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What to eat and drink in Sicily

Cross-section of a Sicilian cassata, a sweet dessert cake made with ricotta, vanilla, pea-green icing and candied fruit

It’s not all ancient temple ruins, baroque hill towns and drop-dead-gorgeous beaches. Such is the epicurean clout, nous and diversity of this Mediterranean heavyweight that it’s perfectly feasible to simply eat your way around Sicily and its ocean-fueled archipelagos.

Spaghetti ai ricci in sea-urchin sauce, swordfish carpaccio on a seafront terrace, veg-spiked arancini and primeval offal at a market: whatever the time, place or occasion, Sicily cooks up traditional dishes and street snacks bursting with seasonal flavor and top-quality island produce.

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Fish and shellfish abound in this sun-spun kitchen. Over the centuries successive waves of invaders, poverty and deprivation have spiced things up with foreign flavors and smart tricks. And in the face of a changing climate, innovative Sicilian farmers and winemakers experiment with new ways to grow old crops – and find new crops to replace old crops.

Pair all this with the island’s feisty line-up of cooks – Michelin-starred god, third-generation trattoria chef, wizened and oh-so-wise nonna (grandma) – and it’s a match made in earthy, honest, foodie heaven.

Celebrate Sicilian culinary tradition in a Slow Food trattoria

Each town, village, even mountain, has its own specialties and traditional dishes mirroring the land, season and ancestral heritage. Celebrate the differences with pasta alla norma (pasta with eggplant, ricotta, basil and tomatoes) in a traditional trattoria in Catania, pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines, pine nuts, raisins and wild fennel) in Palermo and agghiotta di pesce spada (swordfish with pine nuts, sultanas, capers, olives and tomatoes) in Messina.    

Where to try it: Slow Food–endorsed Me Cumpari Turiddu in Catania, Buatta or Ferro di Cavallo in Palermo and Casa & Putia in Messina.  

Pasticcerie treats include cassata, a sweet cake with pea-green icing © Wead / Shutterstock

Sink your teeth into a virgin’s breast

Honestly, Sicily’s enticing array of sweets and cakes crafted from homegrown almonds, pistachios, spices and centuries of know-how is reason alone to never leave.

Top prize for instant seduction goes to minne di vergine (“virgin’s breast”) – an individual iced-white cake with a cherry on the top. Other naughty-but-nice bites sold at pasticcerie

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