I can’t spend enough time in Sicily. I am a bit bias given two of my grandparents were born near Napoli and the other two near Siracusa (Syracuse)…so when my friend, KBT, and I squeezed in a food crawl in Siracusa I was elated.
The cool sea air of the nearby fishing port engulfed us as we walked to Ortigia. The small island of Ortigia is the historical heart of the city and it’s where you’ll find the market located on Via De Benedictis and the surrounding streets.
A seemingly endless spread of mussels, calamari and swordfish is displayed beside piles of cheese, spices and salami. Cleavers crash down on white cutting boards, vendors shout and shoppers breeze by; I was mesmerized.
Every five steps we stopped to munch on Sicilian snacks. Buttery raw shrimp, fresh ricotta and nuts were on our hit list. Some of the best pistachios I’ve ever tasted are from Bronte. I meant to stop myself after I bought the first pound of these lustrous green gems but before I knew it, I had a two pounds of pistachios, two bags of Avola almonds and a sack of sun-dried tomatoes in tow.
Next stop…Andrea Borderi’s shop. Tables of pear-shaped smoked provola, wheels of pecorino and small rounds of ricotta salata (lightly salted milk curd that is pressed and dried; it is nutty and mild tasting) were placed beside cases of braided mozzarella.
Andrea offered us a slice of peppery sheeps’ cheese and his special tricotta (ricotta cooked three times) drizzled with olive oil and oregano over thin crisp bread. The velvety milky bite sprinkled with perfumed green specks vanished quickly in our mouths.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted rectangular blocks of aged cheese – Ragusano. This was the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) cheese that I was hoping to find; a specialty from this region, it is made with whole milk from Modicana cows which are reared in the province of Ragusa.
Andrea eagerly offered us a taste. As he carved away at the cracked golden-yellow chunk, it appeared as if it would crumble under the weight of the knife. He handed us a generous unbroken piece. It was piquant like aged provolone and moist with oil. I added two pounds of vacuum sealed perfection to my expanding baggage and we were on our way. We were late for our lunch reservation but that’s a tale for another day.Borderi Shop Via De Benedictis, n. 6 Ortigia Market, Siracusa