Our small food guide of Noto: where to eat (and sleep) well in the pearl of Sicilian Baroque

In the beginning, there was Corrado Assenza... Now the number of interesting places is growing fast in this city in the province of Siracusa, both in the historical centre and in the surrounding countryside. We tested a few for you. Here are our notes

06-08-2022
by Carlo Passera
Cassatina enjoyed at Corrado Assenza’s Caffè Si

Cassatina enjoyed at Corrado Assenza’s Caffè Sicilia, for sure the most famous food place (in the world!) in Noto

There was a time, recently, when the enlightened work of Corrado and Carlo Assenza at Caffè Sicilia was beautifully ignored locally, even by the local administration, as if it were a neglectable bizarre thing and not (also) a place with an extraordinary potential for tourism and gastronomy. Today, thanks also to the work of this master pastry chef, to his grown international fame thanks to Netflix – and also thanks to the startling beauty of Noto and of the surrounding countryside – this small pearl of Sicilian Baroque has become a main destination, marked on the map of every food lover. You need a few days to truly discover it, as there are many places where to eat (and sleep) that deserve a stop. Here is a short guide to the best of Noto and its surroundings. 

 

Corrado Assenza

Corrado Assenza

Let’s start, of course from Caffè Sicilia. Our latest visit, a few days ago, confirmed what we already knew. We went for breakfast and chose a classic: coffee granita with brioche col tuppo, and then a marvellous cassatina. The highest quality, but that’s no surprise. In the words of Marialuisa Iannuzzi in the Guida Identità Golose 2022, presenting the new Caffè (after the recent renovation): "A little below the famous sign you can always find where it started from: it was 1892 and, from that moment on, the story has always continued, like the soft flow of a brook. They have retraced the pre-existent contours, maintained the style of taste, an ode to life, nature, naturalness, because the creative principle of Corrado Assenza’s pastry making starts from the essential and follows a sensible removal of what is superfluous. Harmony between man and topos, agreement between the value of history and the fertile tension towards the future, starting from the present. And, then, genuine goodness: the many expressions of almonds, of every fruit picked at the right moment, served in the most suitable shape to enhance it, without additives and without tricks, mosaics of aromas and textures, lively springs of flavour; ingredients which you will rediscover. And as for the attitude in the dining room at Caffè, courtesy is not seeming, but a precious virtue, as precious as honey. It’s not a service, but an inviting dance. Pan d’Iblei, Biancomangiare, ricotta and pistachio gelatos, granite, cannolo, Insalata Assoluta. Spend some time at Caffè, spend hours: this way you will pick its unchangeable essence".
Caffè Sicilia - Corso Vittorio Emanuele 125. Tel. +39 0931835013, website

 

 

Lamb sirloin with celeriac puré and wild greens from Marco Baglieri at Crocifisso

Lamb sirloin with celeriac puré and wild greens from Marco Baglieri at Crocifisso

What are the best restaurants in town? For sure, one of them is Marco Baglieri’s Crocifisso. We went back recently after a few years: a remarkable dinner. Not just the cuisine, which by itself it’s already a lot; it’s the restaurant that works well. It is structured, sound, complete. Perfect timing, an efficient dining room, very good wines. And then the flavours: Aia Gaia egg, mousse of goat’s robiola, spinach and truffle from Palazzolo Acreide, a rich and harmonious dish; Tortello with braised onion, sauce of tenerumi, rabbit meat sauce and tuma persa, the fullness of turfy Sicily; delicious Tuna belly on the BBQ with sweet and sour cipollata, truly delicious; then Quail alla beccafico, baked aubergine and nest of kataifi pastry and Lamb sirloin with celeriac puree and wild greens, all perfectly cooked. We finished with a new dessert, Peanut ganache, cocoa pastry, gel and sorbet of passion fruitIn the words of Caterina Lo Casto always from our Guide, "restaurant Crocifisso is attractive with its rich sobriety. Marco Baglieri, chef/patron, loves to emulsify Sicilian culture and hospitality in Nordic aesthetics, minimalistic elegance and velvet: seeming contradictions, but in balance. His instinctive cuisine moves towards the concept of good and taste without sophism. Dishes come from the heart of the chef and his young brigade. We always start from Sicilian cuisine, drawing fully from family memories, but then mixing ideas, textures and visions, giving life to extraordinary dishes in which sour, sapid, fat, sweet and bitter coexist with nature and without a boring use of techniques: limpid love for the land they inhabit".
Crocifisso - Via Principe Umberto 48. Tel +39 0931 968608, website

