It’s time for part two of my Sicilian journey! We left off last time just as I was leaving Taormina for Siracusa, where I had one of the most incredible meals of all time.
Our first night in Siracusa, we made plans to visit the tiny Apollonion Osteria da Carlo, a quaint but bustling restaurant in the heart of old town Siracusa. Within minutes of being seated, without ever seeing a menu, the food started to arrive! Instead of serving a set menu each night, the chef creates a 6-course prix fixe menu based on what’s best at the market that day.
To start, we were served raw oysters and smoked swordfish with lemon, olive oil, and fleur de sel sprinkled on top.
Next, an enormous bowl of mussels and clams cooked with white wine, basil, tomatoes, mint, and toasted almonds. This doesn’t sound particularly inventive, but somehow the crunch of the almonds with the fragrant flavors were more vibrant than anything I was expecting. The mint and almonds were an excellent addition— I think I’ll have to replicate this at home!
Our third course was an assortment of fried calamari and baitfish. In the U.S., a plate of fried calamari feels boring and dated, but not in Sicily. They were fresh and ultra-crispy.
The spaghetti scampi was my absolute favorite. I knew there had to be more going on in the scampi than just garlic, tomatoes, wine, and herbs. It was rich, deep, and complex. When I visited Chef Carlo in the kitchen later, I discovered his secret weapon: fish stock! Just what I thought. I could taste the chef’s classic french training in his pasta.
After the pasta, I was sated, but I forged onwards to a plate of lightly grilled shrimp and rouget.
Of course, I saved room for dessert. I’m glad I did; this panna cotta was drizzled with warm chocolate sauce and accompanied by a Sicilian lemon sorbet. The perfect ending to the meal.
I enjoyed every single bite of this extraordinary meal. The mark of a great chef is knowing how to master simplicity in flavor and presentation, and this man surely has. If you’re ever in Siracusa, I highly recommend you make a reservation to go.
After dining out so much, Michael and I were ready to get back with family. As I mentioned earlier, one of the reasons we came to Sicily was to celebrate Michael’s brother’s birthday. His wife, Cynthia had gotten together 20 members of the family from all over the U.S. plus many of her Sicilian relatives for a big Sicilian style bash.
I couldn’t wait, especially because Michael’s brother had no idea we were coming! We surprised Stephen in the Mercado; the look on his face was priceless! We spend the next few days staying with the family before the big birthday celebration.
I’m a party girl at heart, so I was super excited for the big night. After all, those Sicilians know how to party! For the dinner, Cynthia called in a caterer to prepare all the traditional Sicilian dishes. Caponata, arrancini, eggplant with tomatoes, bruschetta, stuffed sardines— we had it all. To top it off, we even had a Sicilian band playing music during cocktails.
The best part of the night came at dessert. The caterer of the party was very well known for his pastries; in fact, he had just recently won an international pastry prize for one of the cakes he served that night!
I made it my mission to try each cake he made that night– and there were 5! When I tasted the orange-flavored cake (below), I knew exactly why he won– it was perfect. Above is the gorgeous cassata birthday cake– a Sicilian tradition!
We were sad to be leaving family, but this party was certainly the way to go out with a bang. Thank you to our lovely host Cynthia for putting together this INCREDIBLE Sicilian celebration.
Overall, the food in Sicily much exceeded my expectations. I’ll be making some recipes from the trip soon, so stay tuned! Also stay tuned for another of my Summer adventures: Burning Man! I’ll be telling you all the juicy details next week.