Gli Aromi by Russino and the Origins of Sicilian Cuisine

Last June, after having spent years in total commitment to my job / activity / work / passion / career, we finally managed to get some rest and go on holiday.

We chose Sicily as our destination.

We had a narrow budget and not so many days – I had to posticipate my dream tour of Sicily once again – so we planned a relaxed week of sun and beach, cannoli and slushes, on the south of Ragusa.

In that state of laziest grace, I was browsing events and festivals, when a title tickled my curiosity:

paleogastronomic walk in Scicli’s old town.

(Yeah, I was already planning to talk about it here, though Pepe was still an undefined project and no one knew when, where, why, who, what and how).

I look for the Facebook page of the promoters and I find that it’s an idea of Gli Aromi by Russino, with a collaboration with Satra restaurant.

Gli Aromi by Russino

a view of Gli Aromi’s greenhouse

What inspired me at that moment was their attention to communication, besides all the very interesting events and activities they create: tasting itineraries, culinary events… I needed to know more.

We headed to Scicli the very same night.

Now, I’ll be skate over the fact that, every single time we went to Sicily, everybody told us to go seeing things miles and miles far away and no one ever told us how beautiful Scicli is.

Baroque in all its glory. Clean. Beautiful. Beautiful. Really.

Unfortunately the light was already low and, this time, we didn’t have the chance to stay there long enough to come back to Scicli another day at the right hour, to enjoy the architecture, the atmosphere and to snap some pretty picture. Surely we will, next time.

scicli sicily russino gli aromi

Scicli by night.

So, in this perfect baroque frame, we head to the Satra restaurant, where Enrico, our host and promoter of the event, together with Dr. Marco Blanco, archaeologist, are already entertaining the dozens of people who joined the occasion.

And we find out that we had to make a reservation.

Totally ashamed, I ask if it might be possible to follow the event, without participating at the joyful tasting of all the delicious delicacies prepared by the Satra’s chefs, just walking through the city’s monuments, listening to the narrations of Dr. Blanco about origins and evolutions of Sicilian and Italian culinary culture.

Enrico, very nicely, welcome us and he even manage to let us taste many of the deliciousnesses offered during the walk.

With my phone in one hand, to note things down, and a portion of caponata in the other one, I sink in the culinary history told by Dr. Blanco, while I already plan to come back next day at Satra for dinner.

 

During the walk, tasting batter fried veggies (the so called ground fishes), caponatas, eggplants’ parmigiana – did you know that it’s called eggplants’ parmigiana, from the cut of the eggplants, and not parmesan eggplants? – I recall the lessons from my history teachers: they always said that Sicily had always been dominated by different populations – Dr. Blanco calls Sicily a Population Caponata, which is almost like the Melting Pot concept for USA – and we obviously find out that all of that also influenced the culinary habits of the island inhabitants.

Greek tradition left in Sicily olive oil, grilled and roasted food; Romans took focaccia bread and farinatas, besides Caturro, which became then the typical Sicilian polenta.

agrigento sicily

Agrigento temples: if you’re in Sicily, you absolutely have to see these, too.

Arabs came and spread the taste for sweet and sour and new ingredients like rice, cous cous and eggplants.

To Norman’s dominations you can link stuffed meat, but Spaniards are the ones who developed the perfect conjugation between french baroque cuisine and the more strong needs of sicilian middle-class palates.

While in the fields, lower class families committed themselves to get a better taste, e.g. by frying, the excellent fruits of the ground, in the cloisters the second borns of noble families were nourished with sweets and sugar, giving very interesting cues for the creation of the traditional patisserie of Sicily: chocolate, bianco mangiare, testa di turco, cannoli, ice-cream, slushes… and all the delicacies that I warmly suggest you to taste if you come to Sicily.

Obviously, seen the great experience of the event and intrigued by the exposition atelier in the center of Scicli, where there was also, that night, an artistic exhibition, we wanted to go visiting also the farm where Russino’s family produces their Aromi (spices). we found a multitude of plants and spicy grass and mediterranean greenery, an incredible bio diversity. But most of all, the flavors: if you’re in Sicily, you absolutely have to go there and smell those flavors.

sicily sea

South Sicily Mediterranea Sea

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