16 days in Sicily in July means you are still writing about it in November. Couple that with a trip to Montreal and you essentially got The Summer of Ziggy! It’s the kind of trip I dont believe I can mimic anytime soon, but you the reader can! These 15 items alone should give you plenty of ideas if you researching but I strongly recommend checking out the rest of the Sicily Page. I can easily spend another 3 months writing about this, but wife now wants me to concentrate on Croatia. She’s just a tiny bit
spoiled eager. So, pull up our trip theme song one last time, and lets get lost together…
Yet another sharp reminder kids. Leave the center, and wonderful things start coming your way. I’m talking unicorns, and puppies, and Octopuses. In this case you need to leave the gates entirely, but not venture too far. Now I’ve had Octopus Carpaccio before, but never quite like this one. They press octopus into this huge cube, smoke it and slice it into thin, silky smooth, Mortadella like slices. Phenomenal starter in our fave in Taormina
Gelsi Neri Granita at La Dolceria (Giardini Naxos)
Davide our trusted host at Agon, and our Etna guide hooked us up with this bakery when I told him about my quest for a good Gelsi Neri Granita (red mulberry ). This turned out to be the best of the trip which included the famed Cafe Sicilia in Noto. This is also the place Davide gets his outstanding breakfast pastries, like the pistachio cream and ricotta croissants. To understand the kind of passion, one needs to meet the baker. After taking some Italian courses! Oh and did I mention the Granita comes with a delicious brioche? Looks like I didnt!
Mussels at Taberna Sveva (Siracusa)
Come for the Polpo Alla Luciana and Busiate Maniace, stay for the mussels. The Siracusan mussels turned out to be the unsung heroes during our stay in magical Ortigia. Fully open, vary in size, but not in taste, and served with a delicate light tomatoee salsa. They tasted fresh, and had this wonderful salty tanginess that carried a lot of flavor. If you see mussels on menus in Siracusa, attack! Just like they did hundreds of years prior in nearby Maniace castle. Though I dont believe they were fighting over Mussels. Maybe Couscous!
Visit the end of the market, and you’ll see why Borderi is not exactly a hidden gem. Trip Advisor savvy Tourists and locals flock here in numbers, and for good reason. But we didnt need to work hard. A simple glance and hand gestures I can not describe here by our market tour guide and local celebrity Lele Torrisi and voila! A cheese and salumi plate of dreams, with the smoked mozzarella winning the all around ooohs and ahhhs war.
Picking the chicken from the best meal in Ortigia, and in the context of this blog post, feels as wrong as Santa partying in a Bar Mitsvah. We’ve had some much more qualified sounding dishes at Macallè like the squid and the amazing sweet red shrimp from Mazara. But the chicken is the one dish we ordered a second round, and I cant say the same about any other dish in Sicily. Juicy, tender dark meat pure awesomeness. Perhaps the reason to include it is because its, well, chicken! Something requiring skill and hard work to taste so good.
At this sleepy village on the coast, 20 minutes from opposite of sleepy Noto, touristy looking Al Boccone on the water, surprisingly produced a very pleasant meal. The standout here was two behemoth squids stuffed with bread crumbs, pine nuts and other goodies that included more squid. They arrive in a stew like fashion with tomato and onions. A revelation with a view!
An outrageously delicious little creation created by one of Sicily’s up and coming young talents. Me! A local traditional snack of Focaccia filled with ricotta, onions, and fresh sausage. The family helped, and of course the talented Maurizio of Modicarte and his mom had a hand in it. But there’s no mistaken who’s masterful touch was key in this cooking class at our accommodations just outside of beautiful Modica
This was a special treat as part of our day with Alessandro of Uncovered Sicily. We visited an organic winery, a legendary olive oil maker, and a 4th generation farm. While we were well fed throughout the day, it was the potent, raw fresh ricotta made for us at Iabichino that felt the most special. And while we visited such farms before, there was just something about spending some time with the family, watching them make ricotta the same way they’ve done for over 100 years
Arancini at Azienda Agricola Mandranova (Palma di Montechiaro)
We knew we were heading to an award winning Olive Oil producer. But we didnt know they have no more room on the award wall, and that our local Eataly has an entire section devoted to them. We were treated to a special lunch and a tour at this beautiful estate and the highlight for me there was the best Arancini of an Arancini filled trip. Owner Silvia said they overcooked them this time by a good 30 seconds and I asked if on my next visit they could make this mistake again. As a falafel lover, this had that nice crunch, with a succulent porky ragu interior. Very nicely done!
