Sunday, January 22, 2012

Buona Domenica: What's Cooking Sunday?

Meal scene from The Big Night

Sicilians like most Italians, love Sundays.  Saturdays are often work days for Italians, so Sundays are a true day of relaxation and always festive. Meals are more formal than the rest of the week, often shared with guests or extended family.  The day unfolds in a cacophony of chatter and laughter; fragrant kitchen aromas mix with the sounds of cooking, and the unmistakable feeling of something special in the air. One of my favorite Italian singers, growing up in Rome, was Antonello Venditti, whose song Buona Domenica really captures the mood of the day. You can listen to Buona Domenica           at:

Special dishes that require longer preparation or more expensive ingredients wait for Sunday, and in our home, dessert is always served on that day. Fresh flowers were purchased for our home every Sunday, a custom which I continue to this day.

On Sundays, typically, someone is assigned the task of picking up cannoli or other dessert such as cassata, a Sicilian sponge cake made with ricotta, marzipan, candied fruit and liqueur.  These are purchased from bakeries that are part of coffee bars.  Pastries are packaged with elegant paper and ribbon and have the festive look of a gift.

Cannoli from Bar Erice

In Sicily, cities and provinces, not to mention coffee bars bakeries, compete to make the best pasties in their region. In Trapani for example, the consensus is that best cannoli come from Bar Erice, in the small suburb of  Napola.  Along with its neighbor Dattilo, these two suburbs produce ricotta-filled cannoli of  leviathan proportion considered to be the best—certainly the largest--in western Sicily!  

Sundays hold another childhood memory for me as well—that of television programs of the state owned television and broadcast company, RAI.    The custom among Italian families prior to the late 1970’s, was to go on family outings on Sundays, often to the countryside. The oil embargo and economic downturn of the late 1970’s had a big impact on Italian lifestyle; the government sought to impose austerity measures, and television became a vehicle for accomplishing that. By providing up to 6 hours of continuous programming, a novelty at that time, the government enticed families to stay home and thus conserve gasoline.

The ad for Carosello reads:
"go to bed after Carosello"!
 My favorite childhood program, called Carosello, was broadcast daily from the late 1950’s to the late 1970’s. It  came on at 8pm and was a half hour program consisting of a series of product commercials. All Italian children knew that when Carosello was over, it was time to go to bed!   Done as vignettes or sketches in the style of musical theater, often comical or whimsical in nature, they now remind me of a tamer version of  TV commercials that appear for the Super Bowl.
In 1976, a variety and entertainment program called Domenica In was developed, with Corrado Mantoni at the helm, who is known in Italy simply as Corrado.   Domenica In helped launch many of Italy’s legendary television personalities and entertainers including the much beloved Pippo Baudo and is still on air today.  In 1985 an alternative to Domenica In, called Buona Domenica was developed and remained on air through 2008.  

So as you wind down your Sunday and cheer on the NFC champions

...I wish you all Buona Domenica ….and ciao a presto!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blues and Wine: American Soul and Sicilian Wine—Winter Magic in Sicily

Buon Anno! Welcome back and a very happy New Year to you!  I hope your holidays were filled with great company and great food!

My  kitchen, in particular this year, was graced by very special chefs, among which, my husband, my mother, and my talented sons and step children, who participated with me in creating many Sicilian delicacies--recipes which I have photographed and will share.

But first I'd like to begin the new year by telling you about an event unlike anything you’ve ever seen, taking place in my home town of Marsala and in Siracusa, this Friday January 20 - 23.  The  Blues and Wine Soul Festival, created  by musician Joe Castellano, has been an annual summer festival since its founding in 2003, and brings American blues, soul and gospel music to Sicily while promoting its wine industry.  
Joe Castellano has brought together  an 18 piece band composed of legendary musicians  who hail from bands such as Earth Wind and Fire, Ray Charles, Carlos Santana, The Blues Brothers, Tom Jones, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Tower of Power, Tito Puentes, Neville Brothers, The Allman Brothers, and many more.  (
Temple of Concordia, Agrigento
I stumbled upon this festival while visiting Agrigento with my sons in 2004.   That year the event was promoted as  E’ Tempio Dei Blues, a play on the Italian word “tempo” meaning time and “tempio” meaning temple. Held among the Greek ruins of   Agrigento, the festival unfolded against a backdrop of breathtaking scenery and the velvety cobalt skies of our Sicilian summer nights.
An event at the Greek Theater, Siracusa
This year’s 3-day festival is an unprecedented “special winter edition” that promises to engulf the senses.  Fabulous music, paired with excellent wines from some of Sicily’s most noted and historic wineries will be featured, along with extraordinary regional foods. Participants can sample wines at night while listening to some seriously inspired music and attend workshops on wine tasting and wine making during the day as well as enjoy the local sights.
This event has been so successful that it is being officially adopted by Sicily’s  Assessorato Regionale al Turismo e allo Spettacolo, the commission responsible for the promotion of events and tourism in Sicily, as a destination point for Sicilian tourism.   
Should your travels bring you to Sicily, be sure to bookmark this event.
Ciao a presto!