day filled with sightseeing. The old friend seemed to understand, while the new friend struggled to relate to such nonsense, but did try her best
Take Salmoriglio, a gem in between two of Sicily’s biggest gems. The jaw dropping, magnificent Scala dei Turchi, and the mind blowing, inspiring Valley of the Temples. I was inspired to find water quickly (it was hot), while Mrs Z found her inspiration in the green statue in front the Temple of Concordia. She was very worried that it’s temporary would be missing, and we all dodged a meltdown as big as when the pissing fountain in Prague wasnt pissing. But what made the day so perfect was what we did in between those two star attractions. A meal that was only bested by one particular dinner about 20 minutes off Trapani a few days later. Its just one of those meals that felt so perfect that day. And when you look back at the pictures, and go “hey, remember this octopus?” or “hey remember the Gnocchi?” only to get a “Yes, I remember, now can you stop with your food porn and finish emptying the dishwasher already” Yes dear!
Considering this was lunch in the middle of the week, Salmoriglio in the port town of Porto Empedocle, wasnt exactly buzzing this time. But a quick look at the kitchen, and the empty rooms inside suggests that the place buzzes often. We sat outside on the pleasant sidewalk setup, while a team of 4 cooks carefully and masterfully assemble dishes behind the glass. You get a sense of Michelin type attention to detail without the Michelin prices. No tourists in sight, almost zero English spoken, but we managed fine with hand signals and my ever so improving “Menu Italian”.. “Ahh, “Uova al Forno?” Thats “Menu Italian” for “Are the eggs baked”?
We started with a stunning assortment of raw goodies that included scampi, snapper tartare, bacalao, tuna, oysters, and more of that sweet goodness gambero rosso we couldnt get enough of during the trip. Sliced octopus with olives, capers tomatoes was simple octopus perfection. Gnocchi with bright fresh red sauce, cheese and basil was outstanding. Why similar dishes dont taste the same back home? Ingredients. Their signature spaghetti with Ricci (sea urchin) delivered richness and flavors I haven’t experienced from Ricci before. A plate of grilled seafood including just about the best swordfish steak I ever had, more gambero rosso, scampi, calamari and an outrageously delicious baby octopus. At this point I realized that I prefer the gambero rossos (red shrimp) slightly cooked instead of raw, which gives it a little texture. Raw is great, but sort of too limp in comparison. A truly fantastic meal