Desperatlely seeking Sicilian
- Eddie Bennet
Sicily has a great cuisine which combines Northern Italian and Arab techniques with simple peasant ingredients. I have never been able to find it in Manhattan. Does it exist? Where is one to go for a bowl of Pasta con le sardi?
Being Sicilian and raised on the cuisine via my mother and grandmother in South Philadelphia, and having cooked Sicilian and Northern Italian food, I must say that I find very little similarities between the cooking techniques or the cuisines (or the people for that matter).
Be that as it may, there is a placed in Manhattan called Monzu which serves only Sicilian food. I don't know it it's still there or not, and it is a little pricey. On the other hand, if you were to come to South Philadelphia, you could find many restuarants that, while not specifically called Sicilian, offer the cuisine. I too love the cuisine and the many influences to be found in it (including not only the Arab moors but the Spanish as well). It is simple, yet elegant and delicious food at it's best! Hope you find what you're looking for!
I can vouch for Baci's (Amsterdam Ave., 79th - 80th on west side of street) pasta con sarde. My girlfriend can't live without it -- and I, of Sicilian descent, find it the closest to what grandma made. At the same time it's the only restaurant I've been able to find that make still makes it.
Isola (Columbus Ave., 83rd - 84th; 362-7400) used to make it -- replete with fennel, and still claims they make it. However, every once in a while when I stop in to ask if they are serving it, their answer is "not tonight." I don't know whether I just have bad luck or whether I'm getting BS. It might be worth a telephone call to find out when and if they are making it.
Both Bussola (Fourth Ave bet 9 and 10) and Bondi (20th bet 5 and 6) are more Sicilian than anything else and have many Sicilian dishes on the menu (including pasta con le sarde) though the offerings are not exclusively Sicilian. For a more casual meal, try Ferdinando's Foccaceria in Brooklyn, Union Street beyond the BQE. Besides pasta con le sarde, you'll also find pannelle and vastedda.
It's not Sicilian, some say it's not even really Italian, but the spirit of coastal Italy is very much alive at Esca, on West 44th Street in Manhattan.