Dear Friends of Slow Food,
I had been thinking for some time about visiting a new area of Sicily which is of great agricultural importance. I had heard many comments from journalists regarding Pachino, the land where the best tomatoesin the world are grown according to great Italian chefs.
When I arrived in Catania, Isabella, a friend of an old friend from my cruise ship days who is a stem cell researcher as well as an enologist, greeted me. She took me to Marzamemi near Noto where I had lunch with an old winemaker, Angelo Paterno, at a new winery. We dined on local fish and drank the estate’s truly excellent wines among which was a dry Moscatodi Noto as well as others. Marzamemi, a small town only ninety miles north of Africa and a place where fishermen still catch tuna with lines is also the town where Malena with Monica Bellucci was filmed. This is truly a beautiful place to visit-“a must see.”
For the last twenty years, Piero Selvaggio of Valentino Restaurant in Santa Monica has encouraged me to visit Modica. After spending my first night there, I woke up the next morning to a view of the Baroque city that seemed to be handmade of ceramic, making it one of the most beautiful Italian provincial towns. I would certainly go back. If you want to fall in love with Sicily, go to this unknown area with its taste of old Sicily.
Isabella organized tastings of local products from small, high quality companies and introduced me to many authentic farmers and people form the land. I want to share you with some of these products, many of which are exquisite and impressive.
*Al-Cantára*, Catania, in the foothills of Etna: wines including pinot nero, nero d’avola, cabernet sauvignon, gewurtztraminer, and moscato. Also olive oil.
*Lagouveri*, Gela: Nero d’avola.
*Casa Don Puglisi*, Modica: A non-profit chocolate maker established by the priest Don Puglise for women who are victims of domestic abuse. It is a refuge for these women where they can earn a fair wage for their work. All proceeds from the sale of the chocolate are invested in helping these women. The cold production process they use maintains the full flavor of each ingredient. Instead of melting the cocoa, it is *cold-pressed with sugar granules,* maintaining the purity of its flavor and giving it its unqiue, brittle texture.
*Genesis*, Avola: limoncello and other liquerus, prepared pasta sauces, pesto, olives, marmalades, condiments such as peppers, garlic, olives, tomatoes, and onions preserved in jars under olive oil.
*Ragusano*, Ragusa: Ragusano cheese, a soft, smooth cheese, one of the oldest cheeses produced in the province of Ragusa, is smooth and compact with a rind of a golden yellow, straw color which becomes darker with age. Ragusano is produced exclusively from uncooked whole cow’s milk and goat or lamb rennet, and the cows are fed predominantly fresh forage grown on the Iblean Highlands. It is aged and hung by a rope.
If you have a chance to travel to Sicily, I would highly recommend visiting Pacchino to explore the wonderful flavors of Sicily.