As I mentioned in my previous post, Walking Around Marzamemi, I first came here on a blazing hot day in June 2004 when Rosalba and Marina Scifo, the Canadian-Italian owners of a school I was working at in nearby Pachino, brought me here for a wonderful lunch. It was in my preblogging days so my memories are a bit hazy but I remember I liked the area so much that I promised myself I’d return one day.
The restaurant they brought me to in Piazza Regina Margherita, the central square, was called Taverna La Cialoma www.tavernalacialoma.it, named after the traditional chant sung by the tuna fishermen while they worked.
I remember the food was fantastic but we were the only customers, partly due to the heat, and partly due to the fact it was a ghost town and it was one of the few places to eat, albeit a very good one.
Fast forward to September 2023, and I found myself back at La Cialoma celebrating my 57th birthday. This time however I had to reserve to get in as La Cialoma, now Michelin recommended, is acknowledged as the best place to eat in a town now with over forty restaurants!
The food was immaculate and the wine the waiter suggested, Mama by Sissiri, was perfect for seafood. I started with Scampi Marinati agli Agrumi; scampi marinated in citrus. Then for the pasta course I went for Spaghettoni Freschi alla “Rais” (Brodino Ristretto con Cernia); handmade spaghettoni in local traditional “Rais” style in a reduced broth with grouper. And for the main, Tonno Rosso all’Alloro con Peperone in Salto; red tuna with bay leaf and sautéed red pepper. For dessert, Cassatina Siciliana di Ricotta; a small ricotta cassata. To finish an espresso and a glass of a wonderful blood orange amaro called Florio which was new to me.
For this I paid €105 which is a lot in Sicily, but still a steal by UK standards. I enjoyed it so much I went back a second time two days later and spent €133!
In that short time, half the menu had changed, so I begain with Burratina in Guazzetto di Datterino e Sfoglia di Pane Croccante; a small burrata with stewed datterini tomatoes and a crusty puff pastry. I followed on with Fusilli con Salsa di Pomodorini, Melanzane e Ricotta Fresca di Pecora; fusilli in tomato sauce with eggplant and fresh sheep’s ricotta. Cernia alle Erbette con Dadolata di Patate Novelle: grouper with dried herbs and diced new potatoes (the only thing I didn’t like, the herbs were hard to digest). To drink another wonderful white suggested by the manager, a 2022 Noto Moscato by Kapuhala. And I finished with Ricotta al Vino Cotto; sweet ricotta with reduced wine must and a glass of fantastic Passito di Pantelleria by Bukkurum. Generally excellent once again.
Once my stay was done, my Airbnb host Loredana’s husband Francesco gave me a lift to Noto, the next town on my tour. During our chat I mentioned that I’d been in the area nearly twenty years before working at an English school with two sisters but I’d looked for their school on the internet but couldn’t find it. ‘Do you mean Rosalba and Martina?’ he asked me. It turned out that he was a student of theirs and had Rosalba’s number on his mobile, so he called her up and handed the phone over to me for us to have a chat. It was such an expected pleasure to speak with her after all those years and incredibly she even remembered what I had for lunch in 2004; pasta with prawns and zucchini, which is totally what I would have ordered! After promising to look her up next time I was in the area, we said our goodbyes. As Francesco said ‘È un mondo piccolo!’ (It’s a small world!).
During our conversation Rosalba mentioned that she no longer went to La Cialoma as it had become too fancy and expensive, preferring instead to eat at Acquamadre, at 83 Via Marzamemi, which is more down-to-earth.
Another restaurant I missed out on was Ristorante Cortile Arabo cortilearabo.it, in Vicolo Villadorata just off the square. As the name suggests, they specialise in Sicilian cuisine with an Arab touch, which would have been a very interesting experience. Unfortunately however, the forecasted stormy September weather meant they didn’t dare to open their terrace by the sea, and as this was their main seating area, they sadly had to close the whole restaurant and cancel my reservation. La Cialoma has a seaside terrace too, the ideal spot to reserve, but that was closed too and I ate outside in the more sheltered square instead.
Having been thwarted by the threat of bad weather (which didn’t actually show up in the end), I tried another place in the square which had good reviews. Liccamuciula www.liccamuciula.it, at 2 Piazza Regina Margherita, is located in the Palazzo di Villadorata, the former palace of the Nicolai family who made their money from tuna fishing and who also built the Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata in Noto which I’ll visit in a coming Baroque architecture post. The Marzamemi palace looks a bit worn on the outside, cf the heads of the gargoyles, but inside it has a beautiful arched ceiling. You could sit outside in the square but the interior has a lovely ambience.
As well as being a restaurant Liccamuciula is what’s known in Italy as a concept store, a shop where you can eat and drink while glancing through books and checking out organic local products and craft items.
I started with Bottarga di Tonno e Frutta; fruit with grated dried tuna eggs, which was an interesting new way to eat bottarga. The Spaghetti con Gambero Rosso, Crema di Agrumi e Mandorle; spaghetti with red prawns in a cream of citrus and almonds which was nice but I think I prefer the pistachio version. The owner wanted to give me Mama white wine to drink again, which I love, but wanted to try something else and the muscat by Marrabino was a good substitute. To finish an absolutely fantastic, freshly-made cannolo which the owner paired with a local passito called Donna Rosa, made by Sissiri (who also make Mama). I finished with an amaro called Timos, made by the same people who make my beloved Amaro Amara, which is the most intense thyme flavoured thing I’ve ever tasted! Interesting but not something you can glug like Amaro Amara. Another good meal, but again overpriced by Sicilian standards.
You’ll find all the places mentioned, and more, on my map.
So a good birthday was had! Some more food, on the move, next…