The food and wine of Sicily were one of the main reasons we were so keen to visit the island. To find new grape varietals, eat local dishes and indulge our senses in the gloriously colourful food markets. And we certainly rose to the challenge!
The fabulous Syracuse market
The island is certainly beautiful, boasting many mediaeval hilltop towns and incredible Roman and Greek ruins, not to mention the long stretches of golden sandy beaches, but the cherry on top for us was the eating and drinking.
We discovered local dishes, such as arincini (fried and stuffed rice balls), caponata (grilled vegetables served hot or cold and always including aubergine), anything cooked in a rich tomato sauce with capers and generally aubergine which features in virtually every dish along with tomatoes.
The pizzas and pastas were also exceptional and I had the most sublime fresh ravioli stuffed with ricotta that I will remember for ever!
And of course sea food features strongly with never a fishing port far away. The octopus dishes were some of the best we’ve eaten anywhere, along with the local grilled fishes, sardines, mussels, prawns, squid and so the list goes on.
There’s obviously an abundance of ice-cream in any flavour you could desire and the island’s speciality is cannoli – a hard pastry sort of horn shape that’s filled with fresh ricotta. In fact, ricotta rises magnificently to any occasion when stuffed into croissants, turnovers or brioche and fast became a bit of an addiction!
And let’s not forget the wine. We found a fabulous wine shop in Scicli – Sommelier – run by a charming and very knowledgable man with excellent English. Through him we discovered rich reds featuring a lot of Nero d’Avolo and Syrah grapes with the ones we enjoyed most being produced by the vineyard of Cristo di Campobello.
The white wines were crisp and the grillo grape became a firm favourite, with the wines from around Mount Etna also weighing in favourably. Not being sweet wine lovers we didn’t investigate Marsala at all, but instead sought out the local grappas which were delicious and indeed the best way to end any meal.
It will take a while to come back down to earth although some Sicilian dishes will certainly find their way onto our table at home.
What a true feast for the senses and a magical food and wine journey that will remain with us for ever.