Spencer Cruse, the sommelier of Drago Centro in Los Angeles, was recently in Sicily sourcing wines for the restaurant. Here, he shares favorite meals, wines, and places to stay.
La Rosa Dei Venti
“I had freshest swordfish I had ever eaten at this restaurant in the Politeama neighborhood of Palermo. And the tomatoes on the pizzas they serve are bright red and actually taste like tomatoes. The waiter accidently brought me someone else’s pasta when I first sat down. I thought they were just being nice, as it was late night. I took a bite before they realized their mistake. Oops. This place is a hotel as well as a restaurant. I stayed down the street, but the atmosphere and people here made it one of my favorite meals on the trip.” Via Garibaldi, 1, 39/0941-801-020, larosadeiventihotel.com
Planeta La Foresteria
“I enjoyed a six-course tasting menu with the winemaker from Planeta, Alessio Planeta. We tasted some vintage 1998 Chardonnay that was outstanding. This is what Chardonnay should be. I stayed at this estate. It was great taking a morning swim in the infinity pool and seeing the vineyards for as far as the eye could see. Outside my room there was a lavender herb garden. It was an amazing place to stay.” Contrada passo di Gurra, SP79, Km 91, 39/0925-195-5460, planetaestate.it
“The town of Catania is known for their arancini [fried rice balls]. I had take-away arancini at Pasticceria Spinella. Savia is a little better known and next door, but a local told me that they prefer the arancini here. It was the perfect little cone shaped bite of ham, cheese, and tomato in a crispy rice shell.” Via Etnea, 300, Catania, 39/095-327-247, pasticceriaspinella.it
“The owners of this winery on the east side of Mount Etna invited me to stay at their very cute “agriturismo” hotel. I dined with the owners and the winemaker over several bottles of their wine that aren’t yet available in the States. A highlight was the amazing fresh rabbit entrée the chef prepared. I loved watching them truck the carricante grapes into the winery in the morning. They de-stemmed and crushed them before my eyes. It was an outstanding experience.” Via Zafferana, 13, 39/095-950-520, murgo.it
Porto Bella Restaurant
“I dined here with Antonio Caravaglio, a small-batch wine producer who is good friends with the chef I work with, Celestino Drago. We had his Malvasia (both secco [semi-sparkling] and passito [sweet]) white and his Corinto Nero red wines over an incredible meal of fresh seafood. This restaurant had the best tuna crudo, and I loved the fish cake they serve. We were looking over the water in the bay at night. It’s really a lovely restaurant, with lovely people, and great service.” Via Bianchi, 1, Santa Marina, 39/090-984-3125
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