Sicilian Chocolate: Savory and Supreme

Chocolate is a sublime experience. My brother-in-law Stevie has eaten chocolate all over the globe, and he will tell you, there is nothing like a superb piece of chocolate.

Here in Sicily, morning cappuccino is always served with little bite of chocolate nearby. In Avola, we are served these lovely valentines of chocolate with our caffé — ooh.

As an epicurious traveler, I’ve been drawn to Sicily for its romantic history, rumbly volcano, flinty wines and robust cuisine. Yet somehow, the wild isle’s chocolate has remained one of its best-kept secrets for me. Intrigued, I embark on my own chocolate tour — one deep, dark taste at a time.

I begin close to home here in Noto at Caffé Costanzo, a popular spot for coffee, cookies, pastry, or gelato, the best in town. My favorite Costanzo pairing is cioccolata and nocciolo or hazelnut. The flavors are soulmates and perfect for sharing — or not.

Don’t miss the powerful taste of Costanzo’s dark-chocolate arancia, dense and robust chocolate with bittersweet orange — wow!

A Bit of History

In the 1500s, Spanish rule introduced Sicilians to cacao and clever methods for rolling it smooth. The resulting xocoàtl paste was used to accent meats, grated over vegetables, or nibbled on its own as an aphrodisiac. Now, that I can understand.

Follow Your Nose

We follow the fragrance of chocolate to Modica, an hour’s drive through the Sicilian countryside. Here, generations still use rolling pins of lava stone — from Mt. Etna, of course — to refine and smooth the chocolate. The mix is chilled before adding sugar to keep the crystals from melting, producing chocolate with a signature crunch.

City of Chocolate

In Modica we find the Museum of Chocolate plus several charming chocolate cafés and boutiques. And as one of eight Sicilian Baroque towns in the beautiful Val di Noto, Modica has enough cathedrals, piazzas and cobblestone streets for non-chocoholics.

Baroque Cathedral of St. Peter in Modica with 12 apostles

Upon admission, the Museo offers each visitor a whole cocoa bean, dusty with cacao and maybe a little grubby. But surprise! the dry, deep proto-chocolate flavor is delicious.

While chewing your introductory bean, there are several sculptures in chocolate to see. Some are impressive; some are deconstructing — a risk with organics. There is a billboard-sized Marilyn Monroe, and a room-size chocolate relief map of Italy with helpful landmarks like the Coliseum and Leaning Tower of Pisa. Yes, much of it is pretty silly. But it’s fun and takes a mere 30 minutes for a reasonable fee of about €2.

Shop Chocolate

The first shop we visit is the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, Modica’s earliest chocolatier. When Europe began to favor milk chocolate in the 1800s, the Bonajuto family continued making its signature dark chocolate, and are still going strong.We amble down Corso Umberto to Antica Dolceria Rizza, open since in 1930s. Their chocolates are flavored with exotic essences like fiery peperoncino, below, or citrus. We buy some for friends at home. Me, I doubt they’ll last that long.The venerable Caffe del’ Arte is famous for hot chocolate and classic Sicilian pastries like our favorite the venerable cannolo — with local pistachios, of course.Modica is as serious as Uncle Stevie about its beloved chocolate. Heck, when this part of Sicily was destroyed by the earthquake of 1693, the chocolate industry survived — a genuine chocolate miracle.

Celebrate Chocolate!

An annual festival called ChocoModica celebrates my two Sicilian loves: chocolate and Baroque architecture. Both are entirely yummy.

Old Family Recipe

And hey, if you can’t make it all the way to Sicily to sample the chocolate, here is a special Sicilian Chocolate Cake recipe from my friend, Daniela. It is delizioso, generous and feeds a lot of people — just like Daniela herself!

Sicilian Chocolate Cake

Ingredienti:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups flour
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 8 oz. yogurt plain or coconut
  • 6 T canola oil
  • 3 T cocoa powder
  • 1 t baking powder
  • pinch of salt

Mix sugar and eggs, then add all the other ingredients.  Put in 24 cm baking pan (Daniela uses a round fluted pan) for 45 minutes. Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Like so many Sicilian desserts, it is not too sweet — it is just perfect!

Sei generoso, sei gentile e le tue torte sono superbe!

Grazie, Daniela! xo

 

About Epicurious Travelers

Ms. Margolis-Pineo created EpicuriousTravelers.com to showcase her published work and ongoing food-travel adventures. Based in Portland, Maine, she travels frequently both in her home state and north to Montreal, her favorite North American city. Although she refuses to use the word "foodie," she has an abiding interest in food and wine. Ms. Margolis-Pineo is also a graphic designer, giving her site a decided edge in an oversaturated blogosphere. New contacts, "likes," subscribers and content are welcome!
This entry was posted in Chocolate, Food and Wine, International, Italian Travel, Off-the-beaten-track, Sicily, Travel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Sicilian Chocolate: Savory and Supreme

  1. Mark says:

    great blog, but now I’m craving chocolate.

  2. picnickportland says:

    I am insane for chocolate right now! I have to find some!

    Kris Lape Kris Lape Designs Glass Drops Jewelry http://krislapedesigns.blogspot.com krislape@aol.com 207-592-3484

  3. Wendy Akerlind says:

    I love being able to join you in your wanderings, and discoveries of Sicily. Filling a day with chocolate, now what could be better than that!

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