Sicilia: the land of the Arancino (and many other awesome foods)

So you have read about the wonders of Siracusa, the amphitheatre, the rocky hills, the Duomo of Noto.. now let's cover the most important part of my experience in Sicilia- the Food!!  

First of all, Siracusa, with its shores on the Mediterranean, offers excellent seafood. Which is not only fresh and tasty, but excellently cooked. The very first evening we went to "Trattoria Medusa, da Kamel", right in Ortigia. Besides some dishes of Pasta with the tastiest tomatoes I had in a long time (and I live in Italy, where tomatoes normally taste of something), I had the best seabass (Branzino) ever. Another place we went, this time for lunch, was "Spaghetteria Do Schogghiu". Spaghetti with fresh Sea Urchin, and nothing else. Simply bliss. Also a whole lot of other fish and Pasta varieties, but the Sea Urchin are THE food to try here.

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 Lemon Granita

Lemon Granita

But let's focus on the essentials, the basics, the best part of a trip to Sicilia. Call it street food, call it snacks, these bits of heavens can become breakfast, full meals, refreshments, or simply crave-stoppers.  

It starts with breakfast- with Granita ca Brioscia. Granita is a semi-frozen dessert, made from sugar, water and other flavoring, and although one can find it all over Italy, I can confirm that the one in Sicilia is different in texture. Also the flavors are clearly unique, the most typical being Almond- and Almond is pretty ubiquitous in the sweet foods of the island. They also add cinnamon, and it's just something perfectly balanced, not too sweet, but fresh and yet creamy. Now this is only part of the equation- the granita is eaten together with Brioscia- which is a soft bread, highly rich in eggs and butter (and deliciously yellow inside). It is puffy and soft, and this is how it goes: you tear a piece of brioscia, then take a spoonful of granita, pour it on the bread, and eat it. Just like that. I can assure you, you will be happy to wake up in the morning knowing that THAT's what's coming next. And it's only the beginning of the day.

 Coffee flavored granita, with brioscia. 

Coffee flavored granita, with brioscia. 

The next one, in my opinion, is one of the most delicious pieces of food I -can safely say- ever had. I am not a sweet tooth so I could easily bargain my breakfast with something salty- and being in Sicilia, this can only be the Arancino. One Arancino came from the mind of someone (a genius, I believe) who just wanted to have a whole lot of delicious flavors all together. And it wanted to be completely happy and satisfied and full at the end of it. It is literally a ball of overboiled, kind of sticky rice, with a filling of slowly cooked meat sauce (it can be ragu, or even a stew) AND a heart of cheese. All this is rolled in finely mixed bread powder, and gloriously fried. It can have various fillings, like spinach, or eggplant and tomatoes. In every culture you can find such things, like the croquetas in Spain, the supplì in Rome, but none of them come close to the original one. The outer part is crispy and inside the cheese melts and and the meat blends with the rice.... it is simply addicting.

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Another item that adds to the list, can be considered a dessert, a sweet indulgence during the day, breakfast, or all the above. It is the internationally famous Cannolo Siciliano- with a crispy shell of fried dough, filled with a thick cream, made with ricotta and sugar, to which then can be added crumbles of pistachios (another specialty of Sicilia!), or candied fruit (especially orange peels, and cheeries) or chocolate chips.


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And now the best part of our culinary experience in Siracusa- it happened in the open market of Ortigia. Our friends took us in the heart of it, in one of the shops. It is called "Caseificio Borderi", and despite not even being a restaurant, it lists number ONE in the Restaurants ranking for Siracusa, in Trip Advisor. Basically it is a narrow, long shop, that starts welcoming guests already outside, with a table full of cheese on display, dried pachino tomatoes, and the owner, a white haired guy, talking to people and making a bit of a show, preparing samples of all the delicious things that surround him. Then inside, there is a busy counter, full of all possible delicious cheeses and meats and pickled vegetables. We are welcomed with a small glass of wine- just by walking in- and I can assure you, we were not the only one who got such treat (our friends are friends with the people owning the shop) - almost every one is greeted in such wonderful way! And all of a sudden, on the counter, this lady started preparing sandwiches, bruschettas, plates with bites of cheese and all possible delicacy (a saffron cacio! A cheese with truffles coming from Mount Etna! Sun dried pachino cherry tomatoes, on a crispy slice of bread! Dried sausage! Porchetta! Smoked yet still fresh mozzarella!). When we thought it was finally time to choose what to buy (because at that point, after all the free sampling, you will definetly want to buy something!), we have been stopped- of course, we had to have dessert! And we were served a beautiful cannolo with a glass of Passito. Now, all this was a full meal. A delicious lunch, made of samples to try and taste and eventually of course, buy everything you can fit in your luggage. One can also go in and buy a sandwich, for 2 euros (but you will still be served a whole lot of things to try). Here below you can see some pictures I managed to take between one bite and another. I have also to say that the people in the shop were extremely efficient, very busy, and super nice. Highly recommended an for once I agree with TripAdvisor!