It is February 14th, 2018. This is my Valentine to Noto, Sicily — it is love at first sight.
Love of Place
Siamo qui, we have arrived. The first thing we see is Noto’s magnificent historic center built from golden limestone, glowing like honey in the sun.Dreamy flourishes like curved balconies and flowery carvings make us swoon. Even the city’s modest dwellings have a rustic simplicity — we are charmed!
Noto was destroyed by an earthquake in 1693. Three inspired architects, Gagliardi, Sinatra, and Labisi combined Renaissance, Spanish and neo-classical elements to create a brilliant hybrid — Sicilian Baroque.
Real geniuses know how to collaborate.
Love and Terroir
Noto’s culinary history reveals influences from ancient Greece, Spain, North Africa and the Middle East. The trifecta of Mediterranean sun, earth, and sea continues to produce a ripe abbondanza of vegetables, fruits, seafood, succulent meats and dairy — with love!
Palermo, Sicily, was the first place I tasted sea urchin fresh from the shell on a tiny spoon. I was a goner, in a true food swoon. Lucky me — uni is plentiful and abundant in this area.I am also mad for Sicilian street food. A small storefront here in Noto boasts five kinds of arancino — street food rice balls I adore.
Tonight I will make my handsome Valentine a savory and romantic Pasta alla Norma, with eggplant, salted ricotta and sun-dried tomatoes. Yum.
Love Is Nuts
Pistachios are often crumbled over desserts or sprinkled over pasta here — yes, on pasta.My linguine with clams and pistachios at Anche Gli Angelie is delizioso! Hubby’s canoe-shaped pasta arrives swimming in delicate green pistachio pesto — now that’s amore! Almonds find their way into many recipes here in Noto. Our friend Daniela’s apple cake, eccellente!, the best in Sicily, has almonds and lemon zest. Her recipe is a secret or I would give it to you for Valentine’s Day.
Love Grows Wild
Citrus grows wild all over, with oranges and lemons easy picking in our backyard. Sicilian oranges are the best! I enjoy a slice in my Campari Spritz each afternoon.Even our drowsy morning eggs with bright orange yolks taste like love in Sicily.
One of the best parts of any epicurious trip is sampling local wines. For Valentine’s Day we will share a deep red, romantic Cusora, minerally and distinguished.
In early days, Sicilian wines were known for quantity rather than quality. Now, Sicily’s winemaking skills and biodynamic methods are universally acknowledged as eccezionale!
Our ongoing tasting includes a new wine each night, sometimes more. Nero d’Avola is this week’s pick; last week we fell in love with Sicilian Orange Zibibbo. Next week? Who knows.
Marzipan was also a gift from the Arabs. We admire their colorful shapes at our cannoli go-to, the incongruous J.F. Kennedy pasticceria — a sweet source of the perfect Valentine!
If you want real fruit and vegetables, Sicily has plenty of farm-stay options where home-grown produce is abundant and hands-on. Try a few cooking classes, water the piselli, shear a sheep, you will love it. Saluti! and Happy Valentine’s Day.
Next up: An Epicurious Meeting with the Mayor.