An afternoon packed with flavours of different types of Italian cheese might seem too heavy a meal to digest, but the authenticity and richness of Sicilian cuisine does the exact opposite. It leaves people wanting for more. The creaminess of ricotta cheese in macaroni, the buttery flavour of burrata—a fresh Italian cow milk cheese made from mozzarella and cream—with chargrilled fresh fruits, and the hard, slow-ripened grainy texture of grana padano in a classic lamb dish titillate the senses like nothing else. Sicilian cuisine, which is often overlooked in the larger context of Italian flavours, is different from its counterparts in multiple ways—think pasta-making, use of ingredients, etc.
The highlight of the cuisine lies in the way a few ingredients are put together to create a delectable dish so that the taste of each ingredient shines through. The effort to retain the original flavours and tastes of ingredients is in stark contrast to the flavours of globalised forms of signature dishes and fusion food, where authenticity is lost in complexity.
And Sicilians take massive pride in doing complete justice to their culinary skills this way. “I think there is a trend towards globalisation and fusion food, but the kind of feedback we’ve got from the press and guests at our restaurants in Sicily is that people are trying to go back to their roots, and they are looking for authenticity in recipes, ingredients,” said chef Agostino D’Angelo, while presenting a variety of Sicilian dishes at Vetro, The Oberoi, Mumbai, recently as part of a culinary showcase. “Of course, the techniques that I deploy in my cooking are modern and taken from all across the globe, but I don’t try to twist too much… I cook with a lot of local ingredients and keep my food simple, but packed with flavour,” added D’Angelo from Ristorante Oliviero housed in the acclaimed Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea in Sicily.
This was the chef’s first visit to the Indian subcontinent and he was delighted by the acceptance of Sicilian cuisine by the Indian audience, which usually prefers an Indianised version of most dishes. As part of the showcase, D’Angelo prepared a burrata and basil cream with chargrilled fresh fruits as the appetiser. The burrata was sourced from a local priest in Mumbai and despite its heavy cheese content, it was in sync with the citrus and charred flavours of pineapple, plum and apple. Macaroni with eggplant, tomato sauce and baked ricotta, which was part of the main course, gave diners a surreal taste of the flavours of authentic Italian pasta. A pistacchio parfait with chilli dark chocolate sauce made for a perfect dessert, as it was light on the stomach and delicious to devour. “I’m lucky I grew up in Sicily because our culture is very rich. Plus, I grew up in a family where food has always been a priority. So everytime I cook, I always have some flavour at the back of my head because I can still remember my family
cooking all those dishes at their authentic best,”
Prior to presenting his select Sicilian dishes at the award-winning restaurant, the chef held a masterclass to impart pasta-making skills. While most people consider pasta to be synonymous with the whole of Italy, D’Angelo brought to light the distinction in the way pasta is made within Italy. “In Sicily, which is towards the south of Italy, we make pasta with just water. However, in the north of Italy, they make pasta with eggs. People think that the cuisine and way of cooking are the same throughout the country when, in fact, in the whole of Italy, there are many differences in the style of cooking, recipes and ingredients,” D’Angelo noted.