Posts Tagged With: Ciccio Passami l’Olio

15 Best Things We Ate in Sicily

sirena-di-sansica-red-shrimp16 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…

Octopus Carpaccio at L’Arco Dei Cappuccini (Taormina)

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 Taorminaimg_8838

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!img_8735

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!img_8872

Smoked Mozzarella at Borderi (Siracusa)

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.IMG_9021

Chicken at Macallè (Siracusa)

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.IMG_9180

Calamari Siciliano at Ristorante Al Boccone (Marzamemi)

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!IMG_9667

Focaccia Tomasini Rolls at Modicarte (Modica)

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 Modicaimg_9274

Fresh Ricotta at Iabichino (Ragusa)

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 yearsimg_9333

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!img_9899

Mixed Grilled Seafood at Salmoriglio (Porto Empedocle)

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.

Salmoriglio Mixed Grill

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.img_8601

Pistachio Cream at Ciuci’s Manor (Aragona)

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!IMG_3534

Busiate “Expo” at Sirena di Sansica (Tonnara di Bonagia)

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.sirena-di-sansica-busiate-expo

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.img_0399

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.img_0808

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

Ciao for now.  Stay Hungry My Friends!img_1345




Categories: Italy, Sicily | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

This is Palermo

IMG_1007Even my Google Maps app was in a confused state as my taxi raced through traffic, seemingly going the wrong way.  Our female driver just smiled and said “Welcome to Palermo”.  The only time she slowed down was when we passed Giovanni Falcone’s monument for me to take a quick picture.  The site of perhaps the most famous mafia assassination in history, which changed Palermo forever.  Falcone’s friend and fellow judge Paolo Borsellino who spoke at the funeral, was killed in similar fashion 57 days after his friend’s death.  The airport is named after both heroes.

Palermo is misunderstood.  Just like most of Sicily pretty much.  Its old, its gritty, its congested, and its old!  The same can be said to much of metropolitan Europa, but it feels different here.  Emphasis on different, which is essentially why we travel.  This blogger compares it to India, and I can understand why.  Strangely, some of my favorite moments in Palermo came from the times when my daughters were slightly terrified.  Like when we witnessed the scene at Mercato Vucciria at night – an intestine, seafood, clubby, smoky BBQ orgy extravaganza.  A scene we only see in movies, never in Italy.  Different!  Like our neighbor restaurant Il Pipino Rosso (the red penis) and its slightly disturbing logo.  This heat made me only imagine that when the Pipino committee met to discuss the name, someone showed up with a horrific heat rash.IMG_1063

On this post, I will touch on some of the obvious (markets, churches), and some of the not so (fountain, dog droppings, red penises, etc).  You probably already heard about Palermo’s legendary street food and market scene.  Panelle, the Sicilian falafel, alone with a drizzle of lemon, or as a sandwich (Pane E Panelle), or with fried potato croquettes (Pane E Panelle Con Croquette Di Patate) quickly became our snack of choice.  It sounds and looks bland, but yet another example of “Dont judge a food by its cover”.  It also holds true for peaches.  The uglier the better, while the most beautiful often come without substance (AKA The Paris Hilton syndrome).

The Sicilian peaches in July are outrageously aromatic and sweet.  At the bustling Capo market while I was busy admiring the fishy creatures from Mazara for too long, my family would simply hold a peach 5 meters out to the direction of where I’m supposed to go.  But just like with the Oritgia Market, one needs to spend some quality time (alone preferred) with the Rialto-like seafood displays.  Make sure to come to Capo early, Ballaro before 13:00, and Vucciria at night for the party.  If you’ve seen markets and “shuks” like in Israel and Barcelona, these markets may not exactly shock, but interesting nonetheless.IMG_0820

The usual suspects in Palermo… the magnificent, jaw dropping, slap your sister Cathedral.  The awe inspiring, splendid, slap your other sister Cappella Palatina.  And the only in Palermo, elegant Oratorios, are reasons enough to spend a few days.  The recently Unescoed Cefalu and Monreale nearby means make it 4 days.  You will pass by the cathedral a few times, and get mesmerized by its majestic magnificence as if you are seeing it for the very first time each and every time.. staring, admiring, selfying… until you step on dog poop.

