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Thursday, December 23, 2010

“THIS PART OF SICILY IS LIKE A PROTEIN FACTORY”

Having found pizza 8.5, we went to see grandma in Frigntini. I’d heard about Ristorante Maria Fidone from a man who let his choice to live in Noto be based largely on proximity to pastry chef Corrado Assenza so I followed through on the recommendation.

Maria Fidone is the spiritual cousin of Casalinga Benevento, one notch higher in quality and one notch less expensive. This is about as close as yo8u can get to eating at a Sicilian grandmother’s house without an invite from a Sicilian grandmother.

The exterior has a art deco look more at place in Florida than here but the interior has that peculiar no-frills look that allows a flat screen TV to qualify as a decoration.

There are few choices to make. Red or white is one and it will arrive in a carafe fitting to the number of people at your table. There’s no menu to choose from either, but just by answering in the affirmative to every question the waiter asks, you’ll be eating what grandma is making. You’ll be wildly happy.

I know we’re on to something special when house-cured olives arrive with a bit of mint, but realize how serious this place is with one bite of ravioli di ricotta con sugo di maiale - something that instantly becomes one of the best-prepared pasta dishes of my life. The pasta is almost see through while still retaining a bit of al dente crunch. The ricotta within is transformed, with a cloudy, almost flan-like texture.

“This part of Sicily is like a protein factory,” quips Francesco.

The meat in the sauce along with the tomatoes create an acidic tang that gives the place immediate momentum: the more you eat, the more you want to eat.

“There’s a precision to this that reminds me of my grandmother’s cooking,” says Francesco. In all of the meals we’ve shared together, he’s never complimented food like that.

We share a pork dish, also in the tomato sauce, and the meal is crowned by stewed rabbit with veggies - again, a hint of mint - and each element retaining its own flavor.

The kicker? It’s a steal. Dinner for two, including wine, fizzy water, several courses, coffee and a shot of grappa and a handshake from the waiter as we head out the door is 26 euros. Total. Thirteen euros each.

Memories of grandma and her untouchable cooking are provided free of charge.

If you don’t get to a restaurant like this in Sicily, you’re missing the point.

Ristorante Maria Fidone - MAP
Via Gianforma, 6
Frigintini (Modica)
+39 0932 901 135
www.mariafidone.com

Closed Monday. Cash only. Reserve ahead. Wednesday is vegetarian night.

Follow me on Twitter: @joe_diner and on Facebook.



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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

PIZZA IN COUGAR TOWN

FRIGINTINI, Sicily

Spurred by a comment from Sofia, I’ve pushed a new Sicilian pizza post up in the schedule!

I wish they made pizza in the daytime here.

Just driving these roads - the Ragusa province’s white, round-topped stone walls and the olive and carob trees behind them - are enough to know this is stunning countryside.

Good luck finding Frigintini - I went pizza hunting with my pal Francesco who grew up one town away and we had to turn around two or three times before finding the town and restaurant, Le Magnolie. I realize the place is in such a small town that to survive, it’s gotta consistently pull people in from the neighboring towns.

Inside, there’s nothing to indicate how they do that other than the ever growing herd of locals wearing those peculiar clothes that make their way down here, often leaving grown women dressing like 16 year olds for lack of options. Welcome to southern Sicily’s Cougar Town.

Nevertheless, the menu is dressed to impress. They’re serving coral colored mushrooms pulled from carob trees and on this day there’s a whole prix fixe menu based around the fungi. We’re here for the pizza, as it’s rumored to give Ristorante - Pizzeria Caravanserraglio (a.k.a. Pizza Nove) and Modica’s Il Contea (Pizza Otto) a run for their money.

F. and I split an order of the mushrooms, stew-like and wonderful, but the real star is the dense bread next to it. Drizzled with a bit of olive oil and downed with a sip of local beer, there’s a wonderful flavor of almonds that fills my mouth.

“I’ll be that’s from the oven,” says F., “They’ll use almond branches to fire it.”

I plow into the combination like there’s no tomorrow.

Pizza arrives - one proscuitto and rocket and one margherita - and we go quiet, shift gears and tuck in.

The proscuitto alone is worth the trip. Generously layered on and contrasted with the in-season rocket’s fiery snap, the combination is divine. This is destination pie.

“Let me tell you what you’re thinking,” says F.

I look up, remembering he’s there and nod.

“Otto punto cinque.”

Eight point five, indeed.


Ristorante Le Magnolie di Macauda Emanuela - MAP

Via Gianforma n.179
Frigintini Modica
+39 0932908136
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
www.ristorantelemagnolie.it

Follow me on Twitter: @joe_diner and on Facebook.



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