The May Tour of Italy: Sicily
After Tuscany, the island of Sicily is perhaps Italy's most famous region. Dominated by Mt. Etna, Europe's tallest active volcano, Sicily's history bears a striking and not unsurprising resemblance to that of another recent Tour stop: Sardegnia. In both cases owing to a strategically significant location in the Mediterranean, Sicily was for millenia invaded and ruled over by a litany of foreign powers, only becoming part of Italy at unification in 1860 (which was itself a conquest). Also like Sardegnia, this history has given Sicily a rich and varied cuisine as well as a long tradition of wine making, but in the particulars they do differ significantly. Perhaps more than anywhere in Italy, Sicily focuses on what is fresh and readily available and has a particular fondness for the tomato. Being an island, there is of course a strong emphasis on seafood. Game also figures prominently in Sicilian cuisine (yes, they really eat turkey in Sicily) with beef and pork taking more of a back seat. Sweetness, however, may be what more than anything else sets Sicily apart from other Mediterranean cuisines; Sicily is home to the cannoli, but also to more subtle sweetnesses such as caponata. On the vinous side, on the high slopes of Mt. Etna, fruit that produces wines with remarkable finesse is grown. In the lower areas, the wines are more typically Mediterranean, but still quite uniquely Sicilian. Our Wine Directors and Chefs have really outdone themselves for this, our final Tour, and we hope we'll see you at any and all of the restaurants very soon!
Frittata ai Pomodori Verdi con Tuna $10
A classic Sicilian dish perfect to usher in the warm months. For breakfast or a midday treat, you can't go wrong with a frittata with delicious fresh tuna, juicy tomatoes, subtle heat from chilis and brightness from fresh herbs. Also goes great with a glass of crisp white wine -- although maybe not for breakfast on a workday! Ciao.
- Jason Denton
2009, Nerello Mascalese, Roccaperciata $9
Located in the Trapani vicinity, in the northeast portion of Sicily, this is an excellent summer red, best enjoyed with a slight chill. Medium-bodied, with aromas of cherry and spices, the palate is a nice balance of fruit and earth, with a smooth, slightly dry, finish.
2010, Versi Bianco, Fondo Antcio $9
Also from the Trapani region, this is a fresh and crisp, but substantial white, with scents of citrus, sea, and stone fruits typical of Sicilian wines. Aged in stainless steel, with a clean, round finish, slight minerality and touches of the citrus notes on the palate.
- Kim Whorton, General Manager
Moleche alla Caponata Biancha $21
A dish with a long, colorful past in Sicily is caponata. Originally a fish dish served in the capone, the taverns around Sicily's ports, caponata is made with eggplant, celery, and a sweet and sour sauce. Sometimes as varied as the island itself, each caponata represents a facet of Sicilian life. Ours starts with green garlic and lemon, sautéed with eggplant, fennel, and celery, slowly cooked with golden raisins and white vinegar. It's served over fried softshell crabs and an Uni crema and finished with toasted almonds.
- Chef Tomas Curi
2010, Zibibbo, "Lighea," Donna Fugata $11
Located off the coast of Sicily, the Island of Pantelleria is a fertile land that is renowned in the wine world, for the cultivation of the zibibbo grape. Normally vinified as a sweet wine for wedding cake, this is unique in that it is light, dry, & crisply refreshing -while still showing off aromas of grape, pear, melon, almonds, white flowers and the Mediterranean sea.
2011, Nero d' Avola Rosato "aprile", Fondo Antico $11
It is unusual to find the nero d' avola grape prove to be such a refreshingly delightful rosato. This wine is an introduction to the summer, as is the month of May. Well matched with our featured dish. Crisp, ripe berry notes with an herbal tone.