Ziggy’s Palermo Dog Poop Survival Guide:

Do not despair.  The Palermian dog poop, perhaps due to the seafood and Panelle diet doesn’t smell too harsh.  Think 3 week old asparagus meets Bengay.  Pick a nice looking square with pretty cobble stones and a place to rest.  Chance are there’s some water on the ground there.  Have someone in your family pick up little spoons off the ground, the spoons used for granitas and ice crea, they are everywhere.  Gently remove the poop with the spoons.  Use that bottle of water you are carrying if you have to.  The square may have a different meaning to you when you next pass by as it loses its charm a bit, but thats the small price you payIMG_0840

The summer heat also means discovering things you may otherwise overlook.  Like the Orto Botanico di Palermo with its ancient trees (including oldest in Europe), and Zucchini shape trees (Maybe I was just hungry).  Its location near the train station also means discovering the Palermo Chinese wholesale district, just in case you need to buy handheld fans for 100 of your closest friends.  You can also cool off at the Fontana Pretoria, where up close it transforms into one of the most photogenic fountains in Italy.  There’s even a “Costanza Pose”.  When I posed in similar fashion on one of the fountain steps, Mrs Z said a policeman watching from the corner whistled to get off.  Or was he just admiring?  We’ll never know.

Our entire Sicilian schedule centered around one particular event, the Santa Rosalia Festino.  This is arguably Sicily’s biggest festival, with concerts, fireworks, races, and various parades throughout the week.  And the grand finale, July 14, where the entire town, and 1000’s of tourists come out to see Rosalia slowly parade down Vittorio Emanuele.  The energy, the anticipation, the emotion was heart felt.  I hope my rabbi will understand

When you take a close look at the history of Palermo, it may seem like everyone and their mother invaded Palermo at some point.  Arab influence is more evident here than anywhere else especially when it comes to the wonderful cuisine.  They brought in the citrus fruits, raisins, fennel, sugar, and introduced the Arab “Shuks” (markets).  You may see some sort of an Arab influence in almost every dish in Palermo and elsewhere.IMG_1111

At Ferro Di Cavallo we started our Panelle relationship, and enjoyed Spaghetti with seafood and a fine spaghetti with squid ink, among other less memorable dishes.

The father and son team of A’Cuncuma dazzled us with colorful flavors, while mom was home with fever.  This is Haute Palermo, a playful homage to Palermo classics.  We enjoyed more raw Gamberoni, and fresh fish which we couldnt get enough of in Sicily.  A duller, lighter version of Pasta Con la Sarde was missing its oomph, but everything else worked ].  In particular, the perfectly cooked Fassone beef from Piedmont.  You can’t get this stuff in NYC.   The closest is Fassone-like cattle from MontanaIMG_1071IMG_1079

Turns out there’s also good pizza in Palermo, like at Ciccio Passami l’Olio.  Unlike the rest of Sicily’s notables, here its a lighter, airier fare with cleverly assembled ingredients.  Out of the three we tasted, the mortadella with pistachio, tomato and various cheeses stood out.  Our favorite Pizza in sicily

But our favorite meal in Palermo came courtesy of La Cambusa. Originally recommended by a trusted waitress from Mercato (NYC) who grew up in Palermo.  Being in the center, it does attracts a fair number of tourists, and evidently… clowns.  A misunderstanding led to double the house white we wanted (bigger than a bottle) which turned out to be a fun challenge.  The previous day in Trapani I ordered a fish sandwich instead of peach juice in a cafe, but my Menu Italian is getting better.  As a result of all the drinking, I was desperately trying to avoid eye contact with the clown.  Pasta con le Sarde here was outstanding.  Same dish featured in the last Travel and Leisure issue (as of this writing).  The raisins, fennel, breadcrumbs, pine nuts, sardines resulted in this sweet richness we’ve never tasted in pasta before.  Vongole was one of the better Vongoles of a Vongole filled trip.  Rabbit loin was tender and juicy, but the branzino baked with potato stole the show among the secondisIMG_1345 IMG_0808IMG_0678 IMG_0796 IMG_0692 IMG_0694 IMG_0697 IMG_0743 IMG_0784 IMG_0789 IMG_1217 IMG_1167 IMG_1160 IMG_1128 IMG_1109 IMG_1085 IMG_1016 IMG_0992 IMG_0976 IMG_0823 IMG_0831 IMG_0846 IMG_0817 IMG_1064


Categories: Italy, Sicily | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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