A Table on the Mediterranean

This week a new article for Luxury Travel Magazine, ‘The Spirit of Sicily: A Journey Into Italy’s Next Frontier‘ was published. Two special boutique hotels, and perhaps more importantly, the people behind these hotels, are described in detail in the article. Here’s a sneak preview of the full piece:

From the moment I first stepped foot in Italy an infatuation began. Each city, from Florence to Venice, was more fascinating than the last. My desire to explore Italy’s furthest reaches recently brought me to a new frontier. During my trip to Sicily I was forced to throw away any preconceived notions I had about the island: luxury has arrived. Boutique hotels are marrying personality and passion in corners of Sicily that could easily be overlooked. But you shouldn’t – experienced travelers will know that these are precisely the places that need to be seen now.

Taormina, Sicily.

It is a challenge in these articles to select the few experiences that will ‘make the cut’ for a piece that is roughly 10 paragraphs long. Inevitably, some interesting anecdotes get left on the cutting room floor. In the example of this Sicily article, one story I was itching to tell was about a small trattoria in Marina di Ragusa, along the Mediterranean Sea.

One sunny afternoon, we hopped in the rental car, and leaving behind heavenly La Moresca for an afternoon, we set out for a restaurant in a nearby town that a friend had recommended. Before we even left Marina di Ragusa, a certain restaurant along the waterfront caught our attention. I don’t know if it was the covered, open deck with tables overlooking the crashing surf or the crowds of local-looking people flooding the door at 1pm, but I was convinced that this was the place I wanted to have lunch.

A Table at Trattoria da Carmelo

A 1/2 bottle of local white wine was poured and put on ice as we read the menu at Trattoria da Carmelo. In a country like Italy, where I genuinely love all the food and flavors, it didn’t matter that I couldn’t decipher half of the menu. This has resulted in some of my most delicious meals: when I ordered blindly and was surprised at what was placed in front of me. This time around, I had an idea of what I wanted to sample: seafood.

On the antipasto list, there was a dish called ‘mixed plate’. In Italian, my partner asked the waitress what the mixed plate consisted of? With a smile and emphatic hand gestures she replied, ‘Pesce, certo!’ (Fish, of course!) We were sold. The plate that came out fulfilled my dreams of a long lunch over Sicilian cuisine. There was marinated squid (and I generally don’t even love squid), stuffed clams, small local salty fish, fish cakes, and warm bread to soak up the flavorful sauces. Lemon brightened everything – and the plate-for-two was garnished with fresh chopped parsley.

Next came the pasta. A thick, al dente, linguini with smoked prosciutto, mixed seafood, and chili was served in a quaint little bowl. Each bite was equally flavorful and packed a zing that left me once again reaching for the soaking-power of the bread basket. With an Italian background, I may be predisposed to love pasta, but as I sat on that deck, listening to the waves break beside me, I couldn’t remember the last time I had so thoroughly enjoyed every bite of a meal. It was so delicious that each mouthful warranted a range of sound effects to portray my satisfaction. And all this, just stumbled upon, on the way to a different restaurant.

After a light dessert of fresh fruit (strawberries and pineapple slices) we finished with a strong coffee. Our waitress seemed pleased with our pleasure, and left us to enjoy the sea breezes and the lingering flavors. These are the moments that define a vacation, that we will remember fondly the next time we’re working late or the to-do list endlessly grows. I had a smile on my face for the rest of the day, and when I left the restaurant, I left a big American-style tip on the table.

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