Credit: Vicki Salemi
I know what you’re thinking. Sicily. As in Italy. Picky eater. Who, me?
She must be delusional, you’re thinking, amidst the delectable land of never-ending pasta with real tomato sauce (translation: simply crushed tomatoes). Interestingly, porpetta (meatball) is never served alongside its spaghetti sister. I digress.
Sicilian pizza in Sicily is known as, well, just pizza, and it’s amazing. I can’t get enough of bruschetta with basil. The extra virgin olive oil is so fresh it awakens dormant taste buds, and succulent tomatoes are so ripe and juicy your mouth begins to water at the mere sight of them.
And oh, simple watermelon! Vibrant and tasty. By comparison our food just seems muted.
There’s gelato and granita, a semi-frozen rinfrescante Sicilian treat like sorbet but lighter; its name is Italian for “refreshing.” Gelaterias in Sicily serve it with brioche, scooping it into a roll, and they do the same with gelato. “The diet will begin back in New York City,” I tell myself. Repeatedly.
But that’s not why I’m picky.
Enter pizzolo. “Like pizza, only not pizza,” my Sicilian cousin Claudio explains during the first night of two glorious weeks with the famiglia. It’s lighter than pizza and the pie has a smaller diameter. The crust isn’t as thick; even when compared with thin-crusted pizza, the consistency tastes lighter in pizzolo, and it ensconces the entire pie from top to bottom which makes it a little hard to detect the “toppings” baked inside.
“Catania is known for horse meat,” he adds. Um, when in Rome, right? So, wrong. So very wrong. As soon as Claudio mentions the Catania delicacy, visions of Black Stallion run through my head…
We ordered a few pies, horse meat included, for all seven of us, and before we knew it, several pizzolos were delivered to our table. As we savored a wonderful summer evening outdoors, nestled among tables upon tables of ravenous customers eating dinner at 11 p.m. (a normal occurance in Sicilian culture), I soaked in the sounds, the sights, and the tastes…Which did not include horse meat, at least not for me.
The waiter delivered our steaming pies with the ham, mushrooms, olives, and Parmigiano-Reggiano tucked inside the crust. Picky eaters unite: I stuck with what I knew. Why deviate from excellence? The mere words “horse meat” sound unappetizing. Now that I’m home, I seriously have no regrets.
As Claudio’s girlfriend’s family enjoyed piece after piece of horsemeat pie, he attempted to convince me to try one little bite, saying it’s actually good. I nixed it. Sure, it looked like dark chicken meat, but I was perfectly content with prosciutto pizzolo, my tasty, bellissima slice of Sicilia.