Europe / Italy

Sicily.GIRL versus FOOD.

My beloved mum used to watch, with some kind of admiration and fright (well more fright than admiration to be precise), how much pasta I can swallow for dinner. I’m so glad there was no TV show like “Man vs Food” that time coz she would certainly force me to reveal my talents to bigger audience. For money. Instead of that she kept on telling me that I had to marry an Italian guy. And if my stomach was somehow connected to my heart, I would for sure end up as an overweight, but happy, queen of Italian Pasta! Mamma mia! It’s so easy to fall in love with Italy. People all over the world know what does – “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” mean. Food is the key. And if it comes to food, Italy remains unbeaten.

Dolce vita – life can be sweet and easy, you just have to eat well. No think about it do you know a single person who doesn’t like Italian cuisine? I don’t. What’s more – I know that most of my friends would die for a good pizza. I dare to think, who once tries real Italian pizza will never ever call a “pizza” disgusting tesco things which tastes like a piece of cardboard (not that I know how does the cardboard taste like…) and if you are lucky it won’t have a dead frozen spider in the middle (yes! true story!).

In today’s post I want to challenge you with food. I am taking you to Sicily on a debauched journey where you gonna confess your food sins only to Dionysus – the ancient god of everything that is good.

Ps. make sure you are not hungry before you start reading!

Antipasti.

Let’s start with some organizational issues. February isn’t the best time to go to Sicily, or it’s just us and our bad luck… I don’t mind cold when there’s someone to warm me up 🙂 but a constant rain? seriously? Che cazzo! What you can do when the weather seems to treat you like the most hated person ever? Keep calm and discover the heavenly world of Sicilian street food! In my humble opinion, this should be one of the main reasons to visit this place as the food is just AMAZING. We start our journey with Italian classic – pizza. There are plenty of places offering pizza but we don’t want to risk. I check trip advisor. Bull’s eye! Mounir’s pizza with no doubt deserves to be second best place on the list of the most fab eateries in Palermo. If you are still hungry after all these carbs you can head to one of parallel streets to via Roma – to discover Sicily by night in the middle of a vibrant night market La Vucciria. Even though it’s almost 1am you can still grab a snack here. Why not to try stigghiola – sort of haggis skewers (lamb or goat) Gross you think? Well, yes but it’s still not the most extreme thing the island has to offer… but the best is yet to come so keep on reading!

Sunday Morning, Palermo, breakfast at one of the random cafes.

We are asking for latte, they don’t understand. Ok, we give up, milk with coffee is just fine… and it sounds so posh… macchiato!

Later on we are snacking sfincione – Sicilian square mini pizza with basic ingredients such as tomatoes, cheese, onion. I swear it looks exactly like my mum’s polish style zapiekanka. Maybe my family has a drop of Italian blood in our veins, who knows. When we arrive to Catania, we check in at our hotel. I have to say that I really don’t have high expectations regarding the place I am going to sleep if I know I haven’t been paid much (but no bedbugs please!) and Hostel Inn where we stayed was… all right. (British slang to say it kinda sucked!).

I understand that Italians aren’t the tallest nation but the ceiling in our room is so low that Mario hits it every time he forgets about this little painful nuiscane. It basically means all the time. I’m in a slightly better situation as I spend my time mostly on the floor. Sicilian wine is amazing!

Catania is an enchanting town with a beautiful cathedral, but my faveourite thing to do is to wander around tiny streets and looking up at balconies where Sicilian mothers dry their washing. It’s totally cool and so Italian. Quintessence of Italy. We’re finding out that a lot of old houses have signs stating they are in fact palaces from XVI, XVII and XVIII century so are these people living in them some kind of noblemen? Caught again by heavy rain we hide inside one of local cafes ordering hot chocolate. It’s so dark and thick that when I put a spoon inside it stays straight and doesnt drown. I’m telling you – this is the real deal, all the crap you get at starbucks it’s not the same even they claim it to be “Belgian”. Forza Italia!

We found the one and only – real Italian pizza!
Sicilan kebab heaven 🙂 Mario a la God Father. 🙂
La Vucciria Italia lives by night!
Bella Napoli, another street pizza, baked with love as these guys were watching football while working.
The best Italian hot chocolate!
Palermo – architecture mix.
Palermo – Cuatro Cuanto square.

Main course.

Sicily is a real mine of knowledge about the antique world, a window into the ancient history of the Mediterranean and Europe. We decided to visit one of the most important places – Syracuse.The city is notable for its rich Greek remains – mainly architecture such theaters and temples but also as the birthplace of the preeminent Greek geek – Archimedes. Another interesting thing is a mysterious cave called Dionysus ear – thanks to it’s great acoustic. Syracuse is divided into 2 parts – mainland with famous Archeological Park and the island of Ortigia – the historical heart of Siracuse. In the modern day, both of them are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Site. After couple of hours of sightseeing it’s high time to swap history for culinary art. Until now I’ve been an Arancini virgin. I didn’t even know that name. My ignorance!

