We had the rare luck of snagging a ticket to the latest iteration of Grant Achatz’ eclectic Next restaurant, Sicily (for once, sitting at a computer and hitting “refresh” 400 times had a payoff). We visited Sicily on our honeymoon, so we are highly anticipating Achatz’ take on Sicilian home cooking. Our ticket is for this week, so you can expect a report back soon. In the meantime, check out our report of Next’s Thailand menu from last year. Update: Check out our full Next Sicily review here.
We here at ETW have a special affinity for Sicilian food, which was only confirmed on our honeymoon trip to Sicily where we encountered amazing street food, pasta and citrus (more food reports coming soon). Williams Sonoma has a special feature on Sicilian food, including recipes and sample menus, including some of our favorites. Check out the orange salad, something so simple, but so satisfying.
Filed under Links, Recipes
March 19th is St. Joseph’s Day, a holiday celebrated in Southern Italy, or in communities of southern Italian Immigrants. Naturally, having the proper food is a huge part of St. Joseph’s Day, with many churches even constructing elaborate St. Joseph’s Day altars full of food. We’ve written previously on the most famous St. Joseph’s Day food – the fried sweet Zeppole – so this year we wanted to introduce another holiday dish – Pasta di San Guiseppe. There are many variations on the recipes – but at its core it is a dish of pasta and breadcrumbs. The pasta dishes made on this day are typically meatless to represent the famines experienced in Sicily. The breadcrumbs represent sawdust, which is symbolic of the profession of St. Joseph, carpentry. Another popular dish for St. Joseph’s Day is Pasta con Sarde (Pasta con Sardi in Sicilian) – pasta with Sardines [another version here].
3317 N. Harlem Ave.
As Italians, both L and M consider ourselves experts at cannolis and other Italian sweet treats like cassata and sfogliatelle. One of our favorite places to get cannoli is Palermo Bakery, which specializes in Sicilian baked goods. We are heading to Sicily this fall – and are ready for pastry overload.
Zeppole by Caleb Lost
We here at ETW do a St. Joseph’s Day post every year, mainly as a reason to feature zeppole, a delicious custard-filled doughnut. Currently I (L) am in a location where the zeppole landscape is unknown to me, so I’ll be up bright an early to see if I can find any at the local bakeries. But in the meantime here’s a recipe from Giada.
Happy St. Joseph’s Day! Why not celebrate with a delicious Zeppole? I got this one from Bennison’s Bakery (1000 Davis in Evanston).
Filed under Holidays, Note
We returned to Pasticceria Natalina, and as always, came away as happy campers. Our snack of choice on this trip was the tongue-twisting southern Italian favorite sfogliatelle which translates to ‘many layers’. That pretty much sums up the dish, it’s multi-layered fried sweet puff pastry filled with ricotta cream. Pasticceria Natalina’s version ($4.95) was flaky and delicious and the ricotta filing was spiked with almonds and tangy Sicilian orange peel. In a word – heavenly (though good thing it didn’t come with nutritional facts).
1000 Davis St.
I got THE LAST zeppole today at Bennison’s Bakery in Evanston. You can see it at right on my poor webcam (real digicam is broken). A zeppole basically consists of a filled, fried donut-type pastry. For $2, Bennison’s zeppole was huge, fried and awesome. Their zeppole are filled with the same cream filing as their cannolis. There were strawberry and cherry topped varieties but this cherry one was the last straggler.
Following my post on St. Paddy’s day eats, I have to mention St. Joseph’s Day, a holiday in Italy which is accompanied by a delicious treat called the Zeppole. A zeppole is a fried donut-like pastry that is filled with jam or cream and topped with powdered sugar. They are traditionally made especially for St. Joseph’s Day. About.com has a simple recipe, as well as an extensive history of the humble zeppole.
St. Joseph’s Day (March 19) is one of the biggest holidays in Sicily (and some other parts of Southern Italy). Joseph is the patron saint of Sicily since people say that in the middle ages peasants prayed to him and he ended a drought. Now, in remembrance of this feat, some Sicilians create altars full of food and plenty in honor of the day. Fava beans, the crop St. Joseph saved, are popular, as are citrus fruits, which happen to be prolific in Sicily. The tradition has spread to places with large Sicilian immigrant populations, especially New Orleans. There is a lot of interesting history of Louisiana altars (like the one at right) at the Houston Institute for Culture.
This year, I found a list of places with “St. Joseph Tables” in Chicagoland in the Sun Times. I imagine it would be a cool experience to go to one.
So We were in Belmont…kind of close to Andersonville (…but not really). Close enough, however, to merit a return trip to Pasticceria Natalina. We visited the Pasticcieria a few weeks ago, and were greatly impressed by the quality of the goods. When we went back, we were greeted with a completely new selection of pastries, many of them being chocolate. There were also awesome almond horn cookies as free samples.
We selected the Tartufi alla Panna and Cannoncini. The tartufi alla panna was a generously-sized cream puff filled with chocolate cream and dusted with cocoa powder and powdered sugar. The pastry shell was light and a little chewy and the cream was delicate and airy. The cannoncini (right) was a flaky cannoli-like pastry covered with chunks of rock sugar and filled with a dark chocolate ganache. Both pastries were delicious, and as chocolate lovers we appreciated the rich, dark chocolate fillings.
Seriously, can this place do any wrong?
Pasticceria Natalina [Closed]
5406 N. Clark
Italian bakeries are plentiful, but one that specializes in purely Sicilian creations is unique. This small bakery in Andersonville is well worth a stop, both for its excellent pastries and the scarcity of its offerings. The eaters have been wanting to go to this bakery forever but this is the first time we ever managed to stop in. The store is small and simple, dominated by glass cases of pastries which present a small but eclectic array of choices (We hear they do an excellent cannoli, but by the time we got there, they were all out). When we walked in, we were immediately greeted by the warm and helpful young owner couple, so we felt comfortable asking for some recommendations. We settled on two pastries: Agostino (left) and Crostata di Noci (right).
Agostino was described as a flaky layered pastry (like a sfogliatella) filled with ricotta cream (identical to cannoli filling). The pastry was light and fluffy, and soft enough to absorb all the sweet flavors from the ricotta cream. The crostata di noci (literally “tart of nuts”) was filled with dark chocolate ganache and topped with sugared walnuts. That combination works well together, and this tart made the best of it. When we finished eating, we had a tough time deciding which pastry we liked better – meaning we’ll just have to go back and sample their other creations. If you find yourself in Andersonville even remotely craving a snack, Natalina is definitely worth a stop.