You may know what Italian food is in general, but a select few can actually point a finger on what Sicilian cuisine stands for. Having visited Sicily last December, I can give you a quick rundown of what you are looking for: culturally diverse, passionate, fresh, abundant, and rich food.
Think of Sicily’s soils, one of the most prolific lands ever, its produce, wines, and fruits rich of the volcanic minerals and the warm sun that shine all year long, their seas contain the best variety of the mediterranean. The island’s landscapes are breath-taking, from its beaches to its moon-like volcanic terrain. Imagine walking into one of the oldest open air markets in the world. From fresh fish to produce, you find it all, at incredible prices and with a taste that you will never forget.
Do you want to be there yet?
Piccola Cucina in Italian means “small kitchen”. Both locations are small, as the name implies, but in New York City we are lucky enough to have two of them (with a third location planned for the fall). Both are owned by Philip Guardione, who started them back in 2008 because he thought that there were not enough authentic Sicilian-focused restaurants in the city that never sleeps. His mission, you could say, is to spread authentic Sicilian food around the world, one small kitchen at a time.
Luigi Cetrulo leads the kitchen of the Spring Street location. While he sat with us to talk about his passion for food, he cooked some traditional dishes for us, which became instant favorites for me and Alaina, whose heritage shares the same land as Philip’s: pasta con ricotta salata e capperi (pasta with riccotta and capers), arancini (rice ball containing beef, peas & mozzarella), polpettine alla griglia con caponata (grilled octopus), sarde alla beccafico (sardines). Luigi imports most of the ingredients from Italy, and what he cannot import, he gets locally and seasonally from nearby farms or even the Union Square market, which offers plenty of opportunities to be creative. Luigi makes you feel at home, and when you leave, it’s like having to leave Sicily after being on a short visit for a few hours.
At the Prince Street location, Karol Faina makes sure that all food is delivered with the most authentic flavor. For us he served a seared tuna dish called “ne cotto ne’ crudo” – not raw neither cooked – followed by some cannoli filled with delicious imported Sicilian ricotta and world famous Bronte’s pistachios and espresso coffee. What a way to end the night! We can go home and dream of that far land but know that we can go back to it anytime we wish for a good authentic arancini or a shot of limoncello!
Photo Credits: Mauro Clerici