Our host at Villa Modica had been so wonderful, we wanted to show a bit of our appreciation by taking him and his wonderful family out to dinner on our last night. He brought us to Taverna Nicastro – a great local restaurant cooking the traditional dishes of Modica. They have been in operation under the same family since 1948 – 66 years. You don’t stay in business that long by serving mediocre food.
The restaurant is in Alta Modica – upper Modica – and probably would have been impossible for us to find on our own through the warren of narrow one-way streets in the area.
But when we did get there, a gastronomic treat awaited us.
After two weeks we had eaten some tremendous foods – local ingredients, hand-made regional specialties – and when we saw the menu, we knew we were in for more treats. The difficulty was going to be in deciding what to order. The problem was solved by just asking the waiter to bring us dinner.
The beauty of this approach was knowing we would get a representative sampling of the best foods on the menu. And we did.
Everywhere we ate, we ordered liters of house wine and it was almost always served in tumblers. While many places had extensive wine lists, we saw no reason to overspend when the house wines were always extremely good. I liked that the wines were in simple glasses. It relegated them back to where their place should be in the meal – an enhancement to a good meal – not the centerpiece of the meal. The wines never competed with what we were eating but were always a welcoming addition.
We started off with arancini and focaccia – two very traditional Sicilian antipasti. Every arancini we had on this trip was different. The concept remains the same, but every cook puts their own unique spin on it, making for some great food. These had sausage and chopped egg. What a flavor delight! The focaccia – totally unlike what we call focaccia here – is the same – every one different. These had either a red or white sauce and cheese, sausage, vegetables… Totally unique – and totally what I am going to be making soon!
Next was the requisite plate of local olives, eggplant, salami, cheeses – including fresh ricotta and fresh mozzarella – and fresher than fresh carrots. Everywhere we went, the olives were exceptional, and these were no exception. They’re all cured locally, and in many cases, are done in-house. The whole area is slow-food. Local, in season, fresh.
And then we had jellied pork. What a surprise! It was fun and unexpected.
Following was ricotta-stuffed ravioli in a tomato sauce. The sauce was make with pork and sausages and they were served later. The ricotta was fresh – as in fresh.
And following that, cavatelli with more fresh ricotta, cherry tomatoes, and wild fennel. Absolutely stellar. The flavors blended perfectly. Less is more – a mantra I have to keep repeating to myself.
Next came a platter of sausages and pork that were cooked in the tomato sauce. Fork-tender and heavenly.
And, finally, the house specialty – sweet and sour rabbit.
Potatoes, olives, carrots, celery, peppers, herbs, vinegar… and succulent chunks of rabbit. Everything about it was great – from the texture of the potatoes to the tanginess of the sauce. Some dishes are just meant to be – and this was one of them.
Finally, chocolate gelatto and cannoli. I ate before thinking about taking a photo.
This whole trip has been nothing but stellar foods served by wonderful people in homes and home-like settings. It was fitting that our last big meal complimented our first big meal – and that we were able to share the evening with our host and his lovely wife and children.