WHAT TO EAT IN SICILY: Streaty’s top ten bites
1. Pasta alla norma or Pasta ca’ norma. Typical Catanese pasta. The right shape of pasta for this recipe is sedani rigati or rigatoni. It must be cooked al dente and dressed with fresh tomato sauce and fried cubes of eggplant. Do not dare to grind parmesan cheese on the top of it! According to the strict Catanese tradition, the only welcome cheese on this dish is the ricotta salata (salted ricotta). So good and so easy to make. You wanna learn how to make it? join a cooking class in Catania with Sicily Cooking Class!
2. Pasta con le sarde or Pasta chi’saidde. Typical Palermitan pasta. Do not ask for pasta alla Norma in Palermo, do not ask for Pasta con le sarde in Catania. Each Sicilian province has got its own specialties, so please, eat and act like a local 🙂 The right shape of pasta in this case is bucatini or thick spaghetti. The sardine sauce is made of onion, pine nuts, raisin, wild fennel (previously softened in boiling water) and of course…sardines! Pasta chi sarde doesn’t match with any cheese. According to the strict Palermitan tradition you must top it with toasted breadcrumbs. Unique taste. Best time to have it’s between February and March. Try it at Osteria Mercede in Palermo!
3. Arancina or Arancino? The most famous Sicilian street food. Warning: call it Arancina when you are in the West of Sicily and call it Arancino when you are in the in the East. Do not mess with the pronounciation or you’ll be hated for the rest of your stay. It’s a rice ball! The western Arancina is shaped like an orange, the rice is flavoured with safron and hides in its core minced veal, peas, carrot and onion, finally breaded in breadcrumbs and the deep fried. The Eastern Arancino is shaped like the Mount Etna, it’s stuffed with shreded veal, tomato sauce and mozzarella, breaded in breadcrumbs and of course deep fried. Join a streaty tour to find the best Arancinas in Palermo and Catania! 🙂 IF you cross the strait of Messina on the ferry, do what all Sicilians do! eat an Arancino on board! IF you are driving around Mount Etna, try the Pistachio Arancino at Caffè Galaxy in Bronte! And IF you wanna make it yourself read Streaty Mama’s recipe! and remember! IF a Sicilian points at you and says you are an “Arancinu chi peri!” (Tr. Arancino with feet). It means you are just a little bit overweight! ehehhe!
4. Swordfish rolls or Involtini di pesce spada. A very trendy dish at 80’s weddings! Such an easy recipe for such a sophisticated taste! Available in every province of the island. Swordfish fillet rolled with onion, breadcrumbs, pine nuts, raisin, parsley and bay leaf, breaded in breadcrumbs and…no! this time it’s not fried but baked! Now listen to me my dear foodie: cut a piece of it, smell it, put in your mouth and wash it down with a sip of Sicilian Catarratto (white wine). Send us a postcard from paradise! Warning: swordfish rolls look like innocent meat balls but their filling effect is quite effective…so, plan your meal carefully when making the order! If you find yourself around the Quattro Canti of Palermo, do not miss involtini at Bisso! it’s like wow! 🙂
5. Granita al pistacchio. A typical eastern Sicilian dessert. The granita is a multi-flavoured slushy cream accompained with a soft rounded bun topped with a dome. Messina, Taormina and Catania compete for the best granita in the world. Among the many flavours available in cafès, the one we recommend is the pistachio granita. Forget-about-it! Other common flavours are lemon, almond and mulberry. Pasticceria Sgroi in Catania and Bam Bar in Taormina are our favourite. But if you go to Messina do not miss the traditional “menza”, coffee granita topped with whipped cream, try this at Bar del Sud. And remember, eat like a local, do not ever share the bun’s dome, that’s the best part!
