Taormina is a city located on the island of Sicily, and Sicilian food is characterized by the region’s multicultural history. From Arab influence through eggplants, rice, and spices to French and Spanish influence through refined preparation methods, a dish in Sicily represents various cultures via its style and ingredients. Cuisine in Sicily is also markedly Mediterranean, with ingredients such as tomatoes, olive oil, lemon, and pasta often serving as standouts.
In Taormina, there are countless restaurants, pizzerie, and trattorie to discover, each bursting with delicious dishes that reflect the region’s unique culinary identity.
Travelers can expect delightful pasta dishes dressed and seasoned simply with olive oil, spices, fresh fish, and vegetables. Second course dishes highlight the seafood and game that is readily available throughout the area. Street foods like the traditionally Sicilian arancini and desserts like torta cassata round out the experience, along with a unique sweet almond wine called Vino di Mandorla, which is local to the area.
Regardless where one dines in Taormina, the culture of Sicily’s many influences is palpable in every course at every meal.
The antipasto course in Taormina serves to whet the appetite and entice travelers to eat more. Travelers can expect a variety of both cold and hot appetizers in the city.
The area’s seafood is showcased in insalata di mare, or seafood salad. This dish is crafted by mixing fresh seafood with olive oil, herbs, and lemon juice. Fresh vegetables may also be served alone or alongside cured meats such as salame and prosciutto.
Keeping in tune with Sicily’s Mediterranean influences, there may also be bowls of fresh olives, grilled or pickled peppers, marinated anchovies, and stuffed tomatoes or artichoke hearts.
For warm appetizers, expect eggplant to be served in a variety of ways – battered and fried, seasoned and grilled, stuffed with cheese, baked with cheese and tomato sauce, or showcased in caponata, which is a mix of eggplant, tomatoes, olive oil, onion, garlic, peppers, and capers.
Tomatoes are the star of pomodori ripieni, a dish that consists of tomatoes stuffed with anchovies, breadcrumbs, tomato pulp, capers, parsley, olives, onion, and garlic. The stuffed tomatoes are baked in the oven and served hot.
Sicilian eggplant rolls are another local favorite. This tasty appetizer features eggplant slices that are filled with vegetables, herbs, and spices then baked.
For the first course in Taormina, common dishes include a variety of soups and pasta.
One of the area’s most common pasta dishes is pasta alla norma – a traditional Sicilian dish created with sautéed eggplant and a light tomato sauce topped with ricotta salata cheese. Another popular dish is pasta con le sarde – pasta with sardines, fennel, raisins, and pine nuts. This dish showcases the Sicilian tradition of mixing sweet and sour flavors, which is called agrodolce.
For dishes that highlight the Sicilian love of simplistic flavors, linguine al limone is a basic, yet delicious dish with a light lemon sauce that is absolutely worth trying. Also, travelers cannot go wrong with a simple dish of pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil or pasta with grilled fish.
More adventurous eaters can try spaghetti al nero di seppia (pasta with black cuttlefish ink) and spaghetti ai ricci di mare (pasta with sea urchins). These local delicacies perfectly showcase the subtle flavors of the sea.
Also served during the first course are rice dishes like risotto, often featuring fresh seafood.
Eggplants are among the most beloved ingredients by the locals and they are the star of melanzane alla parmigiana. Each family has their own recipe for making this dish, but the basis consists of fried eggplants topped with tomato sauce, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and mozzarella cheese then baked to perfection. This dish is usually a piatto unico (sole plate) meaning that the second course is skipped.
The second course in Taormina features a large variety of seafood. A classic dish of the area is involtini di pesce spada – slices of swordfish that are rolled with a breadcrumb filling and baked. Grigliata mista, a mix of grilled seafood, and tuna stew with onions are common as well. For special occasions, triglie (red mullet) and aragosta (Mediterranean lobster) are served. Other seafood dishes that are found throughout the city are fried sardines stuffed with bread and capers, or sarde a beccafico, and fried fish.
Another popular seafood second course dish is insalata di polpo, or octopus salad. The dish consists of tender octopus served with potatoes, olives, capers, artichokes, lemon, herbs, and extra virgin olive oil. One variant, called insalata di mare, features other types of seafood as well.
Meat dishes throughout Taormina consist of sausage, rabbit, and goat. Some dishes featuring these meats are salsiccia – sausage with fennel and red wine, coniglio alla cacciatora – rabbit flavored with herbs and tomato sauce, and capretto al forno – baked kid with potatoes.
Vegetables commonly used in side dishes include eggplants, tomatoes, and potatoes. They may be paired with a number of other ingredients including olives, capers, and herbs.
While walking the streets of Taormina, travelers can take a break with a delicious Sicilian snack. Some of the most traditional street foods include savory meat rolls, pizza siciliana, and arancini – traditional stuffed, fried rice balls.
Life is truly sweet in Taormina, and travelers will experience the truth of this through the city’s delectable desserts.
A must try is torta cassata, a traditional Sicilian dessert consisting of moistened sponge cake and layers of almonds or candied fruit. Others include classic gelato, almond cakes, and marzipan, a light mixture made from ground almonds, egg whites, sugar, and corn syrup.
From cakes filled with sweet ricotta cream and candied fruit to turnovers made with ricotta filling, many desserts take inspiration from the traditional Sicilian dessert, cannoli, by showcasing sweet ricotta filling. Cannoli themselves are made with a fried wafer that is stuffed with sweet ricotta cream and topped with chocolate, pistachios, or candied fruits on either end.
Locals also enjoy brioche col tuppo, which is a sweet leavened pastry served with gelato or granita, a semi-frozen sweet flavored with local fruits or herbs. It is interesting to note that many Sicilians enjoy brioche col tuppo for breakfast.
While Tuscany gets the majority of praise for wine production in Italy, Sicily is a hidden gem of winemaking, producing a variety of high-quality and highly-regarded wines. The island of Sicily has an ideal climate for wine growing, and as a result, produces famous sweet wines, crisp white wines, and rich, full-bodied reds.
Malvasia red wine and Passito sweet wine are among the most revered Sicilian wines. Close to Taormina, Etna DOC is produced on the slopes of Mt. Etna. The rich volcanic soil is said to impart flavors unlike any others in the world. Etna DOC may be made in red (Etna Rosso), white (Etna Bianco), or rosé (Etna Rosato) varieties.
Perhaps the most unique wine one will find in Taormina is Vino di Mandorla. Produced in nearby Castelmola, this wine is a sweet almond wine. Served chilled, it offers a truly unique wine drinking experience.
The entire region of Sicily is renowned for its delicious cuisine, and Taormina is no exception. Featuring classic Sicilian staples, such as arancini, caponata, and pasta alla norma, Taormina is an excellent place to savor the unique flavors of the Mediterranean.
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