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This article appears in SUITCASE Volume 20: Homelands.
She’s lived in Italy for over 10 years having moved from East London, so it’s safe to say that food writer and cook Rachel Roddy is pretty clued up when it comes to the cuisine of la dolce vita. When she’s not writing weekly columns for major publications or drafting out cookbooks, she can be found browsing local markets for new ingredients to try at home. With Sicily the birthplace of arancini and rivalling mainland Italy when it comes to pasta, we asked Rachel for her top food picks on the Mediterranean island.
1. Sakaleo, Scoglitti
This fishing town not far from Gela has many small, family-run fish restaurants, and this is the very best of the bunch. They have their own boat that goes out every day. After antipasti you can choose a primi and a secondi before finishing with the inevitable ending of a lemon sorbet.
2. Caffè Sicilia, Noto
Noto is the jewel of southeastern Sicily’s trinity of baroque towns, and this is one of Italy’s best places for pasticherie. The chef, Corado Assenza, has his own almond grove – he is a master of almonds, ricotta and citrus, making classically Sicilian dishes with a lightness of touch.
3. Baglieri, Noto
Here you’ll find traditionally Sicilian food that’s special, but not fancy. The sommelier spent a year working in London’s natural wine bar, Terroirs, so expect exciting things by the glass and bottle.
4. Il Piccolo Napoli, Palermo
A fish restaurant near Vucciria market in Palermo. Expect Palermitano classics such as pasta con le sarde, or indeed almost anything with breadcrumbs.
5. Prestipino Caffè, Catania
It would be rude not to include this café on Catania’s Piazza Duomo. These are breakfasts that change breakfast forever. You’ll love the window displays laden with sweet nutty biscuits and fat slabs of marzipan – great for gifts to take home.
6. Anna Tasca Lanza Cookery School
Getting to this cookery school exposes the challenge presented by Sicily’s roads, but it’s worth the schlep for the more food-minded of you. Courses run by the ever-inspiring Fabrizia Lanza take a close look at heritage Sicilian ingredients, from wheat and wine to olive oil, tomatoes and cheese, in a truly incredible setting.
7. Razmataz and Me Cumpari Torrido, Catania
A fun evening in Catania might involve drinking a Campari soda and doing some people-watching outside Razmataz – the setting totally charming, the service less so – before going onto Me Cumpari Torrido, a newish restaurant in town with modern takes on traditional dishes (the pasta alla norma, for example, is encased in slices of fried aubergine) and a knockout list of interesting Sicilian wines.
8. Trattoria Casalinga da Nino, Catania
I don’t like to use the word “authentic”, but this place does feel like the real deal, from the pile of rigatoni with tomatoes and aubergine showered in ricotta salata to the mezzo litro of cold red wine from a barrel (as delicious as it is rough). Quite possibly the best plate of pasta you’ll have on your trip.
The Sicilian wines of Lamoresca
Filippo Rizzo’s winery, Lamoresca – named after the variety of olive tree that he found growing here in abundance when he bought the land – is a kind of Eden. There are fruit trees bursting with ripe figs, plums and prickly pears. Carob, lemon and mulberry flourish here in abundance, as do wild herbs such as mint and rosemary, the flavour of which Rachel describes as “on steroids, with a kind of superhero power”.
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