I love Sicilian pottery (although there's quite a bit of unattractive stuff around) and wanted to visit the Ceramic Museum in Burgio. I hoped to indulge in a shopping spree with local artisans - I had examined some of the Foresteria's attractive pottery, and written down the names of the producers inscribed underneath. I'd been tipped off to the Mummy Museum (not in my detailed guidebook) in the crypt of the Capuchin monastery, next to the monumental cemetery. Monks mummified what looked like the village's most illustrious corpses (from the 18th to 20th century), judging from their elegant attire. We got lost on the way to the Ceramic Museum but admired the stone portals (over 100) in the medieval village. The museum was spectacular, beautifully displayed 16th -19th-century pottery and tiles, simply fascinating. I needed to shop and searched for the Bottega della Ceramica di Giuseppe and Paolo Caravella and La Gioiosa, the village's best artisans. Warning: Burgio's ceramicists have yet to discover bubble-wrap (bring your own) or shipping (arrange through your hotel). I schlepped, wrapped in laundry for the flight home. We drove along a country road to Caltabellotta, known for its views, but the restaurant (with museum) where I wanted to have lunch, M.A.T.E.S., (M.useo delle A.ntiche T.radizioni E.nograstronomiche S.iciliane) was closed. Next time. So we skipped lunch and headed for Sciacca's port and a granita at the Bar Roma, made by Zio Aurelio, always refreshing. I'm crazy about Giovanni Puccio's tiny enoteca Nonsolovini, with a fantastic and personal selection of Sicilian and Italian wines, great regional and Italian foods, and the possibility of a snack-oysters, salumi, cheese, a few tasty prepared dishes, along with a glass of wine. It tided us over until dinner, at the farm-olive oil mill Tenuta di Rocchetta with Pierluigi Crescimano, my favorite Sicilian extra virgin producer, his wife Antonella, daughters Gaia and Delia, sister Marilena. Bottles of Sicilian single cultivar (Nocellara del Belice) and blends graced the table along with all-mother-yeast pane nero (made with local cultivar tumminia wheat) di Castelvetrano and Tenuta Roccheta's cured olives. Marilena made pasta with shrimp and cherry tomatoes, master frantoiano (olive oil miller) Sergio Rizzo manned the grill fueled by olive wood, for sausage coils and meat rolls. Antonella brought a tray of pastries from a terrific bakery in Palermo; I presented my friends with a pair of minni di virgini. Extra virgin tastings can be arranged by appointment.
Our navigator (we were, after all, without Vito) directed us on a beautiful country road to Palermo instead of the superstrada and we arrived easily, without the usual traffic hassles, at via Butera 28, Nicoletta Polo's reasonably priced apartments for rent by the day or week, in Palazzo Tomasi di Lampadusa (owned by author of "The Leopard"). She's married to the author's heir. I wouldn't think of staying elsewhere and the neighborhood is undergoing gentrification, with recently opened wine bars, restaurants, shops, museums. We were meeting my new friend Fabrizio Carrera for lunch at Piccolo Napoli (no website as of this writing), my favorite restaurant in Palermo, checking out the Borgo Vecchio market before lunch. Piccolo Napoli never disappoints - super-fresh catch of the day, simple Palermo-style cooking, deep-fried squidlets, lots of vegetable preparations and an attractive tile on the central table display of appetizers with the explanation "no buffet." We drank Catarratto from Bosco Falconeria, the organic farm of Tonino and Mary Simeti. Fabrizio told me about a place I had to visit on our way to Etna. We went back to our apartment, then for a stroll in the neighborhood where we visited the Galleria d'Arte Moderna, housed in a
respectfully restored ex-convent, and were awed by the dramatic displays of 19th and 20th-century sculpture and paintings. The gift shop was tempting, I bought postcards, we stopped at the bar for an espresso and, since there was a museum restaurant, GourmArt, asked to see the menu. I was surprised and delighted to find out that the chef was my old friend Costantino Guzzo. Next trip. On the way back to the apartment I spotted Enoteca Cana, checked out the wine selection (lots of natural wines) and the menu - salumi, cheese, simple meat dishes. Another reason to return. I showed Massimo the cool newly-restored vegetable store of Antonio Biondo (via Torremuzza 32), perfect for those staying in Nicoletta's apartments, with its beautiful display of produce, a few prepared seasonal vegetables, and Sicilian cart-style painting over the entrance (photo op). And the most rustic and delightful Trattoria da Salvo (via Torremuzza), fish display and grill on the sidewalk, flanked by tables, tempted but we were invited for dinner with Nicoletta, her husband Gio, and brother-in-law Giuseppe. She's a fantastic cook, gives special cooking lessons with market shopping session and after-lunch tour of the palace and prepares banquets for visiting groups. I gave her the last pair of minni di virgini. She gave us the palace tour after dinner.
Next stops: Abedellis, Himera, gelato, Castelbuono, and manna