Friday, March 18, 2011

The first feast

Being a Catholic country, most of Italy’s shops and cafés are closed on Sundays. Perhaps it’s to encourage families to stay together at home, enjoying “la mama’s” wonderful delights. Since we don’t have any family in Italy and because we arrived late on a Saturday when all the shops were already closed, our Sunday meal plans were going to be placed solely in the hands of somebody else’s “mama”. After inquiring after a recommended restaurant in the area, we were directed to the one (of the two) in the village, called “The Lucciola”.

After we had all fought our way through the hanging beads in the doorway, our first impressions of the place were good. A young mother, possibly our age, was playing with her little toddler at the counter, whilst a smiling and energetic middle-aged man waved us passed the café section into the restaurant proper. The “mama” of the house, hearing that some customers had arrived, came out from the kitchen and regarded us with a curious, but warm smile. There was only one other customer in the restaurant, an old Sicilian gentleman who was enjoying his lunch whilst watching the football on the television in the corner.

After a few staggering sentences, we made some kind of an introduction and before we knew it we had ordered the recommended “antipasti della casa” – starters of the house, with what was promised to be Sicilian specialities. It didn’t take long for our large table to start filling with a variety of delicious looking dishes, and they just kept on coming. There was shellfish and calamari salad, tuna with fresh vegetables and juicy capers, omelettes with wild asparagus and fava beans, a wonderful sweet, Sicilian version of ratatouille, sausages, veal meatballs in a tomato sauce, fresh, smooth ricotta, young goat cheese, steamed romanesco, parmiggiano, olives and the most amazing wood stove baked bread. All seasoned with the local perky olive oil that resembled something that we normally would cherish for special occasions. Our compliments to the “mama” were possibly the only things we managed to say to our hosts, in between our “oohhs”, “aahhs” and “have you tried this one?”. We were so absorbed by the culinary delights that were laid in front of us that we forgot to take a picture and immortalise this incredible feast.

Even though the amount of food was perfect for a lunch, it was technically only antipasti, so we felt compelled to order some pasta to show that we weren’t total Philistines. A large plate of perfectly cooked fresh pasta in a simple tomato sauce was duly delivered and thoroughly enjoyed. By the obligatory espressos at the end of the meal, we had managed to get a conversation started with the family who own the restaurant, partially facilitated by our little one, who seemed very keen to chase the proprietor’s three year old boy around, to everyone’s amusement (except the little boy’s).

Waddling back to the car with full stomachs and smiles on our faces, we all agreed that if all our people and food experiences in Sicily were this good, then we were going to love it here.

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