Sicily: And the Best _____ I’ve Ever Had

I’m a pretty lucky girl. Last Thursday I was one of 40-some students to jet ferry-set to Sicily for one of the most incredible trips I’ve ever been on. To one of the most (if not the most) stunning landscapes I’ve ever had the opportunity to take in. With some of the coolest, funniest, sweetest people on the planet. These previous sentences must make you come to the conclusion that either a.) I really like superlatives, b.) I’m channeling my inner Chris Harrison and adding drama to nearly everything I say, or c.) this trip was really just that amazing.

Still debating?

As much as I’d love to believe it was b, the answer is…undoubtedly c (and that is my final answer).

Since this post could take about as long as our ten-hour overnight ferry (ha — what an experience) if I go through every minute detail, I’ve set this post up like this:

  1. Chow.
  2. Fun scenery/people pictures (yes, I will embarrass myself…so do not skip this section)
  3. Random tidbits of Sicily-vacay information set forth in a humorous way 🙂

You ready?

Andiamo!

  1. CHOW.

Friday: I’ve gotta tell ya that, while the whole trip was fantastic, the trip started out shaky chow-wise. As in, Thursday night’s eating consisted of dinner of a packed and rather stale peanut butter & jelly sandwich, an apple, & a banana (I chose to bypass the verrryyy expensive “ferry food”) and a late-night snack of a blueberry muffin purchased at the ferry bar. Yes, I purchased a muffin at the bar. Please don’t judge.

Breakfast: Friday morning’s colazione was purchased in our first stop, Monreale. Because the chocolate croissants looked a little burnt, I chose a fruit-filled one instead:

The sweet yet tangy apricot filling in this flaky, still warm pastry was divine. Generously “dusted” with powdered sugar?  Like whoa. The owners of the small bar were still bringing out piping-hot pastries from the oven in the back room as we ordered. No freezer-to-oven method here!

Il pranzo: It was a pretty strange “lunch,” but, in the weirdest most random way possible, it totally hit the spot. Since we overtook a tiny bar (and the only one nearby) at the bottom of one of the sites we were visiting, i panini were not being warmed up. I.E., they were serving cold sandwiches (and at the time I was ordering, with just cheese. Blech! First of all, y’all know I like things H-O-T. And a plain cheese sandwich? Not gonna work for this girl!). Because of that, I decided to dig into the Sicilian orange I bought at one of the fruit & veggie stands in Monreale:

My heaven on earth.

Among many of the food & drink items Sicily is known for are oranges. This ginormous, mini-planet sized orange unquestionably lived up to my expectations: soooo juicy and fresh. The only problem with this is that I literally had “orange juice” running down my arms as I ate it standing up in the crowded bar.

I paired my fresh-from-the-trees Sicilian orange with…

…a bag of chips.

No please don’t freak out (my immediate family alone is probably having to lift up their jaw from the floor). I am not a huge chips fan, and I rarely put my hand in a bag when we have ’em open at family gatherings and Sunday summer lunches with hot dogs on the grill & Auntie Em’s potato salad. But the cheapo in me (and the “me” that did NOT want a cold, cheese sandwich) saw that bag sitting there and couldn’t resist. For a euro? Yes, please!

While the health freak in me was having a minor freak out, I said “what the hey” and indulged. No, chips aren’t the best for you, but my options were limited and, heck, they sounded just plain good. Regular Lays-esque potato chips, they had the perfect mixture of saltiness and audible crunch. And plenty of them had the edges curled up, which proves the perfect formation for super-crunchiness. And this, ladies & gents, is why I try not to eat chips too often. They are just. so. good.

Dinner: Friday night we all went out to eat at a family-owned trattoria in Selinunte, finally warm & dry (due to amazing hot showers after a full day of torrential downpours immediately followed by traveling on a bus while sitting in our wet clothes). The meal included:

Al dente pasta bathed in a sweet tomato sauce, accompanied by cubes of sauteed eggplant and sprinkled with fresh parmigiano reggiano…

An assortment of meat, including a pork(?)-wrapped ham & cheese surprise. One cut of the knife into this treat and the warm cheese was oozing out!

Mystery meat never tasted so good

This sausage immediately brought me back to home:

And a delicious cut of another piece of meat was literally fall-off-the-bone tender (in the above photo, on the left) 🙂

Because they like to do things differently here, a fresh side-salad was brought out after the second, meat-filled course:

And to round it all out?

