Sicilian Cooking Plus

My wife, Terry and my nephew Joseph Ciaramitaro have been encouraging me to create this collection of recipes.
I have asked questions, sought advice, and received help from friends, relatives and my sisters, Ina, Francesca and in particular Anna Maria, who besides being a gourmet cook is the keeper of our family recipes.

 
I am thankful to my nieces Vivian and Rosie Amodio, Daniela Zenone and my cousin Vivian Ciaramitaro for their suggestions and for testing some of the dishes. My niece Marzia Fiorilla, who lives in Sicily, has been a great help researching some of the information, recipes and narrations. Joseph has also been giving useful recommendations for the development of this site. 

My dear friend, Frank Curcurato, has provided encouragement and expert advice in the completion of this task. Frank is extraordinarily experienced in the food industry, having worked in all phases of the food business, from cooking to managing, from food buying to catering, in small and large institutions. Since his paternal ancestors are Sicilian, he has been a great help with suggestions and the researching of old recipes. 


The intervention of a dear friend, Ms. La Barca, has been meaningful and indispensable, making up for my unsatisfactory use of the English language by suggesting worthy emendations and important recommendations. 

  


  

  

  

 

The Web Site 


After I retired, friends and relatives were constantly asking me for recipes. Whenever I wrote them down, I would save them in a file on my computer. Soon, I had written quite a few recipes, and at that time, urged by Terry, I added a few more and began to think about compiling a cookbook. On Joseph’s suggestion, I decided to publish “Sicilian Cooking Plus” on the internet. 


The biggest merit for the presentation of this compendium goes to my nephew, Dimitrij Greco, who is our webmaster and who has been motivating me in this accomplishment. His hard work has been an invaluable force in the design, logistics, organization, maintenance and operation of the web pages. 

  

 

Recipe Sources 

  

Some recipes come from my paternal and maternal families, from relatives and especially my cousin, Anna De Rosalia, who has been a valuable source of information.  


Some material was offered from the many people I have interviewed in Sicily, as well as Sicilian–American friends whose parents were custodians of old recipes handed down from previous generations.  


I have tested recipes learned from books, newspapers, magazines and from viewing TV programs and internet sites.  


The suggestions that my wife Terry has given me have been many and very constructive.
Terry, aside from being an exceptional wife and friend, is also an excellent gourmet cook with an enviable culinary background. In fact, she was born in Emilia-Romagna, and as a young girl, lived in Rome. Her paternal grandparents were Venetians and her maternal grandparents were Tuscan-Emilians. Her experience in cooking taught her not only to cook well but also to capture and synthesize the characteristics of all those regional cuisines. I will present some of her recipes, properly identified. 

  

  

Our Cooking - “La Nostra Cucina” 


I emphasize calling this selection a collection of recipes because I firmly believe that cooking is such an expanded and ancient art that there is very little room for new recipes and that the only possibility is to modify them to coincide with our dietary requirements or the availability of local produce. Most notably, our aim will be to not lose the characteristics of the original dishes, because “La Nostra Cucina,” our cooking style, is Regional Sicilian.  

 
Sicily, with her pleasant climate, natural beauty and strategic position in the Mediterranean Sea has attracted many major civilizations. Thousands of years of history have made their mark on the culture, way of life and the art of cookery. For this reason, even though Sicilian cuisine is considered regional, its culinary tradition has discerned the best aspects of all who have touched her shores. The appropriation of and adaption to the many influences has given us the blend of gastronomic combinations that make “La Nostra Cucina” what it is today
a melting pot for international food lovers. 


A major motivation for the realization of this collection, as Joseph pointed out, is that the traditional cuisine, our Sicilian way of cooking, our Palermitani dishes cannot be forgotten. Therefore, they must be recorded and handed down to future generations. My contribution will be very modest; all the material in these notes was accumulated through the years, researching in Palermo and all over Sicily. We are posting this collection on the internet to make it available to everyone. 


The recipes are adapted to the availability of our local produce and products. Working in the kitchen for over forty years, gave me the luxury to test most recipes. 


In this collection of recipes, we have made the decision to appeal to the seasoned cook but also to the beginner by using plain language and simplifying the recipes as much as possible. 

  

  

Vincent and La Focacceria Palermitana 


My name is Vincent Ciaramitaro and I was born in Palermo, Sicily. I came to the United States in my late teens and have lived in Brooklyn since then, excluding for the two years I was in the Army. 


My relationship with cooking,
in particular Sicilian-Palermitano cooking, started when I went to work in my father’s business, La Focacceria Palermitana, Joe’s of Avenue U, in Brooklyn.

 

The business was a family affair and all family members participated in the growth of it, according to his/her capacities. When I returned from military service in the United States Army, I was young and ambitious, and after a short apprenticeship in the bakery business, I went back to work at the Focacceria. 

  

  

 

Transformation into a Modern Eatery 


My father and I worked and managed the Focacceria with great care and love. When my brother Paul joined us, we expanded the eatery and started to update the kitchen equipment, air conditioning and ventilation. 


My father was proud to see the way we implemented new ideas, new menus and most of all, the way we put all our effort into preparing wholesome food, using fresh ingredients and cooking the Sicilian way.  


The next step was to modify the existing aura of the shop. Our objective was to create open spaces, to make people welcome and to have an eye-catching display of the food we prepared. To accomplish this, we installed a twentyfour foot showcase that we kept full of fresh, attractive and delicious food.

 

We organized the showcase such that the visual aspect of the food matched its delicious taste. Everyone was trained in the details of exhibition and decoration and to be prepared to answer any questions regarding the ingredients or origin of the recipe. Most of the food preparation was done in front of the customers and our kitchen was open to the public for inspection. 

  

  

Quality and Cleanliness 


We painted some of the walls in bright colors and covered some with sparkling tiles to create an eye-catching, fresh and clean environment. The Focacceria was kept spotless. 


Our premises comprised of a take-out area and a large seating area, with a quick and polite table service. The taste was genuine, the food hearty and fresh. My father used to say, “When you cook, if you use top quality fresh food and you do not manipulate it a great deal, the end product will be excellent”.  


At the Avenue U Focacceria, we served mostly Sicilian style food, fish prepared in tasty yet simple sauces, fine vegetables rarely found in restaurants, lightly dressed salad, out of the ordinary delicacies and special seasonal dishes.

 

Our Focacceria was and still is renowned, not only for the quality of the food, but also because we succeeded in creating an institution where people came to smell the air of the Sicily they had left behind, to taste food like their grandma made and to link the taste of a specialty to a distant past.

 

We managed la Focacceria with love and with high standards; we were proud of our work and were greatly rewarded by the loyalty of our large clientele. 

 

 

Focacceria Palermitana