FOOD & DRINK
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Sicilian cuisine shows traces of all cultures that had an influence on the island over more than two thousand years. Even though it has a lot in common with Italian cuisine, it also shows strong influences of Greek, Arab, Spanish and French cooking. Cooking is a ritual and so is the consuming of the meals. It is important that the family sits down together for each meal and gatherings with family and friends are centered around food. Food art has also taken to the streets and the bigger cities including Catania, Palermo or Syracuse have all developed a lively and exciting street food culture.
Fried foods, dried fruit, sweet and sour sauces, fish, ricotta cheese, almonds and pistachios, vegetables and olive oil are the main ingredients of the Sicilian cuisine. One of the most important aspects is the quality of ingredients and like other areas, Sicilian cuisine follows the seasons very closely, so non-seasonal fruit or vegetables are very rare in both shops and on restaurant menus. Most ingredients are sourced locally, which is also the reason why you find quite some variety in the ingredients used to prepare the same dishes in different areas across the island.
Starters in Sicily are often rich, so they can easily be eaten as main courses as well. Typical starters include fresh local vegetables used in all variations to enhance the main ingredients like bread or rice.
Mains are centered around meat and fish/seafood. Again, ingredients are sourced local, so you will find a lot of tuna, swordfish, sardines or shellfish on the menu, also prepared as delicious pasta or risotto dishes. Popular Italian dishes like Pasta con sarde or Pasta alla Norma actually have a Sicilian origin. Due to the stronger Arab influence on the Western part of the island, Couscous dishes are quite common on the menus here.
The highlights of the Sicilian menu are definitely the desserts like Cassata, Cannoli, marzipan or granita. Again, the fusion between oriental and European flavors, showing in the use of dried fruit, almonds and ricotta cheese, plays an important role in the preparation of desserts.
Sicily has an ancient winemaking culture and the climate of low rainfall, warm summers and cooling sea breezes allow for organic grape growing across many parts of the Island. The fertile soils of Mount Etna produce wines with a distinctive minerality. These days Sicily is a real player in the quality wine market, celebrating its many indigenous grapes like Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Frappato and Perricone. The hearty, full-bodied red Nero d’Avola is Sicily’s most popular variety.
Marsala is Sicily’s most famous fortified wine usually made from native Grillo grapes and with an alcohol content of around 20%.
Food & Drink