Arancini – deep fried rice balls stuffed with – ragu, spinach, eggplant, mushrooms. Everyone can find something they fancy. Eureka! I found it! Shouted Archimedes when he stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose—he suddenly understood that the volume of water displace must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged. Eureka! We also found the best street food ever.

We enjoyed arancini so much we bought it for dinner again along with 2 calzone -mini pizzas and one big bottle of Moretti beer. All together, dining for 2 – 4.5 euro. Bargain. Another reason to worship Italy is the value-for-money thing. Since I came from Georgia I haven’t been eating such a tasty food and what’s better – my tummy also loved it. It only complained a bit as once you start eating it’s really hard to stop. Burp. Be Italian!

Antique Greek theater in Siracusa.
Ear of Dionysus – a cave with an unusual acoustics.
My Dionysus 🙂
Ruins of an ancient temple of Athene.
Ortigia – harbour.
Sirakusa/Ortigia Architecture.
P1020900 (Small)
Arancina – small but powerful rice ball, full of flavours.
Mario has already found his faveourite arancini 🙂 

Dolce. 

Not always good luck plays in our league. On the day when I planned our AMAZING, WONDERFUL, SUPERCOOL volcano trekking the weather was so miserable that the trip was cancelled due to dangerous storms with electrical thunders and heavy snow. I do understand that it’s dangerous, life threatening etc, but I really wanted to see the volcano! How many people can say they climbed the highest volcano in Europe? Pretty awesome, hun? Well I’m not gonna be one of them and I don’t think I will have a chance to do it anytime soon so don’t mention in my presence that you’ve actually done it and it was awesome. I’ll become aggressive. 🙂

To cheer myself up I decide to pamper myself with a bit of sugar. Even though that means breaking one of my big New Year’s resolutions – who cares? Anna is sad! When I was a kid my mum used to give me sweets when I was moody – blame her for my compulsive eating. Italian Mamma knows how to make a rainy day into a sunny one. Starting with canolii, although it looks like a cream horn it’s much, much more! Filled with delicate ricotta cheese topped with pistachio I can’t describe it other than “a real food climax” and it is happening in my mouth now!

I try to be strong and not to eat more than one as I know that I still have to visit Italian Kingdom of ice creams. These ice creams parlours should be called “50 shades of pleasure” as they have numerous different taste of ice cream. Basically everything you can dream of. If this is not enough I’m gonna tell you that 1 scope looks like 3. Ha! Italians like it BIG and TASTY. Oh! I would forget about the most important – the taste! Even though it’s still raining my world has now million colours from green pistachio to canary yellow mango not to mention chestnut brown of nutella. Yum Yum!

But be careful, they are melting super fast so consider being a real Siciliano and ordering your scoops in a brioche. Yes, I mean ice cream burger topped with whipped cream! To be eaten only in Sicily!

Heaven.. I’m in heaven!
Catania – Ursino castle.
Catania – piazza Duomo.
Fruit and veg market Catania – you can find here purple cauliflowers!
Fish market in the heart of Catania.
Sicilian red oranges are everywhere, you have to try freshly squeezed juice – it’s yummy!
Pasta a la norma at trattoria di antionio.

Sicilian Hannibal Lecter.

A propos dishes you can only try on Sicily, there is something else I need to tell you. Time for the real cream of the crop. I deliberately left it for the last paragraph coz I want to introduce you to the real king of Sicilian Fast Foods. A cruel king, a tyrant and a despot – panica meusa! One thing worth considering is – not to ask what the hell is the thing that has just disappeared inside the abyss of your mouth.

Indulging ourselves with these weird sandwiches we decide to bet, what is it exactly what we are eating now. I opt for liver, Mario tries to make me feel sick by mentioning cow’s tongue. The truth seems to be more hard-core than we though. Panica meusa is a burger stuffed with chopped veal’s lung and spleen that have been boiled and then fried in lard. I agree it does sound more appalling than appealing but I would give it a go once again as you can’t eat it anywhere else apart from Palermo and it tastes really good even for me (I generally try not to eat meat). My culinary experience officially reached Hannibal Lecter’s level. He would love to live on Sicily!

Sicily
Master Chef or Hannibal Lecter? 🙂
Mario eating panica meusa!

We finally got to the end of my trip to Sicily – some of you may ask – but how about el Padrino – the most famous mafioso from Sicily? Why you haven’t mentioned him? Honestly, although I love the movie, for me Sicily is all about the food. Do you remember “Eat, pray, love”? Now I am convinced that Elizabeth Gilbert couldn’t dedicate the most tasty part of her book to any other place than Italy. Italians know their food (however they should leave music making to other nations – strongly recommended) I am seriously just surprised how my spaghetti-mates can survive London and it’s ready meals!? The beauty of Sicilian flavours is in their freshness. Restaurants here use only local products so wherever you go, you can be pretty sure it’s 100% authentic and that’s, according to me, the key to culinary success. If you are a foodie, just like me, you have to add Sicily to your “places to go” list and I’m sure you will score it high. Love Italy and it will love you back!