An orange-infused mousse with blueberry glaze.

Saturday:

Breakfast: I was woken up Saturday morning with a hot mug of cappuccino,

and a plain, flaky crossiant I switched off spreading with honey & nocciola-infused, chocolate spread (like Nutella)

Lunch: Since one of the temple sites we were planning on visiting (and had already paid for in our trip deposit) was closed for the day, the school provided us with lunch at a tiny bar (see a trend here?). Muchhhh better than plain-cheese sandwiches, I selected the panino hera, a simple yet perfect combination of smokey provolone and salty salami.

I was so happy they warmed it up for me 🙂

Enjoyed along with il mio panino while sitting outside in the sun-bathed patio was my new obsession: peach-flavored tea.

This bread was insane. While flaky on the outside, there were layers upon layers of dense, pillowy-softness on the inside. The flavors of the salami & provolone still shone through, though (i.e., the bread wasn’t too overpowering).

Dinner: Our second sit-down Sicilian dinner was, again, at a family-owned trattoria. The meal started out with fresh bread and was followed by a first course of penne pasta in a chunky tomato sauce with thin cubes of eggplant and green peas:

Starring prominently in the second course was tender veal encrusted with panko breadcrumbs and drizzled generously with fresh lemon. Featured alongside it were simple roasted potatoes…(one thing, among many, that the Italians do incredibly well is not allow themselves to put flavor after flavor after flavor into their dishes. Each one features minimal ingredients and, at first glance, may appear simple when compared to Americanized meals, but the superiority and freshness of the ingredients lend the dishes amazing, profound flavors.)

The dessert was a light vanilla “ice cream” with chocolate almond sauce liberally poured on top…

Sunday:

Breakfast: Sunday’s breakfast was, again, enjoyed free-of-charge (well, we paid for it, but it’s nice to think it was complimentary) at our GORGEOUS hotel in Taormina. A small bowl of cornflakes/muesli, fresh-baked roll with cherry jam, and a cappuccino filled me up sufficiently. I also discovered my love for figs. They were just sitting in a bowl (looking rather lonely), and once I took one, I had to return and grab a few more! It’s a weird fruit, tasting rather like an apple and pear mixed together, but with none of that juicy-ness and plenty of seeds (which are edible, btw).

Hello, new best friend.

Ever had Fig Newton cookies? I used to hate these but tried them a couple of months ago at the senior center and realized they’re not half bad.

I was stuffed, but I had to make room for a few sips of orange juice — I’ve heard it’s the best here!

Lunch: And this is where the blog title comes into play. Oh my ‘lanta. I have NEVER ever ever ever ever in my life had a more delicious plate of pasta than I had at il pranzo in Taormina, a small town on the eastern coast of Sicily with stunning views of Mount Etna, the Ionian Sea, and remnants of Greek & Roman inhabitants, the most notable in the form of the Teatro Greco, built in the early 7th century B.C.

A small group of us went to an adorable ristorante near the water…

Their sign proudly states that they specialize in fresh fish. And boy, do they ever. Now let me preface this by saying that I’ve never really enjoyed seafood. I tried my first bite of the sea (shrimp) on a plane, and ever since, my stomach kind of twisted and turned at the thought of injesting anything that comes from “under the sea.” Lately, though, I’ve been discovering that seafood is not all that bad. At all. One more thing you should know about me is that I will try (almost) anything at least once. What’s the worst that could happen? I spit it out?!

Craving a true Sicilian dish, I bravely ordered Pasta con frutte del mare. But before my dish came, I sneaked a few bites of the green & black olives & sundried tomatoes the rest of my friends got with their combined, group meal:

This was a true Sunday Italian lunch: complete with a glass of Sicilian wine:

After 20 minutes or so, out came my pasta…

The Best Pasta I’ve Ever Had. (and I didn’t even think I liked seafood)

Meticulously cooked al dente linguine “swimming” in a light, refreshing marinara sauce with just-caught mussels, clams, and baby shrimp.

I had fun eating this pasta. Yes, fun! I eagerly stuck my fork and knife into every clam and mussel, totally prepared to “fish” (oh my goodness, I need to stop with the puns) out the fresh-outta-the-sea goodies waiting inside. I’ve never had something so fresh in my life. The pasta came out steaming, and I guarantee you the frutti del mare was caught that morning!

