Due to its historical links with the fishing industry, and its proximity to Pachino, a major tomato production area, Marzamemi is a great place for food shopping. Below are three places I recommend.
Campisi Conserve www.campisiconserve.it, 12 Via Marzamemi
Campisi is a famous name in preserves and has branches in Siracusa and Noto. (Lini Campisi, the chef owner of La Cialoma restaurant where I ate two posts previously, is a member of the family but the businesses are separate). Their Marzamemi shop is lcated in an old warehouse, next to its own restaurant.
First and foremost of course are their tuna products. Tuna Rosso, known as bluefin tuna in English, is generally considered the best tasting variety. The dried roe of the bluefin is called bottarga and is usually grated over pasta instead of cheese.
The best part of the fish is the oily belly area known as ‘ventresca’. ‘Tarantello’ is the abdominal muscle of the fish which isn’t as rich as ventresca but has a buttery, complex flavor that goes well with cooked beans, asparagus, boiled potatoes, roasted red tomatoes, and sweet onions (or in a quick dish of bucatini with olive oil, parsley and cherry tomatoes). ‘Buzzonaglia’ is the part of the fillet that is in contact with the spine and vertabrae and has a very intense red colour and soft texture. Traditionally considered the poorest part of the fish, it has been rediscovered by modern gastronomy and appreciated as a refined and gourmet ingredient. Great with pasta and Taggiasca olives.
Another product I adore for pasta dishes is anchovy fish sauce, a condiment that can trace its ancestry back to ancient Roman garum. The modern version is known as Colatura di Alici but it’s essentially the same. I also got some Garum di Tonno as it was something I hadn’t tried before. There are lots of other preserves, many of which can be sampled in the shop. I loved the flavour of the Pesto di Tonno, mixed with capers and pepperoncino, so I got a jar of that as well.
Other products of interest include smoked swordfish and marinated anchovies, which I was too apprehensive to transport home becuase of their pungent smell.
Adelfio Conserve www.adelfionline.com, 7 Via Marzamemi
Just along the road is the warehouse of Adelfio who are the main competitor to Campisi in Marzamemi.
Their products are pretty much the same. I picked up some tinned bluefin tuna and bottarga, and also some tomato extract (see below) and a tub of salted capers, another key ingredient for Sicilian cuisine.
The best pistachios are said to be produced in Bronte near Etna, but they are a very typical product that you’ll see everywhere you go in various formats. The jars contain either Pesto di Pistacchio or the sweeter Crema di Pistacchio. Both can be spread on bruschetta but the former is best for savoury dishes such as pasta. I was told that the crema is eaten by Sicilians straight out of the jar when they’re feeling depressed, just like people in the UK or US would eat ice cream when they’re feeling down.
A bunch of dried oregano is a good thing to take home as it weighs very little and is quite cheap so can make a good present. I most often use it on bruschetta with a little oil.
You can get local wines and spirits at both places but I usually wait until the airport to get those because they tend to eat up my weight allowance, however out of interest I got two small bottles of liqueurs, Mandarinello (like limoncello but made with mandarin oranges) and Fico d’India (from the fruit of the prickly pear cactus).
Of course you can get Pachino tomato preserves from both Campisi and Adelfio but I found this next place to have a wider range of products.
La Casa del Pomodoro, 43 Via Marzamemi, www.verdurazon.it
Sun dried tomatoes are known as ‘pummaroru salatu’ that are sliced in half and dried in the hot Sicilian sun. They’re a good item to take home as they don’t weigh much.
To make tomato extract, the tomatoes are cooked for a long time, then passed through a fine mesh food mill to remove the skins and seeds. The puree obtained (essentially reduced passata at this stage) is mixed with salt to preserve it then spread on special boards or large ceramic “plates” and exposed to the sun for about a week. The product obtained from this process can either be described as concentrated, double concentrated or triple concentrated. Triple concentrate is known as ‘strattu’ in Sicilian dialect and is used to flavor soups, soups and ragù.
A new product for me was Capuliato di Pomodoro, a kind of tomato pesto made from dried tomatoes. I originates from Ragusa province, specifically Vittoria.
After being salted and dried in the sun the tomatoes are put through a meat grinder (‘capuliato’ means minced) Next they’re put in oil and mixed with basil or oregano, or perhaps garlic or chili pepper. Capuliato is mainly used to season pasta, bread or bruschetta, and is a key ingredient in Scaccia; the stuffed baked focaccia I had in the previous post on fast food.
All these shops are on my map of Marzamemi.
And now for Ragusa itself…