 

 

Salvatore Vicari

Salvatore Vicari

This time we didn’t visit another local favourite, Vicari. Therefore, we rely on the words of Concetta Bonini, in the Guida Identità Golose 2022: "Salvatore Vicari loves theatre. Not just the one we all love, that is to say the aesthetic, artistic and cultural expression that theatre represents, but also the process, the space, the technique, the illusion, the precision of the theatre machine. His greatest passion after cooking. And since few things mix and influence each other like great passions, in his cuisine we can notice that illusion and precision: an imposing work behind the scenes, resulting in an elegant result on the scene. And in the middle, his fascinating, convincing story. In this intimate and very elegant dining room in the Baroque heart of town, you can notice him in dense and evocative dishes like The prince and the chicken, in which Vicari recreates through his ingredients the fairy tale reinterpreted by Moni Ovadia: around the protagonist, a chicken stuffed in the traditional way, the elements of the earth it walks on - carrots, cream of beetroot and sambuca, chards – and those – apples cooked in sweet wine and Marsala – which it will reach when it will lift. A dish that represents the ecosystem-based cuisine that Vicari has been theorising and concretising for years, trusting a network of wise small producers, with whom timeless dishes are born, like tortelli filled with sheep’s milk ricotta on a cream of almonds from Noto or grilled mackerel with vegetable giardiniera".
Vicari - Ronco Bernardo Leanti 11. Tel. +39 0931 839322, sito web

 

Viviana Varese at W Villadorata

Viviana Varese at W Villadorata

There’s a new dimension of Viviana Varese, even freer, more playful, relaxed. Milan gives a lot and takes a lot. It offers huge opportunities as long as you always pay attention, which can be tiring in the long run, and dry your ideas. Viviana opened her first Alice, the first in Viale Adige, over 15 years ago, in March 2007: what is now called Viva is the result of a constant commitment that has led the chef-patron to received well-deserved praise and to dominate Piazza XXV Aprile from above. She felt she needed to add to this a different perspective, almost a (creative) vent. It arrived last year when Varese – what a lovely person, by the way! – took over the restaurant in a country house surrounded by the Sicilian countryside near Noto, Villadorata. For the chef, it was a return to her origins, reconnecting with sun, nature, earth, «which is what makes the choices. Following its whim and power, with respect, joy and gratitude, is one of my most important values». This is something you can do in Sicily, but not in Milan. The result was a happy two-way relationship. Sicily gives to Viviana – sided by executive chefs Mattia Carnaghi and Ida Brenna – not just the palette from which she can paint, but plenty of colours, its incredible food heritage which must be only drawn from, developed, renovated, structured, told, and finally enjoyed. On the other hand, Viviana gives to Sicily... read the rest of the article.
W Villadorata Country Restaurant - Contrada Portelle. Tel. +39 342 8163083, website

 

 