Judging by how empty the plate is, I'd say I liked it hehe

Afternoon treat: Before leaving Sicily, my friends and I had to treat ourselves to one more Sicilian delicacy: the cannoli! (il cannolo)

My mini cannolo had an orange-flavored, thick cream with real dried orange bits and tiny chocolate chips, and a hard, crisp shell, natch 🙂

Layne perfectly summed up my Sunday lunch & afternoon treat…”Wow, Reenie & Linnea are going to be really jealous of that!” (My godmother & cousin – and the rest of their family for that matter – love cannolis and lovveeee seafood!) While this was amazing pasta (I mean, c’mon, it was the best I’ve EVER HAD), I don’t doubt my aunt Reenie’s ability to come this close to recreating it.

Dinner: Hate to be a let-down here and end the fun, but between traveling back home and the headaches that came with that, Sunday’s dinner consisted of a Nature Valley peanut butter granola bar, a handful of Teddy Grahams, and a few spoonfuls of Skippy peanut butter. Yup, my trip to Sicily had definitely come to an end…

2. Fun Scenery/People Pictures

I’ll give you a little break from reading and allow you to view — uninterrupted — my experience in Sicily:

Presenting...the Bieber 5. (So embarrassing.)

Delicious, picked-right-off-the-tree almond!

3. Random tidbits of Sicily-vacay information set forth in a humorous way 🙂

  • Overnight ferries, while a nice one-time thing, are not all they’re cracked up to be. It would have been much cheaper for us to just fly straight to Sicily rather than taking a train to Napoli and then the ferry from Napoli to Palermo.
  • Just because I can’t talk enough about the overnight ferry, let me tell you that the bar closed at midnight, leaving all 40+ of us to fend for a new hang-out spot. Luckily, Jules & I had purchased a “bed,” which was FOLDED INTO the wall when we walked into our 4-bed room that was literally 1/2 the size of my dorm room freshman year.
  • One of my favorite memories of the trip was running to the temples on the first day in the pouring rain. Luckily, I had my Hunter rain boots on and totally conquered those puddles.
  • Buses, even when confronted with the stunning landscape of the Sicilian countryside and cliffs overlooking the deep blue sea, are soporific.
  • 40+ people that really haven’t talked much before a 3-day all-together all-the-time weekend can end up having the greatest drama-free time of their lives…

And I Ask You: What was the Best Meal You’ve Ever Had? Where was it, when was it, who were you with, and what made it so dang good? Tell me!

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About ciaotochow

ciao to chow: initially created as a little spot on the web devoted to the "chow" I find while studying abroad in Rome. But really, ciao to chow is about my life: the day-to-day experiences, funny stories, moments of laughter, and the food...that continue to inspire me and make me grateful for each new day.
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8 Responses to Sicily: And the Best _____ I’ve Ever Had

  1. I wish we had a veggie market near us like you do! 😀

    That Chocolate ALMOND sauce sounds AMAZING!!!!

    The best meal I ever had was when I got to spend some time with my grandmother right before she passed died. It wasn’t that the meal was good. It was the fact that I got to spend time with her that was what makes it so special to me.

    • ciaotochow says:

      That’s so true: as much as food makes a meal, the company & who you’re enjoying it with are even more important. How special that you have that memory with your grandma 🙂

  2. WOW! SO much fun girl! And so much good food!
    That cannolo looks amazing!!
    I ❤ Panini's so much!

  3. MareMare says:

    What a grand time??!! The blossom pic made me so excited for spring!! Favorite meal: Bocca w/my squeeze in NYC, courtesy of super kids! And, as often as we can, the family gathering for dumplings and saurkraut. Love you – xxxooo

  4. Pingback: Galway: L&N, Please Forgive Me. | ciaotochow

  5. Pingback: Family = Craziness, Family = Love | ciaotochow

  6. Natalie says:

    Hey girl! I’ve been skimming through your blog and love it! We definitely have the same mentality on a lot of things! Reading this brought back some amazing memories, as this was one of my favorite trips (and definitely the best food I’ve had in Italy too!). I’m glad we got to go on atleast one trip together! I hope you have a great summer, see you in the Chi 🙂

    • ciaotochow says:

      I’m so glad it could bring up some fun memories for you! Sicily was a blast…I loved getting to know you more! Enjoy the rest of your travels, girl 🙂

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