Mille Grazie Sophia

Many of you know Sophia Pendergast (and if you don't, remedy that, she is a special person, a remarkable chef, and a just all around fun lady!), and she is from and has travelled to Sicily and Taormina, where I am currently staying.  I asked her advice on food because she is, as I mentioned, "in the know."  She had one singular "must eat at" restaurant, Trattoria di Nino. Admittedly, I would not have gone into a restaurant on the main street into town with such a quiet store front, so I am really thrilled that she told us to.  The experience was così buono!

The waiter greater me like family, as he told others outside that without a reservation they could not accommodate them (so make a reservation, because you don't want to miss this place!).  We started with a sparkling rosato, Sicilian, from Etna, more specifically (and see my post about Munjebel for more on that specificity because it matters), the wine was just as an aperitif should be, light, delightful, charming, and inviting.  I was eager to enjoy my tuna carpaccio with it, though Sal would argue his mixed seafood salad was better.

These food's are simple, yes, but the simplicity of the preparation does not diminish the impact of flavor and the pleasure or quality--in fact, to me, it is amplified.  The simplicity of preparation allows for the quality and character of the ingredients to shine.  The tuna, paper thin, served with large chunks of sea salt, fresh lemon and drizzled with olive oil that tastes of fresh green olives, peppery, and fruity.  A word, about the lemons here: unbelievable. They are twice or three times the size of lemons at home, with ten times the juice, but much more subtle in flavor.  You can eat them whole, slices are served with a lot of dishes, and not as a garnish, but as an accompaniment.  There is not bitterness to the pith, and the pulp is so delicate. Not to mention how beautiful they are, the color of the peel is a pale yet vibrant yellow that blends seamlessly with the pith and into the pulp.  (okay, want some?)

The seafood salad was delicious too, with only olive oil and that very same lemon juice liberally added to the salad, tossed over arugula, and garnished with fresh mussels, bursting open. And, the sparkling matched beautifully.

Our primi...(okay, I must digress, I need help understanding how people eat all these courses.  The portion size is hearty though not large, but I was determined to have it all at this restaurant, so we did, and I was stuffed.  I learned a new phrase: Non posso mangiare più! If you have advice, please offer it.) . . . . so, primi, this was pasta for both of us, Dad went for fruits de mar, it speaks for itself and was delicious.  He orders this all over the US, so when he smiled as if it was the first time he had ever tried the dish, I knew it was good, and it was.  I chose pasta al a norma, in part because it is a local speciality, but also because Sophia talks about this dish in a way that is nearly spiritual, and I wanted to know what that was like.

mio dio

This eggplant is melted in tomato sauce with olive oil and salt, so simple, but the flavor is spectacular. It is rich in texture, coating the pasta that carries it happily into your mouth (mine is watering right now just thinking about it).

Sophia, you have to teach me how to make this when I come home, per favore!

For wine, I choose the Tenuta Delle Terre Nerre, a wine I already have in the store, and adore.  There are several bottlings that Marco does, but we had the Santo Spirito, a rose blend with Nerello Mascalese and Norello Cappuccio, which produces a dark rich seductive wine that maintains a lovely elegance and refinement.  In this way the Nerello's I am trying share a character with great Barolo and with Burgundy: powerful wines with a finesse that means they are not heavy or overly extracted.

The wines was great with everything from the pasta with eggplant  to the rolled swordfish (both grilled and baked because!), which was delicious and tender.  All of which I could wax on about, but I have to run to climb Etna...and so I will leave you with these images and the promise to another post later today about my first vinery visit to Munjebel.....

I hope you are having fun reading these, thanks for following,

cheers, Maria