Who would have thought that I could ever feel "at home" in Italy? But that is exactly what it felt like in Ortigia, the small, coastal town in Southern Sicily where I lived for two months this summer. Even now as I sit in my living room back in Texas, I miss walking down to the beautiful piazza or some of my favorite cafes for a cappuccino. I also miss going to the open air market every few days to get fresh produce (using my very minimal knowledge of the Italian language). Perhaps my favorite thing about Ortigia, is that while many towns in Sicily have been consumed by tourism, Ortigia still maintains its European charm. Every Saturday night people would flock to the piazza in Ortigia to watch the various artists or musicians who would be performing. Those nights were always my favorite.
Because I lived in Ortigia for nearly two months, I was able to find a lot of amazing restaurants and places to see on this small island, and would love to share some of my favorites with you in case you ever have the chance to visit.
Caffé Apollo- I was very fortunate that the first cappuccino I had in Italy was at this cafe because out of the entire time I was in Europe, not just in Sicily, this one was my favorite! This cute little cafe is located directly in front of the ancient ruins of the Temple of Apollo and only a two minute walk away from the bridge that connects Ortigia to the rest of Sicily. The staff here is exceptionally kind, and everything I ever ordered at this cafe was amazing! I also highly recommend the spinach and mozzarella arancini!
Gran Caffé del Duomo- Their ricotta stuffed ravioli with pistachio sauce is so heavenly that I ordered it every time I went here! It is a pretty rich pasta, so it would be a good idea to share it as an appetizer and get something a little lighter for your meal. The restaurant is located in the center of the piazza del duomo right in front of the beautiful cathedral. Be aware that it can get pretty busy on weekend nights, so you might want to try and get there by about 6:30 to avoid having to wait for a table.
Al Vecchio Lavatoio- Now I know that this is technically a nutrition blog, and I'm supposed to be teaching you how to eat healthily, but when you're in Italy, just go for it (remember the 80% healthy 20% indulgent rule?)! BUT... you can get a pizza with lots of veggies to make it not only healthier, but also way more delicious! My favorite pizza I had while in Europe was the Nonna Turrida at this restaurant. It has a tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, eggplant, spinach, breadcrumbs, olive oil, and oregano. You can thank me later! This restaurant is located right on the water just south of the marina and has a spectacular view of the sunsets, so you should definitely go at dinner! Oh and make sure to ask your waiter if you can go downstairs beneath the restaurant for a unique glimpse into history!
My Other Favorite Restaurants:
Borderi Gli Artisti- This is where my friends and I chose to go for our very last lunch in Ortigia, so needless to say it's definitely one of our favorites! Prepare yourself for a long line, but it is absolutely worth it! The chef is so much fun and likes to throw fresh cheese to everyone waiting in line. He is easily one of the happiest people I have ever come across in my life! And happiness is contagious, right? This sandwich shop is located at the end of the open air market, and it is unlike any sandwich shop you have ever seen. "Gli Artisiti" is Italian for "the artist", and that is exactly what this chef is. His counter is full of a variety of fresh ingredients, and unless you will tell him otherwise, he will put everything on your sandwich, and I mean everything. The first time I went there my sandwich was stuffed with chopped onions, garlic, dried tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, mixed greens, lemon zest and juice, sliced tomatoes, grated cheese, smoked mozzarella, olives, saffron pecorino, oregano, and then a wrap made of cheese (or meat if you are not vegetarian) stuffed with baked ricotta, garlic, mint, potatoes, and tomatoes. These are HUGE sandwiches! Luckily he will cut it so that you can share it with two or three people, which I highly recommend doing. This place is also really affordable; a whole sandwich is 5 euros, so if you split it with someone else it's only 2.5 euros per person.
Punto G- My friends and I would walk right by this restaurant everytime time we were leaving the Piazza del Duomo, so one day we decided to try it for dinner. I'm so glad we did! From the outside, it looks like a small, quaint pizzeria, but when the host led us down a hallway in the back, we discovered that it is actually a huge jazz bar! The inside is decorated very modernly with a tall stage for the musicians and tables covering the ground level floor as well as a balcony upstairs. There is also an outdoor patio located at the back of the restaurant and a fully stocked bar with small tables and old movies theater seats upholstered in green and black velvet. All of the items on the menu are named after classic movie stars. Some of my favorites were the caponata salad (a special that night), the truffle and mushroom pizza (Ginger Rogers), and the eggplant and salted ricotta pizza (Doris Day).
Other Places to Go:
Gusto's- This was my favorite gelato shop in Italy. I recommend getting the pistachio di Bronte; it's to die for!
Ebano- This locally owned leather store has so many cool things, and everything is handmade right in their store! I probably bought way too much here, but it was a great place to get things for yourself or for gifts!
Trimarchi di Villa Marchese- If you love food as much as I do, then this place is a must! They sell a variety of sauces, pestos, jams, honeys, and more (my personal favorite was the pistachio pesto). Best of all, everything is locally grown without the use of pesticides!
My time spent in Ortigia was beyond magical. It is a place that I will never forget and hope that I someday have the chance to return to. If you have any questions about Ortigia or my trip to Sicily, please let me know in the comments section below. Also stay tuned for what's coming next to the blog! Now that I'm back home I will have time to do more frequent posts, and will have the website's focus shift back to my main passion, nutrition. I have so many exciting things planned that I can't wait to share with you!