GREAT FOOD IN SIRACUSA SICILY
After two weeks sampling the scene in Siracusa my verdict is that the restaurant offerings while good to very good are often less than excellent. By contrast there are two establishments, however,that are so spectacular that they must not be missed by anyone who takes eating as one of lifes great pleasures. Located next to each other at the seaside end of the market in Ortygia there are two astoundingly good food stores. Both offer top quality Sicilian products and samples are lavished on the casual visitor. The first is F.lli Burgio which specializes in prepared vegetables and spreads, olive oils, jellies and meats. The ham and sausages come in many varieties and while we did not sample all, all those we tried were superb.
The second establishment right next door is Caseificio Borderi an even more impressive esablishment. Father, mother, son and daughter in law are all behind the counter. They lure you in with samples dispensed on the street and the operative rule is say yes to anything they offer you. The establishment makes its own cheese and dairy products and each is impressive. Nazarino and her husband are charming and speak excellent English and French. On the first visit after our first tase of tricotta = a baked firm ricotta = on bread with a spread of sun dried tomatoes in olive oil with mint, capers, and hot peppers we were hooked. Now we were inside the store and what followed was the offer of small sandwiches of mayorkino (I probably didnt get that name exactly right) with garlic, and basil. The feast continued with store made mozzarella, ham, thickened cream of balsamic vinegar and oregano. And we hadnt bought anything yet. They opened bottles of home made beer. Then small samples of wine. As if that wasnt enough then came wonderful almond cookies that were delicious accompanied by glasses of moscato. We turned down smoked mozzarella. Nazarina kept saying I make you present. I make you breakfast. I make you now something very special. And mind you this wasnt just for us. Her husband was doing the same thing in French for another couple. Of course we bought some of everything and got a bottle of Moscato as another present.
The next visit two days later Nazarina remembered us and started on a whole new menu. Brasiola with lemon and garlic and a cheese I believe she called Perdura - meaning lost cheese - and caper berries. She was sorry they were out of the almond cokies we wanted more of but ran to the back and brought out just made cannolies. The sweetend riccota was delicious. It was 11 AM and there was no need for lunch. Though the store does make sandwhiches to go.
Our third and last visit produced new cheeses an array of sausages both sweet and mild, different wine, more beer. Again, we werent beeing treated differently than any of other people who walked in the store. Yes, most people were buying after sampling but the samples were offered with such enthusaism and kindness and the food so genunely excellent these were not purchases made from guilt. The combination of genuinely great food and genunely warm hospitality is a marketing strategy that cant be beat.
Of course we bought more than we could possibly eat and had more items vacuumed packed to take home. This was a great experience and a wonderful memory of Siracusa. A truly not to be missed foodie experience.
I loved Caseificio Borderi too. They were so friendly and nice. They gave us numerous samples of food and wine and even wrapped up some salami for my father who was back in the room. When I tasted it I said my father would love it and tried to order some and he insisted on giving it to me as a gift. We all bought the tricotta and I so wish I had bought more. It was beyond delicious.
Wish I was going back soon!
Yes, those market shops are wonderful! And as for the ricotta: The ricotta pastry in Ortygia changed my life, these as baked by Fiorangela at L'Approdo delle Sirene for breakfast every morning. So I have reservations to return again next spring. :-)
I tell friends that the gelato and pastry in Sicily in general and Siracusa/Ortygia in particular has helped me lose weight, because no pastry here in Sopranoland NJ, or even NYC, seems worth eating.
I have had the same good fortune eating many foods in Italy. Once you taste truly wonderful foods, you simply don't want the inferior stuff -- and this is true even if you don't return to New Jersey! I stopped eating prosciutto after tasting it in Parma. I never eat gelato in the town where I live. The gelato 2 towns away is so much better by miles, I'd rather wait until I have a reason to go to that other town, which isn't very often. Plus, I almost never eat fruit out of season. I'm willing to wait all year for the real taste of strawberries or pears. Eating in Italy has made me wonder if obesity problems in America and Britain have something to do with loss of flavor in foods: people end up eating all the time because tasteless food doesn't satisfy them.
I had great breakfast pastries in Mondello outside of Palermo too. The almonds and raisins in the pastry (flavored with cinnamon) were a revelation.
I do think the lack of flavor is related to overeating though you can find obese people in countries with great tasting food too. Nonetheless, I think when fruits and vegetables, cheeses and breads, taste bland and have no spice, no aroma, no distinctiveness, people keep eating because they have not been satisfied and are still looking for the elusive "taste." In Sicily in particular, each thing we ate tasted like itself and had aroma as well as sharpness, from the strawberries through the almonds. It was simply joyful to shop, cook, and eat in May and June when the produce was beyond remarkable.
Actually, you did hear correctly when it came to "mayorkino", although the Italian spelling is maiorchino.
There is a Sicilian "lost cheese" called "tuma persa", but there is probably more than one Sicilian dialect. In Campania, a "lost cheese" is called "casoperuta." Since they were making mozzerella, perhaps Nazarina or her husband had spent some time in Campania.
The sweetened fresh ricotta I tasted in Ortygia at an ordinary bar -- it was a breakfast pastry -- changed in one bite everything I had ever thought about "cheese danish" for the rest of my life. I was staying at an apartment right at the seaside market, so perhaps the bar downstairs where I ate breakfast got their pastries from Borderi.
Thanks for the tip! Sicily is one of my favorite eating destinations.