My friend Caterina was excited about a mushroom market and fair in Buccheri. We met her in the main piazza, but the mushroom market--a guy with a crate of dirty mushrooms, and the fair, far smaller than the one in Palazzuolo Acreide, wasn't exactly a morning activity so we detoured to Noto. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1693, urban renewaled into a Baroque jewel, allowed to decay, but now, as a UNESCO World Heritage site, restored or in the process--scaffolding will probably cover something you wanted to see. We admired the city on our way to gastronomic shrine Caffé Sicilia. Maestro Corrado Assenza sat with us at a table in the back. Coffee and almond milk granita tempted but we were on our way to lunch, so we sipped flutes of Sicilian sparkling wine with savory snacks.
I've always loved Maria Fidone in Frigintini. It was once a rosticceria, serving mostly take-out to locals, with a few tables in the back and a TV in the corner, but it's evolved into a full-fledged trattoria, and Sunday lunch with multi-generational tables is the most fun. There's a set menu that always begins with pane condito, scacce (rolled, stuffed and baked flatbread), arancine, home-cured olives and sun-dried tomatoes, a plastic tub of just-made ricotta that's impossible to resist. Continue with home-made pasta like ricotta ravioli in a rich, porky tomato sauce, extra sauce and pork on the side or cavatelli seasonally sauced. Boiled beef, served with a chili pepper, grilled sausage, or braised rabbit, with a few leaves of salad for comic relief. Fresh seasonal fruit is served for dessert (a rarity nowadays in Italy) along with lemon and almond gelatins. (How refreshing to see gelatin used the way it once was.) Most diners drink the house wine but there are a few Sicilian labels to satisfy more exigent palates. Espresso is served in the front room, where your bill will be calculated. Prices are, as always, a bargain, and they even take credit cards.
After lunch, on to Modica, 100 Baroque churches, and a visit to another culinary shrine, Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, with owners Franco, and Pierpaolo Ruta. The shop is beautiful, filled with sweets and eye-candy--displays about Modica chocolate making, tools of the trade, awards, photographs, a cool video. I had to purchase Franco's old-style Modica chocolate, bars to make almond milk, quince paste in Sicilian terracotta molds, tiny jars of carob honey, and Pierpaolo's new-wave chocolate with herbs, spice, sea salt. All that shopping made me hungry--time for one of the island's greatest cannoli, filled, of course, to order. We retired to our hotel, Palazzo Failla in Modica Alta, most convenient for dining at La Gazza Ladra, where chef Accursio Craparo interprets the flavors of his territory. But not on Sunday evenings or Monday so we had dinner with Accursio, his wife Orianna, and baby Francesco at the Palazzo's casual trattoria, La Locanda del Colonello.
On the way out of town we found time to visit the Baroque church of the Carmine in Scicli to admire the Burgos Christ in a little skirt.
Next stops on the Grand Tour: Biodynamic winery that ferments in amphorae, visit with sisters-winemaker and extra virgin producer. Lunch at the wineries with recipes, dinner at a fantastic trattoria-specialty, fish and seafood, not listed in guidebooks.
Link to the map to see the tour planned out.
-November 2009 link to the article published in The Atlantic Magazine