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?

During my trip to Ortigia, I saw many beautiful things and ate many dishes that were so delicious I wanted to Tweet/IG/FB about them immediately.

However, one of my goals during my vacation was to slow down.  I wanted to focus on what I was seeing, doing, eating at that moment.  I did occasionally post a picture on social media but cut way back.

My friend, Erica, is also a Sicily fan and we decided to highlight a few things we love about this incredible island for seven days.  You can following Erica on Instagram HERE.

First up is the Duomo.

I arrived in Ortigia during the early afternoon. After unpacking, and picking up some essential groceries, I walked over to the Duomo.

I was not ready.

Many friends have described the Duomo and its piazza as one of their favorites in all of Italy. Yet, I was still floored by her beauty, color, and presence.   It is truly one of the most magnificent buildings I have ever seen.

As with other regions of Italy, the layers of history in Sicily run deep.   Siracusa was one of greatest and important cities in the Greek empire. This dramatic cathedral was built in and around a 5th Century BC Doric Temple to Athena.   Doric columns are visible inside and outside the church.

In the 800s it was converted into a mosque by the Arabs who conquered Sicily.  Then the Byzantines returned to power, only to be defeated by the Arabs again.  They ruled until the Normans defeated them in 1085.

The Baroque facade was added after the devastating earthquake of 1693.  Somehow this very ornate style sits in perfect harmony with the Greek lines and aesthetics of the earlier structure.

I made it a point to see this building every single day.

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Photos: Me with my iPhone

This piazza is a perfect place to relax as the sun goes down and the locals start their passeggiata.

 

While my family and friends in the States are enjoying the last sunrays of Summer 2014 this Labor Day, it’s Il Rientro here in Italy.

This time I am ready!

As I wrote earlier this summer, even after all the years I’ve lived here, I was still resistant to the European way of vacationing. I felt guilty and unproductive.

Well, I am happy to report that major progress has been made regarding my efforts to partake in the great Italian tradition of Dolce Far Niente.  I’m not completely out of the workaholic woods yet but these things take time.

I went to Siracusa, Sicily for my birthday, staying in the historic center called Ortigia.  The first two days the Internet in my apartment was down, which was a blessing in disguise.  I couldn’t obsessively check my emails or read news headlines.

When I arrived in Oritiga, I was a one big ball of stress.  By the end of the week, I was so calm not even the chaos at the Catania airport and my delayed flight could wind me up.

This calmness was short-lived as it ended by my first evening back in Rome but that’s a different story.

It was my first trip to this area of Sicily and just what the doctor ordered.  I didn’t realize how badly I needed a vacation until I had one. Yes, it was a short one but I still appreciated it.

The architecture, design, history, and culture were inspiring.  The food was on another level.  My friend and her family just happened to be staying at an apartment around the corner.

I will write more about my Sicilian adventures once I sort through all my photos.

It took a few days into my trip for my major breakthrough.  One morning I ditched my itinerary.  I kept my plan to jog along the seawall at sunrise, and then hit the farmers’ market after.  That was it.   I’ll be honest. At first it was an odd sensation to not know exactly what I was going to do the rest of the day.

When Erica called and invited me to lunch with her family at their place I said, “yes” instead of my usual freak out about impromptu plans.

It was a glorious day of having a delicious lunch with my friends on their terrace (which had this view),

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going to the “beach” (which was two block away),

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reading my books and magazines while drinking a lot of homemade Tè Freddo con Limone Granita,

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and enjoying the sweetness of doing nothing.

I went on to enjoy this sweetness several times during the rest of my trip.  I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wonder if we could re-set this week.

Every time I turned on the news in the morning before my workout, there was some horrific, sad, or tragic breaking news.

I had to look at something relaxing and beautiful.  A picture of interior designer Muriel Brandolini’s pool, featured in Architectural Digest was just what I needed.

When I read the issue, this page jumped out at me.  How stunning is this pool?

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I don’t swim (long story) but I could see myself enjoying the pool and the views.

It’s important to be informed about what is happening in the world.  We must also remember to appreciate beauty in the world as well.

Buon Ferragosto!

I wish I knew I how to do this.

Trust me, this is not a humblebrag.  You know when you ask someone how they’re doing and they reply, “BUSY!”?  Then they proceed to talk for twenty minutes about how busy they are?

I used to do the BUSY thing all the time when I lived in Los Angeles.  I broke out of that habit after living here a few years.  When Italians ask, “how are you?”, they really want to know.  It’s a conversation starter, not an opportunity to brag about how much work you do.  Nobody wants to hear that mess unless you are at a work conference or something.

While I have calmed down a bit since my big move, I still find myself feeling guilty for not working all the time.  I know there are people who never stop.  I did that during my Hollywood years but had nothing to show for it other than missed weddings back east, stress, and debt.

So I know I wasn’t healthy or happy during that time yet August in Rome continues to freak me out.  This week my vendors are closing up for the summer.  There is nothing I can do regarding deliveries, invoices, my projects, etc.

Last year when I went to Salina, I had a view like this,

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but I was constantly checking my emails and on the phone with my clients. However, that was in June.  August is another story.

In August I’m forced to slow down so why can’t I just chill the heck out without feeling guilty about it?  One of my favorite designers, Erin Gates of ELEMENTS OF STYLE, wrote a fantastic POST about the pressure we Americans put on ourselves to do it all.

It’s madness.  I told myself that this year would be different.   It’s not.  It’s only the 6th and instead of reveling in the summer, I want September to get here already.

My local caffe and many of my favorite restaurants are shutting down this week.  Only the places catering to tourists will be opened.  Most of my friends are gone and the rest are leaving next week.  Tumbleweeds will roll down Lungotevere.

I should try to follow my dad’s example.  He was an incredibly hard worker but he also knew how to relax.  He truly appreciated the little vacation and down time he had.  My mom also worked hard but NEVER relaxed.  Even on her days off from work she was going, going, going.  I used to think I was a combination of the two but no, I’m more like my mom.  There’s always something that must be done.

I have my own company.  You’d think I would be able to give myself a break and/or vacation.  No, instead I think if don’t burn the candle at both ends I won’t be able to succeed, which means I won’t be able to pay my rent, therefore I will end up living under the Ponte Sisto bridge.

Okay, this summer I am going to break the cycle, dammit!  I must do it for my mental, physical, and creative health.

We’ll see how the rest of the year shapes up as I start my quest to partake in the fine Italian tradition of Dolce Far Niente.

Any suggestions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friends in Rome are probably sick of hearing me go on and on about wanting a terrace.

Well, that would be some of my friends who already have terraces.  I don’t think they appreciate how wonderful having a terrace is.  One friend rarely uses his.  I cannot understand this!  Trust, once I have my terrace I will be out there all the time, even in the snow.

Okay, that was an exaggeration as it snows here maybe once every twenty years or so.

I don’t need a huge space.  Nor, a pool.  However, if I had a chance to live in Keith Jacobson’s home, featured in New York Magazine, I would.

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A penthouse with views of the High Line? Yes.

An outdoor kitchen? Yes.

A full bathroom with an outdoor shower?  Yes.

Designed by Francis D’Haene, founder of D’Apostrophe Design and his colleague, Patrocinio Binuya, this rooftop was almost too much for me to handle in my terrace-less state.

Yet, I still looked at the photos.

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The landscape design was done by Miguel Pons.

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Photos by David Allee

I’m glad they spared us photos of the cocktail bar.

 

 

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