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Thursday, 27 May 2010

Review: La Piazzette - Caltagirone

La Piazzetta
Via Vespri, 20/A - Caltagirone (CT)
+39 0933 24178

3 out of 3 Stars
Dinner: 3 course meal,
typical Sicilian ; 45 euro for two including wine

Don't be put off by the name. La Piazzetta is not a pizzeria. Instead it is one of those typical restaurants found in country Sicilian towns that cannot but help serve only the most earthy, mouth watering and honest dishes.

La Piazetta is located in the home of traditional Sicilian ceramic art, Caltagirone, and is found a mere 150 metres or so from the famous Scala di Santa Maria del Monte (Staircase of Saint Maria), with its unique hand decorated ceramic features.  Although there were one or two signs indicating where to find La Piazzetta near the base of the Scala di Santa Maria it was not how we found this jewell. Instead we took the best option available whenever you find yourself hungry in a Sicilian village. You look for a group of three old men chatting in the street and you ask them where you can find the best "real local" (in Italian "dove si mangia bene qui vicino?")

Their first response will be at their home with their wife, who no doubt cooks better than anyone else in Sicily, but when you politely decline their invitation they will invariably tell you where the best local produce is cooked. As with any Sicilian village and town, there will always be innumerable places to eat well, but the personal approach will always have the locals directing you to the place that is closest on foot.

La Piazetta serves dishes derived from mainly local ingredients (would you want anything else in Sicily)...and generous servings at that. Upon being seated for a Sunday lunch, our order is taken by the chef and owner, a Sicilian with the great name, Brillantino. There was no use choosing anything from the menu because every dish looked tantalising, ranging from local wild boar to charcoaled artichokes. Instead we took the best option in this type of restaurant, and that was to ask the advice of Chef Brillantino who suggested for starters, the traditional bruschetta (heavy use of cherry tomotoes and only a hint of garlic for taste) and antipasto rustico (freshly made ricotta, lightly grilled, egg flour pieces with prosciutto and rosemary, local olives). From the first taste we knew that only the freshest ingredients were being used.

Knowing how large the main course would be, Brillantino suggested one plate of pasta to share between the two of us and understanding that we are big fans of the wild fennel found in Sicily, we were provided with a gnocchetti (actually a local pasta variety that was very similar) with ragu made from sausage (salsiccia) and wild fennel (finocchietto salvatico). To say that this was one of tha tastiest pasta dishes I have ever had would not be too far from the truth.

For main we had a roast pork leg (maialino arrosto) seasoned with rosemary and local herbs and lamb (aniello arrosto). Both dishes resembled the tremendous delicacy usually only found in dishes that are slow cooked. How they arrived at such a way is a local secret.  Both dishes were totally memorable with the roast pork making me think that while the Bavarians may have perfected roast pork, but the Sicilians added their own inimitable flair.

Even the carafe of house red was a good drop and complemented the hearty dishes on offer.

Antipasti were around 5 euro. Pasta was 7 euro and main was 8 euro. Total meal, including drinks and the refreshing home made limoncello to top it all off at the end of the session came to 42 euro for two. And this, my friends, is considered expensive in this part of the world.

Well recommended and a definite lunch or dinner stop while in Caltagirone, if not only to view the photos of Brillantino with various Italian models and showgirls on the wall.
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