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Treating my mother to her first trip to Europe/Italy - but where??

My thoughts tend to go in the direction of eating well and drinking well and if that's one of the important issues here I'd go to eastern/southern Sicily. Outside of Sicily in December most veggies are grown in hothouses, there's very little of that in eastern Sicily.

The fish is terrific, lending itself in preperation toward simplicity vice covering up the purity of flavors with sauces. Mt Etna is unique to europe, rising up to 12,000 ft there are more varieties of fruit, nuts, and produce than all of California. You have the lava flows of Etna, the best kept Greek ruins in the world, Ragusa with it's fine dining and hundred cathedrals every region is completely different doable in 5/6 days by car without the traffic and confusion you find in the other parts of Italy. A couple 2 star Michelin restaurants and 4 or 5 one star places to fit the requirement of a fine dining experience and a myriad of excellent rustic, homey, soulful, nonna type places.

The weather in December is normally high 60's to low 70's with the nightime in the high 40's, In the mountains about 10 degrees lower that time of year. A real good read about the culture, food, and wine of Sicily is "Palmento" by Robert Camuto, just came out and will give you a lot of insight about what Sicily is about and just might make a difference in choosing Sicily or some other region in Italy. Take care....Brandon

Oct 22, 2010
thefireknight in Italy

McItaly

Fast food in Italy has been around for hundreds of years and I don't see another wave from the anglo-saxon world making much of a difference. Catania currently supports 2 Mcdonald's and 1 BK. Some years back Bk went out of business in downtown Catania and took another 5 years yrs to make another appearance. The kebab business on the other hand is thriving with the 50 or so kebab houses getting their product from the same source in Germany. Second rate meat with no comparision to the mid-east but cheap and filling with a retail cost around $2.50-$3. That's one of a number of reasons that american fast food will really never establish the same footprint in Sicily that it may in many other parts of the world. McD has huge competition. When cipollini, cartociata, pizza, and 1/2 dozen other fast food Italian items cost less and to the Italian taste bud are more "genuine" than American fast food the giant industrial giants are going to have to work a heck of a lot harder than they already are just to maintain their less than 1% of the market.

Jul 28, 2010
thefireknight in Chains

Taormina / Catania recommenndations

Dave, I lived around Taormina and Catania for the past 30 or so years and here's what I'd recommend. In Taormina just inside the Catania gate is Nero D'Avola, Salvatore the owner and chef knows every source personally for very product and wine served in the restaurant. Every porcini that is served is foraged by Salvo as well as much of the wild mountain veggies. A master's knowledge of wine, few people on etna or the island know as many wine producers as him.
More upscale is the Shalai Resort hotel in Linguaglossa, I think it will be the next Michelin star restaurant on the island. The young chef Giovanni spent 2 years with Pino Cuttaia at his 2 star Michelin restaurant in Licata and is one of the best young working chefs today in Sicily.

Your problem is Catania, no one in the city is currently turning out fantastic food that you'll remember for the rest of your days. The simpler the better when it comes to fish so if you have transportation in Catania take a 12km drive to AciTrezza and eat some fish at il Covo Marino, perhaps the best fish place on this side of the island, If you need some suggestions for Catania drop me a line at thefireknight@msn.com when you get into the area or on FaceBook at Brandon.Tokash http://www.ilcovomarino.it/

Jul 22, 2010
thefireknight in Italy

Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School

One of my best friends attended Anna's class about 18 months ago and loved it. I think she told me that her class was the last one Anna was going to be doing so you may want to verify that with the estate. If that doesn't work out you may want to look at Giovanna Tornabene's school in Gangi as an alternate. I've lived on the island for close to 28 yrs so if you have any questions regarding eastern Sicily or the south please let me know, I may be able to help.

Oct 31, 2008
thefireknight in Italy

Brandon Tokash

Lovely things to say though I'm sure I don't deserve all those kind words. The last time I was in Palermo with you I turned down what surely would have been a memorable meal and a bottle of incredible wine. I used the poorest of excuses that being I couldn't stay awake to enjoy the evening.

Take care my friend, Un abbraccio

Feb 12, 2008
thefireknight in Italy