Sicily, part 2 (food edition: Salina and Milazzo)

If you go to Italy, go with the flow, especially at mealtime. If you place an order and your server wants you to try something totally different, do it—even if it’s the exact opposite of what you had in mind. They know what’s going on back in the kitchen better than you do, and if they insist on switching things up, it’s because they want you to enjoy your meal!

Here’s an example for you: on our way to Salina, we stopped in Milazzo. We bought our tickets for the ferry, and looked around for a decent place to eat near the dock.

Across the street was a little cafe with outside tables, so we rolled our bags over and sat down, planning to order some sandwiches.

A woman came out and insisted that no, we didn’t want the sandwiches, we should absolutely have the pizza instead, which was much, much more special and better prepared than the sandwiches…and she was right, of course.

milazzo pizza

Besides the pizza, our waitress gave us free desserts (cannoli and casata), plus a big hug and two kisses each when we left. Here she is:

Casablanca lady, Milazzo

“Mangiate!” Casablanca lady, Milazzo

…and here is half of my pizza, before I ate it all up: fresh capers, anchovies, olives, oregano…7 euros…

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Milazzo pizza. Notice the fork (upper left) with mangled, melted tines. It was that hot.

We paid the bill, and hopped on the ferry to Salina, one of the seven Aeolian Islands (Isole Eolie).

I’ve been to Stromboli, Salina, and Panarea. The other islands on my list to visit are Vulcano, Lipari (the biggest of the bunch), Filicudi, and Alicudi. All are unique and very beautiful.

This is a depiction of Stromboli, currently my favorite. It’s the most bohemian of the islands, and is the only one of the Aeolians with an active volcano, which you can see erupting in the background here…

Hercules rescuing a woman from getting spanked by an octopus, plus a lizard. Salina house tile.

Hercules rescuing a lady from getting spanked by an octopus. Plus a lizard. House tile, Salina.

One of the neighbors interpreted the scene on that tile for me (minus the spanking part).

And here’s the real Stromboli (on the left), as seen from a boat near Panarea:

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Stromboli, seen from the water off Panarea

…I can’t resist showing you another photo of Stromboli from the ferry on our way to Salina. Look at how deep navy blue the water is!

smokin' Stromboli (those clouds are from the volcano)

smokin’ Stromboli (those clouds are from the volcano!)

And now here’s Lipari, as seen from Salina…notice the ship in the background? It’s delivering fresh water to the island, a precious commodity there. There are no fresh water sources on the islands. It’s strictly ships or cisterns. Crazy, right?

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view of Lipari from Salina, looking out of i cinque balconi hotel

Just like the rest of Sicily, on the Aeolians growing wild you’ll find fennel, olive trees, caper bushes, blackberries (gelsi in Italian; blackberry-flavored gelato and granita are seasonal treats), and prickly pear cacti (also known as Christmas cacti), the fruit of which will stain your clothes and your fingertips deep fuchsia and are known for their therapeutic properties, in addition to being yummy to eat.

wild caper bush, Sicily (Ortigia)

wild caper bush, Sicily (Ortigia)

heading down to the beach at Pollara, Salina

heading down to the beach in Pollara, Salina. The film “Il Postino” took place here.

Salina is the only place where I’ve seen fresh tomatoes and red onions tied and hung outside for storage. The locals told me it’s only done in Salina this way–nowhere else–and that it keeps the vegetables fresh for a very long time:

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Ancient al fresco veggie storage, i cinque balconi hotel, Salina

While we were on Salina, we ate three times at arguably the best restaurant on the island, ‘nni Lausta. The chef, a 20-year old wunderkind, works in Paris off-season. If I find out where I will let you know. We loved the anchovies and tuna carpaccio from ‘nni Lausta…

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A couple of days later, we went back for a long, lazy lunch with our friends. Just when I thought we were done, and I was feeling perfectly full but not horribly overstuffed, this little number comes out of the kitchen…

Whole squid with breadcrumbs, barfing up some caponata. It tasted better than it looks.

Dig in: whole squid with breadcrumbs and caponata. It tasted better than it looks.

We became friends with Alberto, our waiter at ‘nni Lausta, and hung out with him quite a bit. Here he is, a bit of a blur scurrying around, making espresso for us around midnight in the apartment he shared with the chef and the other kitchen staff from the restaurant:

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cutie Alberto

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If you go to Salina, splurge and eat a meal or two at ‘nni Lausta. Chances are Alberto will be somewhere much more cosmopolitan and bustling than Salina. But who knows? Maybe not. Alberto, if you’re reading this, please come visit us soon…vieni a trovarci presto, per favore!

Ciao!

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