8. Genovesi. Definetely not as famous as cannoli but definetely a big competitor of it. A fragrant seashell-shaped shaped pastry stuffed with a silky custard cream flavoured with lemon and vanilla. At first bite you will hear your taste buds whispering “Gentleman you had our curiosity but now you have our total attention”(quote: Calvin Candie/Django). The best genovese? Without any doubt at the one and only cafè of Mozia, a very small but very enjoyable island situated in the middle of the Stagnone Lagoon (Marsala). Visit Mozia in full spring! History, art, nature and THE cafè run by Salvo and his wife Vita, our genovesi queen! Sit in the shade of a huge ficus and enjoy your genovese. If you are visiting Erice, then have a genovese at Maria Grammatico!
9. Cous cous di pesce. Cous cous in Sicily does not sound as an exotic dish but as a Western Sicilian delicacy!It’s just one of the many signs left by the Arab domination in our culture. Sicilian cous cous is strictly cooked with fish. It’s a quite long and complicated recipe to make it…without “quite”! Sicilians don’t buy precooked cous cous but they work on the semolina by hands in order to cluster it. The miracles happens in the so-called couscousiera (double pot utensil) where the semolina is steamed with the aromas of the fish soup. The result is like the best thing you’ve ever eaten in this life! Two towns in Sicily are renowned for fish cous cous: Trapani and San Vito Lo Capo. In Trapani we recommend Trattoria del Corso. As for San Vito Lo Capo, do not miss the annual International Cous Cous fest happening in September. Or cook it yourself with Cooksicily!
10. Pane cunzato. The proper translation for pane cunzato would be “stuffed bread”, so yes, it’s a sandwich! A thick bread cooked and toasted in wood fire. The Pane cunzato is a typical summertime “light” lunch for Sicilians and their five layer bellies. Freshness is the ingredient. Slices of full red tomato, extra-vergine olive oil, oregano, hand-cleaned anchovies and shavings of primosale cheese, that is it! However, you can find different varieties around the island. Our favourite destinations are the bakeries of Monreale (Palermo), Bar Nettuno in Scopello (Trapani), Pane Condito in Augusta (Catania. See credited photo). If you want to combine the pane cunzato experience with the stunning visit of Duomo di Monreale, ask Streaty to arrange a tasty excursion! Happy eyes happy belly!
11. Mmiscate or Mpignulate. Typical deli from Agrigento area. Agrigento is popular among the tourists only for the Valley of the Temples, the most famous archeological site in Sicily. As for us, Sicilian foodies, Agrigento isn’t just about temples, it’s more about mmiscate! What is it? Stretched pizza dough wrapped like a rose and stuffed in between the layers with a the mix of onion, pork sausage or mortadella, tuma cheese and black olives. Do not miss this! Ancient greeks can wait, mmiscate cannot! We recommend Kennedy bar in Porto Empedocle or Panificio Conca d’Oro in Agrigento. If you want to make your culinary sins with your own hands, cook it with Annalisa at Go-Sicily! (see credited photo) Ask Streaty to arrange a tasty expedition to Agrigento!
10. Seasonal treat. Sicilian cuisine is very various and very seasonal! Many delicious bites can only be taken in special occasions, such as religious festivals. March 19th St.Joseph’s Day: Sfincia di San Giuseppe (fried ricotta pastry), Pasta co’maccu (pasta with mashed fava beans). Carnival time: chiacchere (marsala wine cookies), cannoli (read this!), pasta che’cincu puttusa (five holed pasta with ragù). May to Early July is the tuna fishing season! November 8th St.Martin’s day: do not miss the sammartinello (wild fennel cookie) and the rasco (wild fennel cookie dipped in rum and stuffed with ricotta cream and cinnamon). December 13th Saint Lucy’s day is the arancina day in Palermo!
Conclusions. Yes there is much more to devour in Sicily, this is simply Streaty’s top ten! Remember: the key is always the same one: eat and act like a local! To do this you need a Sicilian friend? you don’t have it!?! Of course you do! It’s us 🙂 Stay Hungry Stay Streaty! 😉 Ops! No, we didn’t forget Cannoli! But Cannoli deserve a separate article! Read Cannoli, All you must know before landing in Sicily.