The great return of Caffè Sicilia. We've been to Noto to see the maestro Corrado Assenza

Consistency and less is more as a way into the future: after one year of renovations, not a new place but a history that continues in harmony. And Corrado is happy...

23-06-2021
Left to right, Corrado Assenza, the maestro pastr

Left to right, Corrado Assenza, the maestro pastry-chef at Caffè Sicilia in Noto, and his team which includes ReikoCorrado and his son Francesco Assenza

Corrado Assenza is happy. His hair is a little longer than usual, his eyes are focused and intense, like a coffee bean. He's wearing the white uniform of his beloved profession while passers-by give him their most sincere best wishes. His Caffè Sicilia is back, always in Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Noto's main street. It has opened after a long renovation.

«When we decided to close to improve – he explains – we still didn't have a written project. But Corrado Papa (his close friend and the architect who managed the works and the artisans involved in the project) and I knew well what was urgent at Caffè: we just looked into each other's eyes and decided to start. Necessary structural works which, more than anything, have a beneficial impact on the management of our daily work, which is much smoother now. For instance, we've managed to create a new space to make and preserve gelato. And we've included a clearing station which allows more freedom of movement for the team at Caffè: less obstacles also means more quality time with the guests to express themselves and offer their welcome».

The smiles at Caffè Sicilia: Davide, Alessio, Saro and Vincenzo

The smiles at Caffè SiciliaDavideAlessioSaro and Vincenzo

It's a return, not a new Caffè. Because right under the famous sign one can still read where it all began: we're in 1892 and, from that moment on, history was never interrupted. But what has happened during this year of waiting, concretely? The creative principle that livens the pastries of Assenza blossoms from the essential character which follows a sensible and well-thought approach of less is more. Harmony between man and topos, an agreement between the value of history and a tension towards the future. Therefore, the feeling expressed even in the soft drawings that have traced the contours of Caffè Sicilia, the same we had already discovered and appreciated in the past, had to remain unchanged. No additions, therefore, but an echo of colours and materials, which have been simply renewed, like a solemn renovation and not an invasive work of modernisation.

The entrance of Caffè Sicilia on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Noto

The entrance of Caffè Sicilia on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Noto

So if you expect innovation, you might be disappointed; if you're looking for novelty, better go somewhere else: Caffè Sicilia is the present of an ongoing story, a corridor that communicates between what was, and what will continue to be. It's not a coincidence that there's been no opening event. They simply opened the doors, the most natural gesture of all, and started exactly from where they had all left: at the heart of their work. Everything is back in its place. The laboratory is a scented labyrinth, a place for laborare par excellence, a lab for thoughts too, where Nature is transformed and preserved. It's both an archive and a source. But even more it's a place of sharing, of living and working together: everyone is committed, working with and to support one another. There's ReikoFrancescoCorrado and Corrado. Joy and order, warmth and calm. There's Corrado the father, and Francesco the son: together they discuss and learn; sharing ideas is the active principle that starts the evolution and even when this becomes a “clash” (in terms of different points of view being expressed) this confrontation will always be reassured by a common ground: ingredients.

Ingredients nourish, but don't fill you up; they don't make you feel heavy, but they are satisfying, so much so that cannoli disappear in a matter of three bites, but the emotion that joins the crispy pastry and the pure ricotta cheese spreads in you (and when you think about it, cannoli, whose fragrance is due to animal fats, to lard, filled with a sheep's milk cheese, can well be an emblem of that sweet non sweet, or in this case savoury non savoury).

Ricotta: an ethereal mousse, so polyhedric at Caffè because in the ice cream it never becomes rounder, or more sugary, while in the cinnamon cake it goes back to the texture of the original cheese, more grainy and thicker. And then it's all a triumph of herbs, and fruits that follow the seasons: strawberries, mandarins, blood oranges. Thyme, wild fennel, basil. And there's the almonds: in the granita, in the strawberry gelato and in its most explicit and sensual shape: biancomangiare. A triumph of cakes: brioches, soft shortbread, pan di spagna, pastries, almond baskets.

Biancomangiare at Caffè Sicilia

Biancomangiare at Caffè Sicilia

Is something missing, Corrado? «There's a last passage to go full circle with this precious stage. The photo of all who took part in this project, here, in front of the entrance on the Corso, showing through our faces the sense of social responsibility, one towards the other, that comes with being part of a community».

And before disappearing inside the lab of Caffè Sicilia two visitors from Germany stop him and say:« Mr. Corrado! Thank you for opening!».

 

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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