- Thera Clark, Wine Director
'inoteca e liquori bar
Spaghetti ai Ricci $18
In keeping with the Sicilian fondness for seafood, sea urchins, commonly known as uni, are a great part of Sicilian cuisine.. The uni we are serving is a local and sustainable resource that is hand caught. It has a very soft creamy texture and a potent, persistent briny flavor. Also from the sea is bottarga, a classic Mediterranean delicacy that is very common on the Sicilian plate. Bottarga is the roe of tuna, sword fish, or grey mullet; ours being grey mullet, that is washed in sea water, salted with natural sea salt, dried in the Mediterranean sun and finally pressed to remove any air. The result is a hard slab that is commonly coated in natural wax to preserve it. Bottarga's flavor is the essence of the sea. It has a mild fish flavor that is briny with a wonderful salinity. Pairing uni and bottarga with artisanal spaghetti, breadcrumbs and a julienne of fresh snow peas will leave you yearning for a trip to the beach.
- Sous-Chef Ken Connors
2008 Carricante, Calabretta $12
Carricante, an indigenous Sicilian varietal, is hand-harvested from 40-year old vines on the slopes of Mount Etna. Massimiliano has such terrific understanding of the grapes of this area and what he is capable of doing with them, that he ages all of his wines longer than most Etna producers and only releases the wines when they are showing their best expressions. This is why his current bianco release is 2008, claiming carricante is too tight in its youth and takes a while to find security and obtain a little weight. It is an enchanting wine with delicate honeysuckle and melon in the aroma and a mouthwatering acidity crying for food and a true steal at $12 a glass!
2010 Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Manenti $14
Proud to feature the only DOCG in Sicily! A well-suited blend of nero d'avola and frappato from the historic district of Vittoria, cerasuolo is as versatile for food pairings as the popular barbera of Piemonte. Manenti's first vintage was 2005, but the vines are 20-40 years old and Marita and Guglielmo Manenti tend to their four hectares of vines with the utmost care and minimal intervention. This is a standout among Sicilian blends, offering ripe cherry, sharp acid and a palate-awakening experience.
- Catherine Gerdes, Wine Director
Mussels & Clams with Trapanese Pesto $18
This month, we move from Genoa, in Liguria, to Trappani, the easternmost town on the isle of Sicily. Now, while the Sicilians didn't invent pesto, they cheerfully adopted it from their countrymen on the peninsula, and as is common to Italian cuisine, they put their own local spin on it with one of their favorite new world ingredients: The tomato. Trapanese pesto incorporates the same familiar flavors of Pesto Genovese--basil, olive oil, nuts and cheese--and adds the pleasing brightness of the tomato. Usually paired with pasta, Trapanese pesto also marries well with shellfish, common in the waters around Sicily. We steam the mussels and clams in white wine with plenty of garlic and just a hint of red chilies, and finish it with a healthy dollop of our Sicilian pesto. The dish is served in a crock, with a side of grilled bread to mop up the delicious sauce. Perfect as an entree, or shared as an appetizer for the table, it's not to be missed.
- Sous-Chef Will Lubold
2009, Nero d'Avola, Firriato $11
Since the 1980s, Salvatore and Vinzia have worked to increase the popularity and demand of Sicilian varietals. Initially, they blended their heirloom varietals with internationally popular ones to introduce them to wider markets. While they still make these blends, it's not necessary in getting the word out on grillo, ansonica, nero d'avola or perricone. These are gaining popularity partially due to this couple's efforts along with the help of their top enologist, Giuseppe Pellegrino. Their nero d'avola captures the freshness and bright berry fruit of the grape, but is surprisingly structured and generous with a backbone of mellow tannins.
2010, Etna Bianco, Graci $14
From the dog on the label (cirneco aka Sicilian greyhound) to the cultivation of four native varietals, Graci is proud to represent Mount Etna. They are also gaining lots of international recognition within the past year for their pure expressions of Etna DOC. Located on the northern slopes at Passopisciaro, their vineyards are between 600-1,000 meters above sea level. Their Etna bianco is a blend of Carricante and Cataratto, expressing intense minerality on the palate and offering an unmistakable sense of place.
- Catherine Gerdes, Wine Director