I’ve been saving this post in excitement because this was honestly like the best part of the trip. Just enjoying delicious food every day!!! When me and Sam were talking about this trip, the only thing we both really cared about experiencing was local cuisine. When in Italy, what else is there to do but eat! Just kidding, there are lots of other things to do. But food is one of the major things we were excited about. As avid foodies here in Madison, we knew trying local food and different dishes would be a highlight for both of us. And it certainly did not disappoint.
Although there are many similarities between Italian and Sicilian food, there are some major differences as well. Sicily is rural and agrarian in many areas, and the arid but fertile landscape makes it a unique place for growing. Pistachios, lemons, fish (mainly Tuna, Swordfish, and sardines), olives, tomatoes, and cheese are staples in many dishes. Wine is served at almost every meal and they make a variety of different types on the slopes of Mount Etna (see my post about the Gambino Vineyard from a few days ago). The ingredients in so many dishes are local and fresh, and many of the pastas a handmade in the restaurants. This high quality of ingredients really sets up the base for all of the dishes. Most meals consist of an antipasti, primi course (usually pasta), secondi course (meat or fish) and a dessert course. Since meals are meant to last a long time, you have time to digest all the food! It is not family style dining, so most people order one of each course. I couldn’t really handle that amount of food, so usually we shared an antipasti and primi then ordered individual secondis, and went out for dessert after a long walk.
I can’t describe all of the amazing things that I ate during the 2 weeks, but there are a few that really stand out. For savory dishes, I was incredibly impressed with all the pistachio dishes. Pistachios are not really a nut that American’s cook with and I only associated it with snacks prior to this trip. But I had some incredibly delicious pistachio pesto, including on a pizza and tossed with noodles. They sweet but smooth texture of the nut makes it a great vessel in add flavor. It was often crumbled over dishes as well as garnish, similar to how we use pine nuts.
Cappuccinos were an every day thing. Usually multiple times a day. And I couldn’t believe how much variety there was! We had some that were very strong and bitter with the flavor of the espressos. Others were very frothy from the milk. Others were sprinkled with chocolate sauce or cocoa powders. And then there were the sweetened desert cappuccinos. Italians take their coffee very seriously. And espresso is no joke here. It is strong! Many Italians only order espresso and drink them in one quick shot while standing at the bar. All coffee drinks are served at drinking temperature, unlike in the US where it is too hot to drink at first. Personally, I loved this! My need for instant gratification was well served by Italian bistros.
Cheese is another huge staple, much to my delight. Their array of cheeses are incredibly different than those found in Wisconsin. Most of the cheese are sheeps or goat milk based, rather than cows milk. The texture is softer and smoother, but has a more noticeable taste. Most of the cheeses are made fresh and are super soft. Mozzarella, chevre, and truffle cheese were very popular. Harder cheeses such as parmesean and pecorino are common on cheese plates and in sauces.