Tony Lo Coco’s other side of Bagheria
The literary village near Palermo acquires culinary depths as well, thanks to restaurant I Pupi
Tony Lo Coco’s Stigghiola. He’s the chef at restaurant I Pupi in Bagheria (Palermo), one Michelin star. His Stigghiola is not made with lamb entrails, as imposed by Sicilian tradition, but with those of red tuna. A surprise among many surprises in the kitchen of this young man moved by a creative fire
People started to speak about Bagheria after the homonymous book by Dacia Maraini (1993), as well as when the cinematic masterpiece “Baaria” by Giuseppe Tornatore was released (2009). It’s a town invoked and represented by important people, with prominent voices. Nobody would have thought that sooner or later we would mention this town with 50 thousand inhabitants near Palermo, thanks to an enlightened chef: Tony Lo Coco.
Restaurant I Pupi is close to Villa Palagonia, decorated with a multitude of monstrous sculptures, the transposition of the changing human condition. It seats twenty-eight people in a well-organised little room, with a modern and minimalistic, neat and precise design. Laura, the chef’s partner, at home and in business, greets us. She leads us on a journey of a thousand touching paths.
Lo Coco immediately presents himself as a self-taught cook: «My food is the kind grandmothers and mothers make – he says – the only internship I took was in the historic pastry shop Don Gino in Bagheria, now my father in law, and I continued my work in a banquet hall. I studied with great attention Albert and Ferran Adrià’s Texturas line, trying to understand how it could interact with the products of my land». This is how this young man begins his journey what with memories, emotions, thoughts and most of all the desire to free himself from the dominant local often-slapdash aristocracy.
At I Pupi, opened in 2009 in what once was his home, Tony presents himself as a professional who goes beyond the simple gesture of giving a new take on ancient recipes, interpreting popular traditions so as to create dishes full of class-conscious synthesis, through original creative interpretations. In his dishes he doesn’t quote masters of cuisine but shows a pure desire to surprise, to draw the mind to almost allegorical dimensions.
Tony Lo Coco’s Grilled octopus with panelle mousse
The Stigghiola di pesce is a dish with a revolutionary tradition: it’s meat with a basis of entrails, street food. At I Pupi instead, he pairs the shallot, parsley and the smoking of charcoal slack with red tuna. A surprise, a subtle provocation, playful and utterly successful. The chef’s desire is to create a dish that connects the guest with food in a strong and straightforward way.
The Spaghetti pizzuti with tenerezze, crustaceans, Sicilian truffle, hazelnuts from Polizzi Generosa and pistachio from Raffadali, served in an ancient Sicilian ceramic bowl, portray the most perfect balance of sea and land, following a deep love for his origins and a forward-looking view.
The Crudo di pesce includes almost alive red prawn, white prawn, tuna, calamari, ombrina, monkfish and scampi, in an elegant pairing with home produced aromatised oil and salt from around the world. The representation of the sea in the palate is surprising, thanks to an elaborated saline research.
Tony and Laura, partners in love and in business
An author with a remarkable culinary style, at work in a closed and difficult territory. An ambassador of a new Sicilian cuisine.
Via del Cavaliere, 59
Average prices: starters 18, first courses 18, main courses 20 and desserts 9 euros
Tasting menu: 35 (3 courses), 70 (6), 80 (7) and 95 euros (9 courses)
From June till September, closed the entire day on Sundays and on Mondays at lunchtime