Modica was our next stop , where we kicked back for three nights at MODICARTE b&b, run by host Maurizio. Chowhound Ziggy has written well about this place; it is a comfortable building of very tasteful modern design set on a hill overlooking the town of Modica and Maurizio’s considerably olive orchard. Horses browse in the field next door – we asked M what they were used for – he said he did not know and then raised eyebrows and observed the owner was a butcher. We ate "in" each night and enjoyed Maurizio’s food, with his own olive oil and olives, fresh favas and herbs from the garden, as well as the company. In retrospect we found that Maurizio and his family offer a fairly straight up version of the local cuisine consistent with the good local trattorias we visited although with some sophisticated touches from his chef days, and a tilt toward lightness and use of organic or locally produced stuff.
The Modicarte breakfasts are Italian style, lighter than often in B&Bs which we greatly appreciated – great cappucino and excellent pastries different each day (we had brioche, still warm cornetti and biscotti made by Mauritzio’s mom, along with fine jams.
After our pre-arranged dinner the first night (cooked in part by a pair of two Russian girls from Malta taking the cooking course), we asked Maurizio to keep cooking our suppers, These were all ample multicourse nicely presented meals, really enough for 4 together with tasty local wines, including a sweet wine to close. . Highlights for us were his homemade pasta with sausage and fresh favas and peas, eggplant rolls enclosing ham and cheese,, homemade pasta with sausage, and vegetables including fresh favas and peas, a large basin of tortellini in brodo, , and as good as anything we had in bologna, grilled meat with salsa verde, pasta alla norma, presented with thin eggplant slices swathing the pastas and grilled slices of pork tenderloin coated with herbed crumbs and wrapping a finger of melty ragusano DOP cheese,accompanied by tender halved small artichokes, broiled with the same crumb coating . We loved the traditional geli (jellies) he served us, new and surprising, on the first night it was lemon gelo a wiggly translucent dessert thickened with cornstarch, lemony, not too sweet, light and refreshing. On the next night we were treated with a similar cinnamon gelo, even more interesting and something Id neve seen or heard of. I later researched and found that these geli recipes are quite typical in Sicily (in Lampedusa’s Leopard, which was re-reading during this trip the Leopard’s own favorite jelly is rum, decorated with candied red and green cherries, which I could easily visualize after our visit to Modicarte). Our final dinner concluded with by typical fried pastries with ricotta inside along with the sweet wine. All was excellent and well worth the modest price paid for such lovely cuisine personally served. Not to mention his enjoyable company as we ate. Modicarte is quirky, comfortable highly recommended and a great base for this area.
Maurizio kindly took us over for a brief visit to a neighbor dairy cheesemaker; it was fun to see the dairy and taste and buy some ragusano DOP cheese. Unlike much Sicilian cheese, the ragusano (a caciocavallo type) is made from cow rather than sheep milk and is sold in various stages of aging. It may contain black or red pepper. Unfortunately, the youngest version which is sweeter does not make it here.
We had two days for touring and divided it into one day (Sunday morning) in Ragusa Ibla, lunching there, afternoon in Scicli, and the second day (Monday) in Modica inself. We loved these baroque towns – Im a compare and contrast type of person I’d say they are similar but very distinct and just bursting out with unique geography, interesting views, excellent imaginative architecture/sculpture . And they have great food specialties. Taking Ibla first we opted to eat at stylish and popular Slowfood A RUSTICANA, which also happens to be the favorite restaurant of Montalbano on the TV series Consequently in addition to the lunch crowd of local families, there were people walking in (we were in the lovely outside terrace) taking a picture and walking out, very unsettling. The great majority of the guests were locals having their Sunday lunch with family so we got to sit and observe family manners Most of these tables were ordering artichokes and slabs of grilled ragusano cheese (followed by meat or seafood and pasta). Watching these well dressed folks pull the leaves off with their fingers calmed Jim’s fear about his eating technique. We enjoyed a meal of appetizers, primi– my excellent vegetable appetizer plate, his assortment of meats and cheeses, pasta with the local suave pork flavored tomato sauce (with a piece of belly) for me, and handmade pasta with bits of bacon and veg for him – along with a wonderful orange salad, dressed simply with a little bit of onion, a bit of hot pepper, oil and parsley. I loved the unctuous pasta sauce, the may different tastes on the veg plate and the refreshing orange salad A carafe of nero d’avola rounded out our meal, very good overall. Ibla is fairly touristy but still beautiful and fun, worthy of more time than we gave it (we didn’t even try to go to the new town.
The same Saveur article linked in post #1 https://www.saveur.com/sicily-italy-a... remarks on a Ragusa specialty, scaccia, a pizza-oid l bread with many thin layers, The article highlights a bakery Giummara that specializes in it . Unfortunately we could not get to it while in Ragusa. Since we did not eat in Scicli Im not going to report on it except to say it was fascinating and still with very few tourists, it has a couple of recommended restaurants including Baqqala which we passed, and at least one good enoteca, Giannone Lorenzo, selling the fine regional wines (this is close to Vittoria which has many well reputed growers, COS Occhipinti, etc.) it was closed on Sunday afternoon.
We spent the next day walking around Modica and enjoying its baroque architecture and joie de vivre. For lunch I had aimed to visit the restaurant Accursio, the restaurant of the former Gazza Ladro chef however Monday was its closing day so we instead ate at TRATTORIA LA RUSTICANA note, a different place from similarly named place from the day before.. This very neat and traditional longstanding trattoria offering a limited menu was run by a charming and rather shy older couple – and boy did she cook beautifully. We greatly enjoyed the appetizer plate with “scacce modica”, exquisite thin squares of layered dough with tomato and cheese, dough layers almost paper thin, pane cunzatu, here small half buns, deliciously seasoned and toasted, served along with two pieces of youong ragusano DOP cheese, one aggressively seasoned with red pepper – the modicani do have a characteristic taste for red pepper –and tasty salumi bits. This was followed with ricotta filed ravioli in very good sugo for jim and a lively spicy, garlicy handmade pasta dish for me, We finished with platters of venetian liver (a bit overcooked to my taste) and green beans which looked soggy (as Italian beans often due) but tasted wonderful. We were too full for dessert, but its notable that these folks offered the lemon and cinnamon jellies as an option. This is excellent home cooking and I would urge visitors to Modica to visit, they will not be there forever.
Honey from the Iblei mountains is a popular product in Modica and there are a couple of outlets in the town although unfortunately we passed during the midday pause. Chocolate is another matter; multiple chocolate stores have sprung up on Corso Umberto which is quite a little tourist strip. We almost missed Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, the most famous chocolate maker, which is no a little alley back behind. We tasted many chocolates and bought several types for gifts. Their other source of fame is cannoli; which were indeed beautiful but after lunch and chocolate tasting we had no room to try these.
All in all it was a pleasure to experience the food culture of this area and I would happily return.