ivent les vacances! Viva le vacanze! Finally sea, sun and farniente! We landed in Palermo late in the afternoon and took a bed and breakfast about 50km West of the airport near the city of Bagheria. We enquired the locals for a restaurant and they advised us a place with Sicilian dishes. Don Ciccio’s is a typical family restaurant, nothing remarkable from the outside and apart from the noise nothing outstanding in the inside either. The walls are covered with photos of the owner and his sons, maybe some locally known customers or friends plus the omnipresent photos of Padre Pio. As soon as we were seated we were offered an interesting antipasto which consisted of a hard-boiled egg – yes, you heard me right – and a small glass of Zibibbo. Zibibbo is a sweet white wine that originates from Egypt and you’d find it more frequently under the name Muscat of Alexandria. The name Zibibbo is derived from the Arabic word zabib which means raisin. It’s a wine found not only in the Mediterranean region but also in Australia and South Africa. In Italy these grapes are grown on the beautiful island of Pantelleria.
As primo piatto I opted for a very simple pasta dish, which was heavenly, so I have to tell you about it in detail. Pasta alla Carrettiera is prepared with garlic, parsley, pecorino, olive oil and salt & Pepper. This is a typical Sicilian pasta dish – carrettiera is the name of cart drivers who wanted to eat pasta even when travelling and could prepare this dish with ingredients that were easy to conserve. This must be an incredible quick pasta to make that I will need to try at home and I think the trick is to only fry the garlic for a couple of seconds so it is almost raw. Add to that the extremely good quality local olive oil, fresh parsley and maccheroncino pasta al dante to the point it is almost uncooked and you have a truly remarkable yet simple dish.
Another funny thing…when serving the pasta the waiters attached a bib around our neck to prevent olive oil splashing all over our clothes…so here I am with that glorious bib!
We skipped the secondo piatto as it was late and the day had been long with travelling. There were quite a few desserts on offer but we went for a big slice of watermelon, sweet and cold, so refreshing after a long day!
Next day we had a meeting with a friend in Palermo not far from the Il Capo marketplace so I took the opportunity to take some photos in this extremely colorful street. Capo is a very old and famous district in downtown Palermo. It’s a bustling, noisy, picturesque street, exactly how you would imagine a Palermitan marketplace. The offer is extremely rich in seafood, fruits, veggies and other merchandise. Just look at all these colors!
Preparation of pesce spada (swordfish):
And this is how fast food looks like on the marketplace:
One of the interesting plants I found on the market is the tenerumi – these are the leaves of the long snake zucchini. This very long zucchini is usually 60-80cm long but can reach up to two meters! It’s pretty hard to find them outside of Sicily.
Tenerumi are the tender leaves of the snake zucchini. Asking the vendor how they use it, he explained they make a spaghetti dish with it, boiling the tenerumi and the diced snake zucchini in salted water. With garlic, olive oil and simple blanched tomatoes they make a sauce to accompany the spaghetti which is also cooked in the cooking water of the tenerumi. As the ingredients are really specific to the island, the result is a very typical Sicilian pasta dish.
After Palermo we are heading south-east to Catania – the city that truly never sleeps! But more on that in my next blog post. Until then, ciao tutti!