Archive for the Enna Category

Enjoying the view in Enna

Posted in Enna with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2010 by gannet39

Apparently the highest provincial capital in Europe at 1,100m, Enna is a lovely town perched on the top of high cliffs. Make sure you go to the Lombard Castle and neighbouring Rocca di Cerere to sample the stunning views of the surrounding countryside and other hilltop towns such as neighbouring Calascibetta. The Torre di Federico is another good place for views.

Enna

I recommend staying at the lovely art deco Hotel Sicilia. There may be more modern hotels but this one has a lot of charcter.

Risorante Pizzeria Ariston (A) 353 Via Roma, Closed Sunday.

This is the best value-for-money option with excellent food, just a short 200m walk downhill from the Hotel Sicilia. It’s mentioned in several guides and was recommended by reception and by my local contact too. It’s basically one big room with nothing much to look at except a telly (you could sit outside but it would be like sitting in a subway). First and second courses are between €6.50 and €12 , the double figures being the seafood. I had the house signature dish Cavatelli Ariston (A), small, local pasta shells in a piquant tomato sauce with lots of garlic and a pinch of basil, and on another occasion Penne alla Norma (A), both excellent. A plate of contorni, grilled veg and caponata (A),cost €3.50 at lunch time and €7 from the more extensive evening buffet, I had a nice bottle of Chardonnay (Feudo Arancio 08) for €12 which is the price of most of the bottled wines. All I did was look at what everyone else was drinking then select my preference from the glass fridge by the door. The house red is €2.50 for a quartino. The owner is the older server with the salt and pepper beard. The service isn’t exactly friendly or rude (except for the young girl), just busy. The atmosphere is nothing special, indeed large children’s birthday parties always seem to come here, but the grub makes up for it.

Revisited Ariston in November ’09 with four friends and found it to be as good as ever. The highlight of the antipasti buffet were the roasted balsamic onions. Nicky had some wonderful Gnocci alla Sorrentina and Sara an excellent Spaghettil alla Scoglio (both A), my Cavatelli di Ariston and Rachel’s Ravioli di Cernia were also good (both B). Raffa’s escalope looked great and the Corvo red (Sciaranera ’08) went down well (B). Enzo the owner sold us a bottle of his homemade limoncello (A) for €18. Not cheap but liquid gold as far as I was concerned. My only criticism of Ariston’s food is that the portions are too big and I have never made it past the antipasti and pasta to the main course!

Ristorante Centrale (B+), Pizza VI Dicembre (just before Ariston on the left as you go down, opposite Banca di Sicilia). Closed Sat?

Another nice nearby place that is popular with the Italian tourist guides and local teachers. It has a nicer atmosphere and terrace than Ariston but the food isn’t quite as good. If it’s language practice you are looking for, the older waiter with the glasses is very chatty on the subject of local food, wines and motorbike racing (there is a famous track nearby). I had the signature dish of Pappardelle Centrale (A), thick ribbons with ham, tomato sauce, mince, mushrooms and cream. First courses are €6-10 and seconds €6-13, fish being the pricey item again. They also have good value-for-money set menus for between €16 and €20. For €16 I got Cavatelli alla Siciliana (small shells again with ragu and olives), Vitello al Forno con Funghi, fruit, water and a quartino of wine (B). A quartino by itself costs €1.50, the house red being nicer but the white was ok despite not being chilled. Local grappa was €3.

One rep recommended Di Marino on Viale Caterina Avoca which has great views from the terrace but was closed on Tuesday. Another place in the guides was Antica Hostaria at 9 Via Castagna, off the main square but again closed on Mon/Tues when I was in town.

Castello di Lombardia

Be warned that, because of the altitude, it can be a bit chilly sitting outside in short sleeves, even on an evening in June.

Self-caterers should check out the small shops on Mercato San Antonio, parallel to Via Roma, at the back of Ristorante Centrale.  If you are looking for local foodstuffs to buy, Enna is famous for Piacentino Ennese, a variety ofsheeps cheese featuring saffron and whole black peppercorns. You could eat it with the local bread Pagnotta del Dittaino which has it’s own DOP. Broad beans (fava larga) from nearby Leonforte are also renowned.

Written in 2008 and 2009

Sicilian hospitality in Piazza Armerina & Barrafranca

Posted in Barrafranca, Piazza Armerina with tags , , , , , , , on September 18, 2010 by gannet39

For me personally, Piazza Armerina is not a place I would want to stay for any length of time.

Piazza Armerina

A lot of tourists come here however to see the beautifully preserved (by a mudslide) mosaics at Villa Romana del Casal, just on the outskirts of town. Famously these include the ‘bikini girls’ which show Roman women playing sports in an early representation of the two-piece costume.

