The Three Tasty Places You Should Visit While in Sicily
By the end of November, I was ready to have my first European getaway while living here in Paris. I set my sights on Sicily. More exactly Catania. I was ready for warmer weather and a different sight all together.
Sicily is rugged. It's raw and yet beautiful. She's worn but there is a magic that wanders all around. Catania is very close to a great seaside town called Taormina and a quaint little town called Castelmola which are both must see places when visiting this region. I visited Taormina six years ago during the height of the summer in August. This time around, I traveled the end of November. The weather was cool yet hit warmer temperatures during the day, bringing on a nice change. The only thing was that it rained a lot but to be honest, it just added a bit more charm to my trip.
I visited two lovely wine vineyards, Gambino Winery and Tenute Nicosia They both have lovely restaurants with great food, awesome service, and of course great wine. I also fell in love with a little hole in the wall called Scirocco Sicilian Fish Lab. They specialize in take-out fried seafood which is well worth your visit. They fry up typical seafood such as a squid, shrimp, and anchovies. My favorite was a blend called Cartoccio di Mare, a blend of anchovies and squid.That topped with a squeeze of lemon and of course an ice cold Messina beer which is Sicily's own from the early 1920's, is delicious. It is right smack in the middle of Catania's bustling famous fish market also known as a "Pischeria" which makes the spectacle of it all quite entertaining. The smell, yelling, seagulls, and various seafood stalls with grown men carrying on make it even better. I guarantee you that this is an experience that is surely not worth missing.
Mount Etna, an active volcano in this region makes for very rich soils containing minerals that enrich the fruit and vegetation therefore making their indigenous wine grapes different from other wine growing regions. Red wine is predominately made from Nero D' Avola, Nerello Mascalese, and Nerello Cappuccio grapes. White wines are most commonly made from the Carricante and Cataratto grape. International varieties are sometimes blended with Sicily's indigenous grapes which makes for delicious wines.
Off the Sicilian mainland and resting on the side of Mount Etna, is the family owned Gambino Winery where they have amazing views of their vineyards. This is definitely a place to go to during the day to enjoy their tasty wine pairing lunch. Their comfortable atmosphere and impeccable service thanks to their nice staff make you feel welcome. Francesco, the winemaker of the vineyard and his brother Delfo, both owners of the vineyard, added to this experience by going around to each occupied table and introducing themselves. Answering any questions people had regarding their vineyard. Making guests feel appreciated. My favorite wine from them was their Feu D'O white wine which is a blend of 80% Grillo and 20% Carricante. It was worth me bringing back a couple of bottles home.
Even though I was not able to visit Cantine Nicosia's vineyard as I visited their restaurant for dinner, I sure was able to have an incredible dinner paired with their delicious wines that reflect their grapes that are grown in Mount Etna and South Eastern Vineyards in Vittoria. In between their delicious antipasto of mixed salami, Polpettine di Miglio e Melanzane su Crema di Carote e Zenzaro, ( Millet and eggplant meatball topped with a carrot and ginger cream) and entree of Tagliatelle con Funghi Porcini Dell' Etna ( Tagliatelle pasta with Porcini Mushrooms) all paired with delicious wines by a Sommelier, I was sold. Even though I was full to the brim and didn't want any dessert, they brought out Cantuccini alle Mandorle which is a sort of an almond cookie paired with their Fondo Filara Zibibbo sweet wine. What a great end to an extravagant meal!
In between the fresh seafood, pasta, and delectable fruit and vegetables brimming with minerals from the volcanic soil, Sicily is definitely worth a visit to go eat well and take in all the beautiful natural sights it has to offer.