The team at Battimandorlo

The team at Battimandorlo

Luckily there are those who take chances! There’s no doubt, in general, that fine dining in Sicily needs new stimuli, as too often it relies of its acquired laurels (that is to say: potentially extraordinary products) and so they just do what they must, without taking a challenge. So it’s good that there are some novelties coming from elsewhere. For instance, Battimandorlo in Noto... Battimandorlo is a beautiful place, surrounded by 8 hectares of organic farmland, producing lemons, olives and almonds. There’s an infinity swimming pool, nicely structured rooms, an attentive service, only 7 km from the Cathedral... Everything would converge to make this an excellent destination in terms of hôtellerie, but to consider it as a place of delicious yet banal dishes, and nothing more, as the genius of creativity never lives in places like this. And instead, we were truly surprised. The merit goes first of all to the patrons of Battimandorlo, Sicilian Pietro Viola and Irish Elaine Dolan – partners in life, and real gourmands – who wanted to bet on a less banal offer. And the merit also goes to chef Michele Di Bonito, young and capable of betting on himself too. After lots of travelling, he wants to stand out. Because, he must have thought: even a place like Battimandorlo can be an excellent opportunity to show a different cuisine. Original. Full of personality. Read the complete article here.
Il Battimandorlo - Contrada Portelle snc. Tel. 392 1461361, website

 

 

The chef from Principe di Belludia at Il San Corrado di Noto, Paolo Gionfriddo, with head sommelier Benito Scatà and Mattia Lorenzo

The chef from Principe di Belludia at Il San Corrado di Noto, Paolo Gionfriddo, with head sommelier Benito Scatà and Mattia Lorenzo

Il San Corrado from Noto was awarded last September by the International Travel Awards, with the "Best Luxury Hideaway Resort in Italy" award. This is very important for those like us who love Sicily, are convinced of its touristic and gastronomic potential still to be fully shown, and have seen how in the past too many opportunities were lost and are now happy of this clear change. In general in the area of Noto there has been a growing number of resorts and fine dining places that raise the benchmark, attracting clients – especially from abroad – who expect quality, and giving new promising opportunities for incoming. For sure, Il San Corrado is the most important project, the one that makes a difference. Borgo Egnazia in Puglia comes to mind in this case: just it’s being there, and its success, has created a domino effect, stimulating further investments, and spreading the growth. A comparison with Il San Corrado is only partial: the resort in Noto is smaller (26 rooms and 8 villas) and can thus have a smaller impact on the market. But for sure it is a new point of reference, as confirmed by the very swift affiliation with the prestigious Relais&Chateaux network. Read the rest of the article.
Principe di Belludia de Il San Corrado di Noto - Contrada Belludia SP51. Tel. +39 0931 1842020, website

 

 

Cuturro at A'Cava

Cuturro at A'Cava

Only 15 km south-west of Noto, there’s another delicious place in Rosolini, A' Cava. Here is what we say in the Guida Identità Golose: "It’s hard to happen by chance at Maurizio Massa’s. Rosolini is not a touristic destination and a restaurant and pizzeria in the middle of nowhere clearly doesn’t invite to stop. Self-trained by definition, for Massa, Corrado Assenza has been a friend capable of «reprimanding him many times» and supporting him in refining his passion for raw materials and their understanding, for seasonality so that he helped the chef «see the light». A light that shines in his choice of ingredients and sometimes unexpected pairings. As with burrata, sea urchin, cocoa beans and candied bergamot which are enclosed in ravioli. Or when he transforms uturro, an ancient polenta made with broken wheat, in an arancino with sausage and cabbage from Rosolini on a fondue of Ragusano PDO. Or in the obstinate use of the aromas of citrus fruits, «a local tradition of using the peel of the citrus fruits discarded in the plates at the end of the meal». It’s these memories that guide Maurizio, helped in the dining room and in the cellar by his brother Emilio. Pizzas are also rooted in the local region, as proven by Parco delle Madonie, with fresh wild boar sausage and provola from Madonie, Palazzo Acreide with pork fillet, truffle from Palazzolo and shaved ragusano PDO, Quattro formaggi sicula with pecorino and Vastedda del Belice. The only regret is that is that he really is off the beaten track. But it doesn’t matter. Many like us have arrived in Rosolini thanks to word of mouth. And nothing is better than word of mouth.
A' Cava - Corso Savoia snc, Rosolini (Siracusa). Tel. +39 0931 1845211, website

 


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