Phenomenology of Accursio Craparo

All about the chef from Sciacca: in his restaurant in Modica he’s at the top of Sicilian fine dining

18-10-2017

Accursio Craparo in front of his restaurant Accursio in Modica

Photogallery

Carciofo, artichoke, a brilliant dish based on contrasts
Mare & terra is a tourbillon of flavours: lobster, tuna, caviar, oyster and seaweeds with aubergine, tomato, onion, beetroot, chilly pepper, lettuce, ginger and lemon. Freshness, Mediterranean Sea, iodine, spices
A display of a fine knowledge of international cuisine, China su tè: squid ravioli filled with a sauce of squid meat and squid ink and fish stock with Lapsang Souchong tea. Unique elegance, umami nuances and smokiness
Trucioli di pasta: a masterpiece. Durum wheat pasta with toasted cereals, matured whey of Ragusano cheese, capers and lemon

A luxurious olive tree on board a small wood boat. The logo of restaurant Accursio thus represents the two inspirations for the chef’s cuisine: the sea of Sciacca, his home-town, and the farmers’ tradition of Modica, fascinating town of late-Baroque architecture in the province of Ragusa, part of Unesco’s World Heritage List since 2002, where he now works with the success he deserves. Accursio Craparo is one of the most emblematic chefs in contemporary Sicilian fine dining; few words and lots of substance: in little over a year, in 2016 he got back the star he left in 2012 when he passed the ladle at restaurant La Gazza Ladra.

«Getting back my star in my place, where I can express the most intimate part of me without any hesitation, is incredibly exciting – says the chef born in 1976 – The Red Guide’s macaron confirms you’re working well and leads you to believe even more in what you’re doing. At La Gazza Ladra I had freedom and spent eight fantastic years with the Failla family, but then I felt the need to grow and continue a journey in a place of my own». He runs this place with Oriana Aprile, his partner in life and in business, who’s in care of the hospitality and of the interesting wine list, in collaboration with sommelier Sergio Occhipinti, including some 400 labels.

After completing catering school in Sciacca, Craparo travelled and studied at length, but the most significant training was with three giants: first Pietro Leemann, then Massimiliano Alajmo and finally Corrado Assenza. He’s very sure about the value of this combination: «I was so lucky to meet them and honoured to work with them because they are very intelligent masters of life, on top of being great professionals. Cooking, for me, means first of all knowing yourself and each one of them gave me, overall, something that completed me».

Significant memories and lessons: «I believe one can easily notice in my style the deep attention for nature and its products on which Leemann’s philosophy is founded; of Alajmo I admired the masterful skill in extracting the soul from each raw material, respecting its identity, using the right techniques, without ever changing its nature with useless excesses. When I returned to Sicily after many years of experience around Italy, Assenza was the master took me by the hand and opened my eyes wide over the richness of elements and potential offered by culinary Sicily».

On the ground floor of an ancient noble palace next to the staircase leading to the cathedral of St. Peter’s, you can enjoy Accursio’s Sicily from one of the tables seating a total of thirty people. The dining room is simple and sober, but well researched in its design by Viviana Haddad, who applied the ideas of Craparo himself: homely atmosphere, lamps in the shape of fishing light attractors, to celebrate fishermen, white walls and elegant retro inspiration in the 1950s floor made with a patchwork of tiles recuperated from second hand shops across Sicily. Nature and texture in the white linen tablecloths and oak chairs, hand designed, with seats in different tones: «Blue like the sea, green like the countryside, red like poppies: a mix of colour in which none dominates but they all create the harmonic contrasts of the world surrounding us».

The culinary offer of Craparo is modern, artistic, intellectual. The chef from Sciacca stands out for his sense of measure, intelligence, sensitivity and in his cuisine, a melting pot of ideas, history and culture. He shows extraordinary technical skills, always respectful of the ingredients. The dishes, contemporary in their appearance and flavours, are a celebration of Sicily and tradition, but have foreign inspirations too, hinting especially at the east: surprising flavours and never banal that thrill mind and palate.

The creative process comes from deep down: «The idea of a dish can be born at any moment: it’s like a light bulb shining when something hits the heart. It can be the memory of your grandmother’s recipe, of a traditional farmers’ dish or a soup with poor fish, but it can also spring from a discussion with yourself. It can be born from a scent we perceive while walking on the coast, on the hills. It can be the smell of a rainy day. A good chef has the capacity and sensitivity to perceive an emotion and know how to represent it in his food».

A good chef also knows how to differentiate the offer; this is why, next to the restaurant, there’s Accursio Radici, a gourmet street food place: «It’s my idea of street food, for those who prefer a simple, straightforward cuisine or the comfort of well-known flavours». Accursio La Terrazza, opened this summer, is the third format, a cocktail bar overlooking the heart of the historic centre, in Modica, run by the chef himself and by bartender Mattia Cilia, president of the Mixology's Living Room Academy in Ragusa: «For over a year now, the cocktails designed with Mattia are paired with the restaurant menu and La Terrazza puts into practice an old idea of mine: by slightly changing the rules of wine and food pairing, we play with unexpected, fresh and fun sequences of dishes».

Many things have been accomplished, many still need to: «Dreams are our future and in my dream there’s a Sicily with an even more international language and a territory with deeper roots: my goal is to present food in new shapes and more intertwined flavours. Neatness is the evolution: extracting the highest purity from the ingredient by distilling and micro-filtering». The pureness of a very elegant cuisine you must approach without preconceptions, by being yourself and travelling across Sicily, a complex land in terms of aromas and sensations that start from the sea and reach to the sky. At Accursio you travel without moving. Beyond static nature, beyond simplicity... It’s a matter of elegance and pleasure. (In our photo gallery, dishes from a great meal)

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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Photogallery

Carciofo, artichoke, a brilliant dish based on contrasts
Mare & terra is a tourbillon of flavours: lobster, tuna, caviar, oyster and seaweeds with aubergine, tomato, onion, beetroot, chilly pepper, lettuce, ginger and lemon. Freshness, Mediterranean Sea, iodine, spices
A display of a fine knowledge of international cuisine, China su tè: squid ravioli filled with a sauce of squid meat and squid ink and fish stock with Lapsang Souchong tea. Unique elegance, umami nuances and smokiness
Trucioli di pasta: a masterpiece. Durum wheat pasta with toasted cereals, matured whey of Ragusano cheese, capers and lemon
Two delicious takes on meat: lovely porchetta with rosemary, sage, pine nuts, chickpeas, onion and spices and the more interesting beef stuffed with steak tartare, red fruit sauce, broad beans, asparagus and peas. Of great elegance
Aesthetics and intellectual strength in the vegetarian Pane e cipolla: sweet and sour onion, “cosaruciaru” beans, beetroot, Fiore Sicano, black truffle and bread with spices
Uovo a la coque a fun trompe-l'oeil: the egg shell holds a white made with ricotta and an egg yolk of passion fruit and orange, seasoned with powdered almond and sugar
Soft, light, craveable Baco da seta: puff pastry with custard, blackberries, herb sauces, shortbread and candy floss