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Beach Fed

Trattoria La Pineta, in Marinella, near Selinute, south coast of Sicily.

Ristorante La Pineta seems to be located in a time warp. It is the only structure on the beach at the Belice River Eastern Reserve, outside the village of Marinella on the southwestern coast of Sicily. The reserve allows no cars, so visitors have to walk beyond the gate approximately 500 feet on an unpaved road. (Those dining in the evening should bring a flashlight.) From the Marinella beach in the daytime you can see the nearby ruined temples of Selinunte, a Greek city in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. The only building in sight from the reserve is La Pineta, which offers plastic tables and chairs sunk directly into the sand and the kind of eating experience that's hard to find nowadays. When it rains, the place closes.

During summer days, owner Angelo Rizzuto rents lounges and umbrellas on the beach, in addition to fulfilling his duties as host and seafood buyer. In the evening, torches in the sand and hurricane lamps on the tables illuminate the restaurant. Angelo's wife, Maria, and sons, Giuseppe and Lorenzo, prepare the meals. "They're not chefs," Angelo told me, "they just know how to cook eight days a week." Lorenzo doubles as a waiter.

I let Angelo guide me through a short but sweet menu of local fish and seafood. The starters are sauteed Venus clams, mussels exploded in a hot pan with garlic and parsley, and bruschetta. Then choose between spaghetti with mussels and clams or with tiny shrimp. For a main course, select bream, sea bass, sole, or langoustines. The jumbo shrimp and squid are also delicious, grilled and served with a plate of lemon halves. Salad or sliced tomatoes are available, but not the point. Neither is the dessert - cookies or, in the summer, sweet slices of Sicilian melon drenched with a strange almond liqueur. The red and white house wines are appropriate for the paper-napkin style and bargain prices of La Pineta.

Bar Ristorante La Pineta, Marinella di Selinunte, tel. 39-0924-46820
Open March until the end of September.

July 13, 2001


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