Traditional Sicilian Cuisine
One of the reasons I was so excited to go back to Sicily is because many of Scott’s relatives are still living near Syracusa and Scott had never been to the country where his father emigrated from.
We were both a little uncomfortable at first with the idea of spending a day with family whom we had never met. This was our vacation and we selfishly wanted to spend it according to our own schedule.
With a little coaxing, Scott convinced me to take a 3 hour one-way bus ride from Taormina to Syracusa where we would be greeted by one of Scott’s cousins who thankfully spoke excellent English.
We arrived in Solarino to a house full of Scott’s family, most of them who he had never spoken to. To both of our surprise, it instantly felt like we had known them for years.
When it came time for two of his family members to drive us all the way back to Taormina it was already late, but they insisted on taking us to a Sicilian dinner in Catania. It was unlike anything either of us have ever experienced in our travels.
It was five of us at the table, two of his relatives who couldn’t speak English, Scott and I who don’t speak much Italian and one very funny family member who became our translator for the evening.
I’m not a big fan of fish, but I jumped at the chance to try a traditional Sicilian dinner. Especially after they told me that if the fish is not fresh, then they don’t serve it.
We let our hosts order for us and I mentally prepared myself for plates full of squishy textured seafood.
Our first course came – which we both actually thought was the entire meal because it was so much food.
The waiter brought probably 10 plates full of octopus, raw swordfish (yummy), raw baby shrimp, sardines, marinated eggplant, olives, squid, mussels, whitefish, and more. We didn’t even finish everything on the plates and Scott and I were already full.
Then came the pasta. We got to try three traditional Sicilian pasta dishes. The first was Linguini with clams, tomatoes, white wine, baby shrimp and garlic. After our first course, this seemed like child’s play and I ate all of it.
Then we tried a Fungi (mushroom) pasta with almonds that I only picked at. When our third pasta dish arrived is when things really started to get interesting.
Sicilians love squid ink pasta. It’s black in color, tastes like red sauce and stains anything it touches, including your teeth!
Squid Ink Pasta
When it came time for dessert, we were all sufficiently stuffed, but why stop the gluttony there? Our hosts ordered a piece of every dessert the restaurant had to offer.
I was a little disappointed that the restaurant didn’t offer Cassata, the dessert I had heard so much about. Our translator called it ‘Breast Dessert’ and there is a great deal of history behind it, so naturally I wanted to try it.
The dessert is named after St. Agatha who was born in Catania. According to the legend, having rejected the amorous advances of a Roman prefect, she was persecuted by him for her Christian faith. Among the tortures she underwent was the cutting off of her breasts.
I’ll leave you with that visual.