A few weeks ago I went to Bar Idda, one of my favourite local restaurants to meet some friends to chat about our respective Italian holidays. As I walked into the restaurant, Lisa LaSpina (who owns the restaurant with her chef husband Alfredo) clutched my arm and asked: “Paola, are you in Australia on 4th March? Fabrizia Lanza will be here at Bar Idda, cooking a Sicilian feast with Alfredo, do you want to come along?”. I gave out a little yelp – I couldn’t believe my luck. I had always wanted to meet Fabrizia and I didn’t think our paths would cross as I thought I’d be in Italy at the same time she was in Australia.
I have written about Fabrizia on the blog before as I was one of the minor backers of her Kickstarter push to fund the documentary Amuri, the Sacred Flavours of Sicily.The documentary has been completed and will be released some time in May. In the meantime, click here to see the trailer and here to see the San Giuseppe Clip. I have no doubt that this will be one of the best documentaries of 2015. Fabrizia also runs a cooking school – but more about that after I describe the DIVINE feast we had at Bar Idda.
The dishes we were served were all from Fabrizia’s cook book ‘Coming Home to Sicily’. Wines were from the Tasca d’Almerita estate in Sicily paired by Enoteca Sileno, an importer of Italian foods and wines (as well as a retail shop and restaurant) in Carlton. We started off with typical street food – panelle (chick pea fritters) with a caponata made with eggplants, capers, celery and olives topped with a soft boiled egg. Next we had ricotta ravioli with mint and tomato passata (which Fabrizia told us was one of her signature dishes), then slow cooked lamb with heirloom tomato salad. Finally for dessert we had biancomangiare (which translates to the not very romantic sounding but very delicate and delicious blancmange or almond pudding) with cinnamon and pistachios served with sugary thin donut rings called cuddureddi. A raffle was held at the end of the dinner and I surprisingly (as I never win anything!) won a couple of jars of products made by Bar Idda (giardiniera and cherries). Other prizes included a copy of Fabrizia’s book and a bottle of the rather fine Tasca d’Almerita Nero d’Avola red wine (won by two other people).
There were copies of “Coming Home to Sicily” on sale, and Fabrizia was walking around chatting to everyone and signing books for most of the evening. She was incredibly generous with her time and seemed to love being at Bar Idda. Fabrizia also runs a cooking school in Sicily, close to Palermo. In describing the school, her website says: The Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking Experience is a farm-to-table cooking school located in Tasca d’Almerita’s 19th century wine estate in the beautiful, remote Sicilian countryside. The school is set within the 550-hectare family property, and includes a working farm and extensive vegetable garden, orchard, and herbal garden, all grown using organic principles. Doesn’t it sound divine?!
Fabrizia has just launched an intensive 10 week program called “Cook the Farm“, to be run in early 2016. The program is all about bridging the gap between cooking and farming and weekly units include wheat, cheese, olive oil, wine, honey and citrus. There will be lectures, hands-on kitchen and garden workshops and local field trips. It will be run on the family’s Tasca d’Almerita wine estate and I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to quit my job and run away to Sicily to do the program!
I urge you all to buy Fabrizia’s wonderful book (which is sorted into seasons and beautifully photographed) or even better, go visit her at her cooking school in Sicily. I hope to visit it when I am in Sicily at the end of March. If you can’t travel that far but live in Melbourne, then head on down to Bar Idda and say hello to Lisa and Alfredo and enjoy a delightful and authentic Sicilian meal. You might even be interested in joining one of their food tours of Sicily.
Thanks to Fabrizia for sharing her wonderful recipes and food philosophy and to Lisa and Alfredo for inviting me along to this very special evening.
As this is my last post before I head overseas (we are flying out later today), please follow my travels on my Instagram account and through the posts that I will hopefully have time to write when I have wifi access. A presto ragazzi! xx