Five Must-Eat Foods in Sicily

Thursday, May 31, 2012
Giardini Naxos, Sicily

Giardini Naxos, Sicily

This past weekend, my dear Felix Friend and ConCon tied the knot! (Remember them from The French Laundry?) The wedding was gorgeous and bonkers fun—just like the love birds themselves. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Felix and Connie, DK Weddings

Felix and Connie, DK Weddings

Felix and Connie are headed to Sicily for their honeymoon, so I thought this would be a good time to post about some of my favorite foods to seek out while they’re there.

Let’s show off some more stunning wedding photos first. I love to pimp out my talented friends and Dennis makes it easy. Seriously, to all you brides out there looking for a photog to capture your glowing bridal beauty, check him out.

Connie Bhandari

Vitri and Me, henna

Now, back to the food. I am so excited the newlyweds chose Sicily for their honeymoon spot. It was one of our favorite destinations from our Italy trip last summer, with stunning beauty to be found everywhere and incredible food.

There’s something about this sensuous island that makes its food so swoon-worthy. Perhaps it has something to do with the blazing Mediterranean sun, bronzing bodies all along the shoreline, or the sultry night breezes, or the lemon trees that perfume the air.

Whatever it is, Sicily makes you hungry.

You find yourself diving into thick watermelon wedges, letting the juice run off your elbows. You feel the abundance of good olive oil nourishing your soul and making your skin supple. You feast deep into the night. And while the list of good eats to be had in Sicily is too long to name, here is a short list of five items you really can’t miss.

ARANCINI

Arancini

Arancini

Arancini are essentially balls of creamy risotto rice, typically stuffed with cheese and meat, then breaded and fried to a golden crisp. They are the size and shape of an orange (or arancia) which is how they get their name, although sometimes they’re shaped into more of a cone shape. Traditionally, they are filled with melted cheese, some peas, and a tomato-based meat sugo, however, you can find interesting variations like ones stuffed with pistachio pesto, for example.

PISTACCHIO DI BRONTE

Pistacchio di Bronte

Pistacchio di Bronte

Pistachios were first brought to Sicily in the 9th century when Arab conquerors ruled the land. Today, the area of Bronte in eastern Sicily, fertile from the volcanic soil of Mount Etna, is world-famous for producing what they call “green gold.” You will see pistachios liberally used everywhere, flavoring gelato, granita, cookies, and pastries with their rich, nutty flavor. Keep an eye out for jars of savory pesto di pistacchio and sweet crema di pistacchio in local grocery stores. They make a tasty souvenir—see that the label says “Pistacchio di Bronte” to be sure you’re getting the real thing. Ingredient labels will also often have the percentage of pistachio used, so the higher the better.

CANNOLI

Sicilian Cannoli

Pistachio Cannolo

First, let’s get the lingo right so the locals respect you. It’s one cannolo, two cannoli. Capische? This iconic Sicilian pastry is said to have originated in Palermo and the area surrounding. The hallmark of a great cannolo is a fresh, crispy shell that crumbles into a mess when you bite it, and a ricotta cream filling that is decadent yet surprisingly light at the same time. Leave the gun, take the cannoli.

GRANITA E BRIOCHE

Granita in Brioche

Granita in Brioche

Granita in Sicily is not like granita anywhere else. Sicilian granita is smooth and thick, like sorbet. It is more scoop-able than it is slurp-able. Creamy nut flavors like almond (mandorle) and pistachio (pistacchio) are popular, as are seasonal fruit flavors like strawberry (fragola) or mulberry (gelsi). A favorite local way to enjoy this icy treat? Why, sandwiched between a sweet buttery brioche of course…for breakfast. Now that’s a breakfast sandwich.

FRUTTI DI MARE

Linguine ai Frutti di Mare

Linguine ai Frutti di Mare

You are surrounded by the sea, which means you must indulge in the plentiful fruits of the sea. Go early to the fish markets and gawk at the catch of the day. And then get your mangia on. Dine like a Sicilian and try some marinated sardines, progress to succulent mussels over linguine, and sink your teeth into some meaty swordfish.

This “Must-Eat” list was published on Fodor’s travel blog on May 22, 2012.

10 Responses to “Five Must-Eat Foods in Sicily”

  1. Kristin Wrisley says:

    Can I find some of these dishes in Venice? On June 14th I’m going on our 25th wedding anniversary cruise, from Athens via Greek Islands, via Croatia coast, ending in Venice for three days. First ever cruise (small Windstar yacht holds 312)…many ports of call. Were are enthusiastic foodies who cook and eat with gusto! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Kristin,

      Sounds like a wonderful trip! The foods of Venice are pretty different from Sicily because the climate is completely different. For Venice, you’ll be sure to find some wonderful seafood risotto though.
      In Venice, be sure to check out the Peggy Guggenheim museum if you have time. It is one of my faves! Also, the Giuseppe Veneziano gallery is a little shocking, but fun. There’s a great little bakery right across from it too. Have a wonderful trip!

  2. Susan York says:

    Love this post and thanks for sharing the great foods of Sicily…and the wedding!

  3. Amy says:

    We were lucky enough to live in bella Sicilia for 3 years. What an experience. I would add Pasta alla Norma to that list. But those are absolutely 5 MUST eat foods! I didn’t think anyone went to Sicily on vacation, much less on their honeymoon. Good for this couple to take on a less traveled location! Oh, and limoncello is a must drink item along with the famous local wine, Nero D’Avola. MMMmmmmm…my taste buds and my heart long to return to Sicily!!!

    • Stephanie says:

      I am SO gelosa that you lived there for 3 whole years! I absolutely fell in love with Sicilia. What town did you live in?
      And yes, love Pasta alla Norma :) Great call.
      Didn’t try Nero D’Avola but will file that away for next time…hopefully in the not too distant future.

  4. Carlo says:

    Hi Stephanie. I’ve been to Sicily three times in the last two years and this post has me chomping at the bit to go back! Two suggested additions: caponata and pasta con le sarde. Unmissable!

  5. Nick says:

    To limit the number to 5 is really tough! For remembrance sake you might like my Sicilian food pictures and reviews at http://www.sicilyciao.com :)

  6. […] I love me some cheese-stuffed, breaded and fried rice balls. I fell in love with the real thing in Sicily. I’ve made them NOLA style with jambalaya before. And now, I’m going to turn them pink! Bright, […]

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