Hard to pick a favorite dish from one of the best meals of the trip. It was essentially a spectacular seafood extravaganza that included every sea creature known to man, Sicilian man. But the last seafood dish probably brought the most joy. Perfectly grilled sweet Gambero Rosso, scampi, fresher than fresh Calamari, outrageously good baby octopus, and just about the best swordfish steak I ever had. A welcoming gem between Scala dei Turchi and Valley of the Temples.
Vongole at Tischi Toschi (Taormina)
One of the most anticipated meals of the trip wasnt particularly memorable, but they did dish out one killer Vongole. Beautiful, tiny clams from a lake near Messina where Tischi Toschi got their fame before moving to the mega touristy Taormina. Out of a Vongole filled trip, this was the standout.
You start to fully appreciate this gift from Ginevra and mama way before you open the jar back home. Sicily is known for its famous pistachios. And when you enter a food store at say Trapani or Palermo and sample their pistachio cream, you realize you are not in donkey land anymore. Ciuci’s Manor is one of the best sources on the island for pistachios, and every guest receives a jar of the cream after enjoying it every morning. Oh and did I mention this is an Agriturismo (farm), and the most special, dreamlike accommodations we’ve experienced anywhere? Matzah season couldnt come soon enough!
If there’s one thing to learn from this post is this: Stay a few nights at Ciuci’s Manor. If there’s another thing to learn is have a meal at Sirena di Sansica, about 20 minute drive from Trapani. Come early and walk around the port for the mesmerizing views that include the rock of San Vito. And hopefully you’ll also experience the world’s loudest Zumba class. The meal featured more incredible couscous, fresh fish, and the fattest juiciest Gambero Rossos of the trip. But this well balanced, only in Sicily, Busiate with eggplant, pistachio, swordfish, and breadcrumbs stole the show. It’s called Expo because they made this dish for the Milan Expo competition.
Seafood Couscous at Trattoria del Corso (Trapani)
Trapani the city, isnt particularly well represented in this blog post, but this leg was our favorite for food. Trapani is like the Bologna of Sicily, with its plethora of high quality restaurants and unique regional specialties, like fish couscous. And at del Corso the couscous is quite the solid item. It comes with its own delicious fish broth that ties everything together so nicely. Its a bustling, mostly female, Slow Food Trattoria. Very popular with locals, so make those ressies.
Pasta Con le Sarde at La Cambusa (Palermo)
Two weeks after I declared it one of the best pastas of the trip in July, I find it in the latest issue of Travel and Leisure. Same Dish at the same place. Coincidence? Yes! But finally T&L is on to something (I dont usually pay much attention to their food picks). Pasta Con le Sarde of course is the classic Palermo homage to its Arab roots, consisting of raisins, fennel, breadcrumbs, pine nuts, and sardines. A killer combination that resulted in this sweet richness we’ve never had before in pasta. La Cambusa is the place to have it, but just try not to drink and exchange eye contact with the area clown.
Bonus #1: Pizza at Ciccio Passami l’Olio (Palermo)
We didnt come to Sicily for pizza, but it is a thing here that is almost as cultural as in Rome and Milan. It’s thick alright, but in a more bready kind of way, unlike NYC Sicilian. One of the most famous places to experience it is in Pizzeria Calvino in Trapani, but that means potentially “wasting” a meal in Sicily’s most culinary province. Another place we enjoyed was at Le Magnolie in Gianforma where no one spoke English and we were the only tourists in that part of Ragusa country. But our favorite was more of a Neapolitan fair at Ciccio in Palermo where the crust reminded us how we loath for that light, airy delicate crunch
Bonus #2: Gambero Rosso from Sirena di Sansica. Already mentioned this place, but worth mentioning the sweetest and fattest Gambero Rossos of the trip. Top Picture