Sciacca, a historic fishing town on the western coast, was our next overnight stop reached with a morning stop and picnic lunch at Segesta along the way from Scopello – from Sciacca we toured Selinunte, Mazara del Valle (another great town!) . There was an abnormally strong north wind and rain while we were in Sciacca so folks stayed home rather than strolling denying us a chance to see their famous passagiata. Sciacca has a dramatic geography with several levels – our b&b Locanda del Castello (great breakfast!) was at the top and it was a stiff 10-15 walk down steps to the town center with many historic churches, the main shopping streets and a huge piazza which sits like a balcony over the sea and harbor far far below. The lower town is the fishing village, with many tourist hotels as well and its own string of fishy restaurants which we did not consider. I don’t recall this definite a separation anywhere else we have been in Italy. Our target restaurant were all in a tight cluster the center of town.
On the first night with rain pelting down we picked CAPELLINO, a homey, informal family Slowfood listed trattoria with a soccer game playing the whole time on a tv in the corner. We sort of let ourselves get maneuvered into a fixed menu which I think is not always the most satisfying way, but easier for them than interpreting their simple menu to non-habitues.. It was interesting because the price but not the actual menu was fixed – the mix of pastas or appetizers changed (we observed) depending on what those who ordered a la carte at around the same time were having. Our own meal involved a string of very good appetizers (various marinated fishes, fritti, including a rice balls and a potato fritter, and an interesting and good combination of eggplant rolled around fish) , two pastas, one a typical seafood linguine, the other a thicker cut with a few red shrimp and dressed breadcrumbs, both acceptable, neither great. Our final course of grilled fish was also good but nothing special after several days of this type of meal. We asked for the recommendation of a white (counter to our usual practice of asking for a carafe of the house wine) and received a bottle of Regaleali Tascante Buonora 2016, a Carricante from Etna. I believe that this was the most expensive wine we drank on this trip but it like the meal as a whole impressed us as competent and tasty but not special (Im sure we could have done better if we had been more responsible for our own choices).
Our second meal in Sciacca the following evening was at HOSTARIA DEL VICOLO, a more ambitious restaurant that we had cruised and I had rejected the prior night with a menu several times larger than the simple list at Capellino, doing what turned out in reality to be fairly conservative riff on the traditional products, seafood and meats of the area. Our meal was very enjoyable, Jim had a plate of sicilian cheeses, including a lovely burrata, followed by busiate dressed with pistachios and small shrimp; I had an excellent (and substantial) serving of caponata with seafood ,(stated to include chocolate and perfumed with a very unusual touch of rosemary), followed by an upscale version of scacco matto, spaghetti in fresh fava puree with wild fennel leaves. All was very good, prices reasonable. Meal was served on lovely oversized plates (Sciacca is a pottery/glassmaking town), sort of ridiculous on the small tables, but they were very nice. This stylish, ambitious but friendly restaurant turned out to be just what the doctor ordered for us, recommend particularly.
Note, in the same neighborhood of Sciacca town there was a third restaurant highly recommended by some travelers we met in Scopello - Pane e Vino. it also might be worth consideration in this central area
Agrigento was particularly hard to make decisions about – compelling recommendations from Ziggy and others of great country hotels/agriturismi meals and of Salmorigio in Porto Empdocle, warnings about the unattractiveness of Agrigento and Porto Empdocle (latter was indeed unappealing) etc. We finally fixed on a B&B in the old town rather than an agriturismo for our one night there, because we wanted to see and eat in the town and had only one night and needed to stay close, off topic for Chowhound but as with Sciacca we chose a B&B at the top of the town inside the walls near the Duomo where there was ample parking and we could walk down into the town for our dinner (and trudge back up again after). We debated (among other alternatives) the two slowfood picks in the town (one Terracotta featuring the local products with the snail designation, the other Ginger People & Food sounding very interesting with with a west African chef serving an eclectic menu with both African and traditional sicilian dishes) but decided to aim for the former, Terracotta since its interesting to see the changes in local foods along the coast. Unfortunately, as I related elsewhere, my googlemaps GPS and a mistaken report on Google or TA that the name of the restaurant had changed led me to what I thought was the right place but which turned out to be Matra a different restaurant altogether; Terracotta, where we were expecting to eat pasta from the local grains and the special local goat cheese and an endless wine list, had not closed as suggested by the post, , it was just located out of sight 1 door away. In any event the die was cast; we dined at MATRA which bills itself as a gastropub, believing that Terracotta had closed which was perfectly acceptable. We had a pristine raw seafood platter to start, followed by squid shaped pasta with clams for me and a local version of pesto with almonds for Jim. More white wine was drunk. It was a chilly night so we ate inside, but they have a lovely terrace overlooking the town and valley beyond; it must get slammed in the summertime.
The next morning we spent an enjoyable couple of hours further exploring the historic back streets of the town (navigating to avoid going down too many steps), finally locating the entrance of the the Monastery and Church of the Holy Spirit,. There we were able to see some remarkable Serpotta stuccos in the church and buy the famous pistachio cus cus at the adjoining monastery which we ate and shared with our hosts as we continued along our journey. Bright green and only slightly sweet and garnished with bits of sicilian chocolate, and including we think both pistachios and wheat, this “cus cus” is an unusual treat. Other sweets were on offer too, and beautiful gift packages of them assembled to order seemed to be a major activity for the nuns there. Recommended!
We had made a reservation for La Madia for lunch the next day to break our trip up to Modica (next stop) but sadly, I had to cancel, we were overfed and our schedule was too tight to give a meal there the right kind of attention. Its only about 40 min from Agrigento to Licata along 115, so worth considering for a lunch or dinner on an extended visit or if you are continuing on.