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Why do I miss Sicily?   There are Sicilian restaurants in Rome.

Perhaps this is only an infatuation.  My first trip to Sicily was just last year, which I wrote about in FATHOM.  Maybe the island will lose its hold on me after a few more trips, or years.  We’ll see.

Like the cuisine, the art and architecture of Sicily has been influenced by the diverse cultures of its various rulers.

Every day I stopped by to see the Burial of Santa Lucia, painted by Caravaggio in 1608, located in the Santa Lucia alla Badia church. There is something very special about seeing art in the context that it was created for.

In the early 2000’s many architects and interior designers started to buy and renovate houses in the area.  I kept getting lost in little courtyards and side streets.  There was inspiration all around me and design elements that gave me some ideas for my Caribbean beach house project.

Below are a few of my favorite things:

How pretty is this packaging? I received a gift from this store on my birthday.  Erica’s daughter picked it out.  That five year-old has excellent taste.

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Photo: ortigiasicily.com

As someone who was raised Methodist, I’m still thrown by some of the more intense art in Catholic churches.  My childhood church had stained glass with images of things like Jesus chilling with some shepherds.

Here is the patron saint of Siracusa, Santa Lucia.

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Clever use of a satellite dish.

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Spiderman on the side of the Municipal Building representing the heroic spirit of the people. I’m trying to find out who the artist is and when the work was installed.

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Cool planter outside a house that faces the sea.

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Rome-based artist UNO and his latest installation.

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Also from Rome, Alice Pasquini.  Erica and I went to see her and UNO work on their murals. This is a school in Siracusa.

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The new and the old.

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I saw these fishing baskets all over my neighborhood.

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Love the door.

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And this gate.

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This alley showing a sliver of the sea was up the street.

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I’m thinking about my next trip. Maybe I should go to Palermo or Cefalù, or both.

Photos, unless noted otherwise, are by me and my iPhone.

I appreciate the majesty of the Hudson River and the cool blues of a lake in Maine but I’m a sea/ocean person.

It’s probably because I’ve spent the majority of my life living on the East and West Coasts of the United States and during the summer my family went to the Caribbean to see my grandparents. Even if I didn’t go to the ocean often, when I lived in Manhattan the beach was a summer situation only, I needed to know that it was close by.

Once I moved to Los Angeles, I had a car again. On Sundays I would load up my LL Bean tote bag with scripts for the infamous weekend read and head to El Matador Beach in Malibu. Working on Sundays wasn’t so bad with a view of the Pacific Ocean.

Sicily, Italy’s largest region, has 992 miles of coastline surrounded by the Tyrrhenian, Mediterranean, and Ionian seas.

Sunrise. Ortigia. The sea was a block away from my apartment.

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So were these rocks. Erica’s five year-old daughter asked me if I was going to jump in too. I told her I didn’t swim. She’s a great swimmer and was perplexed by my answer.

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Ortigia. Early morning swimmers.

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Siracusa. Three small trees on a cliff spotted during an early morning jog.

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Mt. Etna. View from the Monaci della Terra Nere boutique hotel on a cloudy morning.

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Salina. View of Stromboli.

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Salina. On the mountain near the village of Pollara.

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Salina. The San Lorenzo church in Malfa.

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Photos: Me and my iPhone

Sicily is known for its hand painted pottery.

Like the cuisine, each region has it’s own style.   I have to ask Erica where she bought her octopus plate.  I think it was somewhere near Cefalù.

As I have stated before, I have no more room in my apartment, so I was only able to buy a few small bowls.

I used one of the them in the photos that Gina took of the terrace project I worked on.

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The larger blue and white bowl and the little eggshell one (for salt or jam) were bought at a small workshop located right on my street.  Ceramiche Artiginali DoLù, Via Larga, 7 Ortigia  +39 0931 449451

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The other bowls were bought at a tiny store on the island of Salina.  It was located on the main street in Malfa.  The owners told me Dolce & Gabbana bought quite a few pieces from them.  You can see the influence in their S/S 2013 collection.

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Speaking of that collection, please note my fellow Americans that the black versions of these kings and queens are not the same thing as Mammy imagery from America.  Context is important when looking through our very specific American lens of a different culture, history, and country.  I was annoyed that their runaway (like most) had no diversity.

I say this as someone who gave Gladys Knight the side-eye when she became a spokeswoman for Aunt Jemina back in the day.  I didn’t care that AJ’s handkerchief was replaced with a relaxer.   I knew that context of that brand.

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Taken from the terrace of the Metropole Hotel, Taormina, Sicily.

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Photos Dolce and Gabbana:  Fashionista

Other photos. Me and my iPhone

 

 

 

I kept bumping into Erica and her parents at the market.

We do have great markets in Rome but the market in Ortigia is on another level.  I think it’s because the food doesn’t have far to travel.  The freshness and variety is unreal.

I’m still going on and on to Erica about the peaches I had.  I’m sure she’s tired of hearing about them.

I didn’t buy any fish but I did eat my share from the market.  I’m still talking about that too.

A MUST is the shop, Fratelli Burgio, located near the end of the market closest to the sea.  It gets very crowded so be patient.  I hear they have fantastic sandwiches and aperitivi.   The line for sandwiches was long and there was only one person behind the counter.  Poor guy.

I bought some Pachino sun dried tomatoes in olive oil there.  At thirty-two euros a kilo they were not cheap but were worth every single euro.