Villa Romana

If you are staying at the rather depressing Hotel Roma (the best place in town?, maybe try a hostel) the food is pretty good (Intermediate B) and quite reasonably priced. I had a good Tagliatelle dello Chef and a Cotoletta allo Palmeritana (pork cutlet in breadcrumbs), along with a mezzo of Nero d’Avola and Macedonia for about 20 euro.

For water, a cold drink on a terrace or a nearby bite to eat, take a U-turn to the left out of the hotel and up Via Roma. You will find Ristorante Pepito on the immediate right. I didn’t try the food so can’t comment.

Vilma Wine Bar (Intermediate A), 89 Via Garibaldi, next left after Via Roma.

This is a great place to start or finish your evening, you will be welcomed by the friendly English-speaking Roberto (if he hasn’t sold the place yet), who lived in London for three years. He has free internet in the bar and a wide range of reasonably priced beers, spirits and local wines. Set in an atomospheric part of the old town, near the theatre. Opens at 5pm, closed Sundays. I had a nice glass of white here, Branciaforti IGT (Firriato ’08) for 3 euro.

Ristorante Pizzeria da Nino (Intermediate A-), 12 Via Gebbia. Turn left out of the hotel, go straight until the road forks, bear right but keep going straight, past a church, turn right at the TIM shop with red awnings (before the bus square, a sign points to the local penitentiary ), go past Bar Sestercio (ate an ok lunch here waiting for the bus but it’s a bit of a roach hole), Nino’s is on the left.

This is a nice spot to escape the heat and hustle and bustle of town. It’s a large courtyard with ivy-covered walls, olive trees, wagonwheels and wooden wheelbarrows full of flowers. The speciality here is grilled meat and after a nice Caprese di Bufala (B) I had the Arrosto Misto (A), which consisted of a large pork chop, a thick slab of pancetta, sausage, quail, beef steak and a spit (spiedino) of chicken and turkey, with a side order of grilled veg (A).

You’re not going anywhere fast after that lot but I would recommend finishing with the Ravioli di Ricotta (A) which is sweet ricotta in a warmed pastry, possibly washed down with a glass of sweet Malvasia. The only let down was the house red which was not very good (C), but I guess they are trying to encourage you to buy a bottle off the long list of wines which start at 10 euro. First and second are courses between 5 and 10 euro. With water and cover the bill was pretty reasonable at 31.80.

There is another guide recommended restaurant at 62 Via Garibaldi, just down from Roberto’s wine bar, which you might want to try rather than the place below.

Ristorante Pizzeria da Toto (Intermediate B), 29 Via Mazzini, go to the end of Via Garibaldi and turn right, it’s on the right.

Recommended by a local teacher but a little disappointing. The food was ok, the house signature Bocca di Lupo (mouth of the wolf) was a baked slab of layered veal, ham, mozzarella, aubergine and tomatoes (B) but the grilled veg (C) was cold. The Compose di Frutta (A) was excellent with locally grown fresh pineapple, melon, orange and cherries. The house red (D) at 1.50 a quartino, tasted like dried leaves and I couldn’t finish it. Cover and wine are cheap but I thought the first courses, 8-9 euro, and seconds 10-15, were slightly expensive. Pizzas are around 6 euro. Don’t sit near the door as the car fumes can be quite unpleasant.

There is an internet place at 35 Via Mazzini but they charged me a pricey 1 euro for 15 mins.

I didn’t have time to visit the famous mosaics but if you do, you might consider lunch at La Ruota which is recommended in several guides and is close nearby. Pasta with wild fennel, lamb and artichokes are the local delicacies to try apparently.

Il Calice Rosso (Intermediate A), Via Canalicchio, Barrafranca

This is a place in Barrafranca the next town (which seems even more godforsaken than Piazza Armerina!) where the very hospitable teachers from the Liceo I was working at took me for lunch. We had a fantastic range of starters, some I recognised (caponata, baked aubergines) and some I didn’t (tomatoes stuffed with tuna mayo, slabs of spinach in egg). The Pasta alla Norma was the best I have ever had in Sicily, huge rigatonis tossed in aubergine sauce piled high on big oval dishes and sprinkled with salted ricotta, one for two people. I couldn’t stop eating it but still didn’t finish my share. And of course, all washed down with a great Nero d’Avola, absolute heaven. This was the meal that made me warm to Sicilians, great company and fantastic food.  It also goes to show that in Sicily the best food can sometimes be found in the seemingly worst places!

Written June 2009.

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