Winter in Sicily /1

An out-of-season journey to the East of the island. An itinerary across great flavours

21-02-2014
Sesame spaghetti with tuma cheese, sea lettuce, ma

Sesame spaghetti with tuma cheese, sea lettuce, mauro seaweed, lapsang souchong at Ciccio Sultano’s Duomo, 2 Michelin stars restaurant in Ragusa Ibla, tel. +39.0932.651265

Corrado Assenza is right to complain that tourists only go to Sicily in spring and summer and thus miss the scents of the winter. We do as Corrado recommends: we go there in February. Four days in Val di Noto. They’re few but enough for a good revise, a few new performances (the poetry of Marzamemi; the beauty of the countryside just out of Noto, among olive, almond and citrus fruits trees; the view of Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina; the stern charm of Caltagirone; the pop-culture visit to Punta Secca aka “Vigata”, Montalbano’s retreat by the sea), new faces turn into friends, new gastronomic expeditions-excursions. Sometimes noble, sometimes not, they’re always full of emotion, worth noting down and recommending to friends.

In Scicli, to begin with, a light (though not so much) lunch, straight away at Pomodoro, in Via Garibaldi, where gentleness, simplicity, quality, good raw materials (the Raw red Sicilian prawns and scampi were exemplary, same goes for the Spaghetti with Scampi) are a guarantee of satisfaction and digestibility, while respecting the territory and the seasons.

Spaghetti with carrots by Consiglio di Sicilia in Donnalucata (Ragusa), tel. +39.340.9448923

Spaghetti with carrots by Consiglio di Sicilia in Donnalucata (Ragusa), tel. +39.340.9448923

For dinner, we were expected by Roberta Corradin, passionate journalist, prolific and engaging food (and beyond) writer (her brand new “La Repubblica del Maiale” [The Pig Republic] is beautiful), but also the welcoming landlady of Consiglio di Sicilia, a few steps away from the seaside in Donnalucata. Antonio – chef as well as Roberta’s husband – is a graduate in Philosophy and puts simplicity and a moderate inventiveness – always tied to tradition – into his dishes. They produce their own extra virgin olive oil, the Patacò soup is a delicious recipe from Licodia Eubea, a village right above Chiaramonte Gulfi, made with cicerchia legumes (grass peas), Chiaramonte sausage produced by Massimiliano Castro and broccoli), the raw fish (the “usual” Red Prawns but also squilla mantis and a sea urchin placed on a ricotta mousse) is worth an encore, the Clam spaghetti with lemon aroma are “well done” when it comes to flavour and cooking time, the Spaghetti Taratatà are an explosion of flavours but with a great balance, the Sicilian cannolo is light, fragrant (with the crucial variation of the pasta), the Gelo (with Lemon or Mandarin, so fresh!) finishes too soon. Wines are very few but good and all have their reason-why. The dining room is small and cosy. And if it’s not cold you can stay under the tent, in the small square in front of the restaurant, where on Sunday morning the brunch is served.

Scicli's great sightseeing (photo Girasicilia)

Scicli's great sightseeing (photo Girasicilia)

The next day, instead, the dinner was a twice-starred one, in Ragusa, at Ciccio Sultano’s Duomo. People had described him to us as a very reserved person. Instead, he’s always in the dining room with Gabriella, his life and business partner. We were attracted by the Fidelini with oil, shallot and chilli pepper with cicala di mare (lobster) soup and lettuce, with citrus scents and mezza stagione sauce, by the Hand made fusilloni with Sicilian bisque, fennel cream and scampi with mint pistachio, by the Greater amberjack with powdered Iblean caper flowers and olives with ash, bottarga emulsion and fennel heart with carrots and finally the spectacular Wild sea bass served with simple, colourful and perfect vegetables. There was great elegance in the dining room too: the hospitality was professional, informal and relaxed at the same time.

Two appetizers were offered to kill the time, bread and grissini were fragrant, the chairs comfortable, the tables were wide, the sitting room made you feel at home, one of those places in which to linger and to which return (at lunchtime perhaps, taking advantage of the 45 euro menu, a real bargain).

1. to be continued


Sections

Dall'Italia

Reviews, recommendations and trends from Italy, signed by all the authors of Identità Golose