A bowl of said tomatoes.  Pachino tomatoes are grown only on the Southeastern coast of Sicily.

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The fishmongers were quite lively (and flirty).  I was too shy to snap a photo of the very attractive gentleman who called me Ms. New York.

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Baked ricotta cheese at Fratelli Burgio.

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 Photos: Me with my iPhone

 

I took a little day trip to Noto on my birthday.  After a quick thirty minute ride on the shortest train I’ve even seen, I arrived in a small town considered to be the height of Baroque urban planning.

The Duomo is a show stopper.  The old town was completely destroyed in the 1693 earthquake.   The way it’s laid out is very organized thanks to Giovanni Battista Landolina.  Working with three architects, Rosario Gagliardi, Vincenzo Sinatra, and Paolo Labisi, Landolina designed three main streets, running parallel.  At the top were the aristocracy (with the best views), the clergy in the middle, and everyone else at the bottom.

I had a great time in gorgeous Noto. Caffe Sicilia on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 125, is fantastic.  I had one of the best lemon granitas of my LIFE there.

My return to Ortigia had a classic Italian moment.  I bought a round-trip ticket.  After a long walk, downhill, to the train station I noticed everything was closed.  Ten minutes later, an announcement is made over the loud speaker in rapid-fire Italian saying my train had been canceled.  Thank God I understand Italian because at a pocket-sized station why would there have been an explanation also in English?  I went to a gym across the street to ask where the heck the bus stop was as there were no signs with that information.

There were four men at the front desk chatting and they looked like Dolce & Gabbana models but with athletic builds.  The men were very dark and handsome with those striking green/grey eyes you see all over Sicily.  My brain froze.  I literally could not speak Italian (or English really).  One dude said, “are you okay?”   I blamed the heat and they were kind enough to give me specific directions.

The street was silent, expect for my cursing, as I climbed back up the ridiculously long and steep hill, in the blazing hot Sicilian sun (there were NO cabs around). At the bus stop I was told that the bus service between these small towns is a lot more reliable than the train.  Thanks Trenitalia!

The Duomo.

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A view of the Duomo from one of the terraces of the Santa Chiara church.

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Love the detailing above the chandelier.

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I ate a delicious Pasta alla Norma and the service was great.  The reviews of this restaurant are all over the map.  Two foodie friends thought the food was overrated and others go to Noto just to eat here.

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While am I more of a Biggie person, I can appreciate this graffiti.

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Interior of the Montevergine church.

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Three bells. Shot from another terrace of the Santa Chiara church.

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Sea view.  In the distance.

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You can see and taste the Greek, Spanish, and North African influences in Sicilian cuisine.

The rich agricultural diversity of the island (the interior landscape is completely different from the coast) has also played a role in making this cuisine so unique (and delicious).

A separate post will be written about the Ortigia Farmers Market.

Some of my favorite Sicilian foods/dishes are:

Arancini – Rice balls fried with either a ragu sauce inside or eggplant (and sometimes both).

Capers – Picked by hand, these small flowers buds can be quite pricey outside of Italy.

Caponata – An eggplant dish usually served as an antipasta.  Every region of the island has their own way of making it.  I heard it takes a long time to cook.  Maybe I can convince my friend Gina to make it in Rome.

Couscous al pesce – Couscous with fish.

Fish -  It’s usually prepared simply.  No need for extravagant sauces and spices when the food is so fresh.  Anchovies, Vongole, Sea Urchins, Swordfish, Amberjack, Grouper,  Tuna, Sardines, and Sea Bream are some of the local fish you will find in Sicily.

Granita –  Nobody does it better than Sicily.  Nobody.

Pasta alla Norma – Originally from the city of Catania, this pasta dish is made with lightly fried eggplant, grated ricotta salata, and basil.  I’ve never made this dish.  I think it’s time to try it.

Pasta con Sarde – Pasta with sardines. Usually has pine nuts, fennel, and raisins.

Sicilian Bread – Yes, it is different from the bread on the mainland.  It has a golden color thanks to the durum semolina flour used from locally grown wheat.

Sfincione –  A pizza type dish.  The dough is thicker and airier.

Wine - There is a lot of excitement about Sicilian wines and their talented producers.  I usually drink Piemontese, French, (and a few Lazio ones when making Roman dishes) wines at home but I’m learning more about this region thanks to my knowledgeable friends.  I really enjoy wines from the Mt. Etna area.

I know this sounds outrageous but I’m not a big cannoli fan.  Meanwhile my partner on this series, Erica, was on a mission to try every single cannolo and cassatina in the neighborhood.

 

Pasta alla Norma.  So good.

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Little cassata cakes.  AKA cassatiini.

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I never had a Rosé from Mt. Etna before.   The waitress at Clandestino recommended it.  It was very good.

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Pasta with swordfish, vongole, and cherry tomatoes.

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Sigh.

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A white wine from Agrigento.  The owner of a little shop on Via Savoia (n. 2) recommended it after I told him I was invited to a lunch featuring risotto with shrimp.  It was a big hit.  I went back to buy another bottle.  I hope there’s a shop in Rome that sells it.

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One of my favorite things about late spring and summer is drinking homemade iced tea with lemon granita (tè fatto in casa con limone granita).  It’s like an Italian Arnold Palmer.

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Photos: Me and my iPhone

 Of course now I’m starving.  What are some of your favorites?

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