Sicily: Brioche e Granita for Breakfast

By Tarynne

Ah Sicily.

The largest island in the Mediterranean, extending from the south of Italy and snuggled up against North Africa, has been the little chunk o’volcanic earth we’ve temporarily called home. Don’t let Lonely Planet fool you on your next European vacay, luring you to travel south a few extra degrees latitude for the ‘legendary’ nightlife. The nightlife is beyond pathetic and couldn’t complete with a solo jam session in your own car (dang, I miss those though). We are almost ashamed to report there are few positive things about the place in general, hence the Look Backs on Africa. Okay I’m kidding.

But the food, well the food is awesome. Awesomely amusing to a dietitian (or anyone who wants to claim they’ve never required Spanx to zip their pants) and is truly unique and therefore deserves to be mentioned. Note that James disagrees and still thinks the food is absolute crap. I’m not saying I’m applauding the place for their so-called innovative culinary brilliance, but rather for humoring me by eating granita e brioche for breakfast.

If someone were to ask me ‘What is Sicilian cuisine?’ I’d have to divide my answer into two, explaining about the cultural – I guess ‘street food’ – that really comprises 99.9 percent of a locals’ diet, and unmentioned local foods sourced from the island that honestly made my month.   

In general, Sicilian food is Italian, infused with Spanish, Greek and Arab influence. So yeah, it’s (in my opinion) the best of global cuisines all combined into interesting creations and crammed into this 10,000 square mile pile anchored in the Mediterranean.

So here’s what’s up with the food in Sicily. The most popular foods we encountered daily were:

Arancine (Arancini) – Rice Balls

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They received their name because they look like little oranges (arancina) in shape and color. These little guys originated around 10th century in Sicily (during the Kalbid ruling), and are typically filled with rice, meat, mozzarella cheese and/or peas. We always saw them sitting side-by-side in the display next to cone-shaped variants.

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Inside was always a suprise (Italian is more difficult to learn than we thought), but could include anything from curry chicken to pistachio, aubergine, or mushrooms. Or heck, something that still today remains a mystery. James said it was good though.

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Granita e Brioche – Ice Cream and Bomb Bread

These two are Sicily’s hottest couple, but it’s obvious that both are quite awesome on their own.

Granita. It should be known that this is Sicily’s greatest contribution to the planet (James might remark it is the only). The granita here is a lactards best friend, and honestly can’t be found elsewhere. You might wonder if I’m exaggerating as much as Fodors about their highlighted sights. Well, typical granita is some crushed ice drowning in sugar and reminding you of some early morning regretful 7-11 purchase.

Well, this granita is velvety smooth and honestly I had to ask many times if they were absolutely sure they didn’t sneak some milk in it. It’s like creamy sorbet. But better. It’s lighter. It’s refreshing. It even comes in half a dozen flavors: traditional lemon, chocolate, coffee, almond, strawberry, pistachio, hazelnut, and a few others I have no idea what they were and didn’t need to test since I was quite ecstatic about my almond/chocolate combo.

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Then there’s Sicilian gelato. Again, it’s a decadent, cool burst of heaven that somehow is light and fluffy. From the smile on this guy, I’d say it must be as good as the granita.

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While any tourist would probably agree that granita or gelato alone is plenty, the locals order up a brioche so they can basically assemble an Italian hamburger – gelato sandwiched between a sliced brioche.

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How every single person here doesn’t have diabetes, I have no idea. Brioche is as sweet as a Betty Crocker cake. It’s made from flour, lots of eggs, butter, milk and sugar.

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So this little combo of gelato and brioche is – get this – a typical Sicilian breakfast. Pretty sure Sicily wins in the Breakfast of Champions category.

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I can’t say either of us tried the following, but they were everywhere and were fun to look at and photograph, so have at this food porn:

Cannolo-Sicilian Cannoli

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These little fried pastry tubes filled with ricotta originated in Sicily. They are almost always seen dressed up with candied orange peels, chocolate and pistachios, and then fairy dusted with some powdered sugar.

Cassatella -Breast of Saint Agatha

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Weird little story behind this one, but they were in every single shop so we made the mistake of asking. Something along the lines of  Saint Agatha (Patron Saint of Catania) giving her virginity to God and being persecuted so they sliced off her boobs. Voila! Apparently you have nuns baking boobie pastries.

Cornetto Di Mandorla – Croissant with Almond Paste

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Cornettos, Cornettos, Cornettos – Croissants

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Tortina Delizia – Cake with  Almond Paste, Sponge Cake, Jam and Pistachio

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Also at Etoile D’Or we drooled at these:

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One of our other favorite spots during our month-long stay was Cafe Del Duomo were we skillfully crept on these little guys:

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Well we caved. What must’ve taken hours to create, James enjoyed in a single bite.

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Okay two bites.

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Street Markets

So on the other end of this over-the-top decadent and indulgent foods, surprisingly there existed (my favorite thing about Sicily) the fruit and veggie street markets. These markets were held every morning except Sunday and were bigger and more badass than Westlake Whole Foods. We could oftentimes go and spend less than 5 euros each and walk out with four days worth of amazing fruits, vegetables and legumes (easily a $100 trip at home). Thanks to Europes’ most active volcano blowing her top a few too many times, the volcanic soil is extremely rich and lends to some amazing produce. These are what I witnessed as the most abundant local Sicilian foods:

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My favorite part of every day was buying what was available at the markets and trying to create something new, fun and edible.

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Check out our recipe pages as we continue to post our creative messes there!

So that’s Sicilian food. Traditional street food, cafes and bakeries offer up some extremely enticing decadent treats, whereas daily street markets are overflowing with ripe, rich, and unbelievably fresh produce that’s dirt-cheap.

Sicilian food…definitely my favorite part of Sicily.

About Tarynne Mingione

Registered Dietitian (RD, CD), Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT 200)
This entry was posted in Italy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Sicily: Brioche e Granita for Breakfast

  1. maddiehart says:

    These pictures are absolutely gorgeous! You’re absolutely right about Sicilian food, they have some amazing, decedent sweets, but also an abundance of fresh produce right at your fingertips.

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