Well the drive to Mondello was an experience. I sat in front and I can now see why Alison cringed when I drove the Saab. Narrowly missing wing mirrors and road markings, tail ending cars and suicide braking. Will we or will we not crash when we merge. I struggled to start a conversation but he spoke no English and was one of those men whom conversation when you are driving was ”bastardo, tetardo, fuck,”. Best concentrate on the sights. And they were many.
Can’t wait to try the food here. The street food is renowned and I am drawn to pani ci meusa (a sandwich made of fried beef spleen served with Sicilian lemon and caciocavallo cheese), yeah beef spleen. There are also sea urchins which I will definitely give a miss but lots of fish.
We had walked past it yesterday and glanced at the m3nu but all I could see was fish, fish, fish, so we moved on. A guy standing out from cooking on a two burner gas stove , surrounded by little dishes of seasonings, herbs and freshly diced vegatables. Trattoria da Piero. We woke late. I had tried the plug in gizmo to deter mosquitos but the fumes triggered an asthma attack so I had moved out to the balcony and woke to a thunderstorm and heavy rain avoiding the need for a morning shower. It is a bit of a problem showering and washing because one of the many ‘rules’ of the house is to turn off the gas water heater overnight or when we leave. Getting it started again is a bit of a hit and miss affair and twice I have started a shower only to get lathered up and the water goes cold. Trudging back out the balcony I find that the pilot light has gone out and I have to start all over with soap running into my eyes.
Anyway we trudge downtown around 1300hrs and I am prepared to give fish a go. Much to my delight there is meat on the menu but we start with an octopus salad. That the large pot on one of the burners turns out to contain three octopi simmering in a broth of stock liberally spiced and dashes of lemon. One is hauled out and dissected in front of our eyes, smothered in pepper , salt, lemon juice and olive oil, and that folks is your starter. Alison has the grilled sea bass and I , the Angus beef with one of the best simple salads I have tasted in a restaurant. To top it off the beef, oysters, fish , vegetables are actually bought off a truck outside the shop, AND, amongst all this the three staff take turns cooking, waiting, and entertaining the guests. The cook even pulls customers over to stir something, or look in a pot, or smell a jar of something just arrived at the restaurant. All very entertaining and the food is seriously good. I will be back and will probably be tempted to do fish.
What was interesting and he let me have a smell of it was a can of tonka beans, a South American member of the pea family which is dried and looks like a big coffee bean. He explains that he likes cooking with them (shaved) and they go well with fish. They are also put in ice cream and deserts. They are illegal in the USA and several top restaurants have been raided by the FDA. Apparently some Italian liqueurs contain the active ingredient is coumarin which the misguided food police believe is a blood thinner, hence the ban.