Tales from Favignana, Sicily – Part 3
Before travelling to Favignana, most of our friends advised us to be careful about choosing where to eat in Favignana since we could easily bump into tourists traps. In fact, while walking down the streets, we noticed that there were quite a few touristic spots.
My husband, who is very picky about eating out, always does research by consulting Italian Restaurant Guides beforehand. He relies specially on Guida del Gambero Rosso , Osterie d’Italia di Slow Food , and Ristoranti d’Italia dell’Espresso. To complete his homework, he further reads reviews on Tripadvisor.
Finding a decent restaurant was a tough call in Favignana, but we finally discovered – Trattotria la Bettola – which seemed good and was also cited on 2 out of 3 of the above mentioned guides.
When my husband read poor reviews about Trattoria La Bettola on Tripadvisor, he was totally bewildered. (Poor thing, he was going nuts by not getting consistent feedback from all his resources!!)
He told me: “I am mostly reading bad reviews about La Bettola, yet Osterie d’Italia, and Ristoranti d’Italia, are both endorsing it as a local favorite spot. This is quite confusing since these guides are so trustworthy that they are not going to disgrace themselves by including a crappy place”
I said: “Why don’t we just try it and judge it by ourselves?”
So here we are, arriving at Trattoria La Bettola. It has a really nice wood veranda and stripped down island style: a simple ambience with a warm and familiar atmosphere.
I totally loved this quiet and cozy corner of the veranda. Unfortunately our table was not here!!!!
As we enter the Sicilian Trattoria, we were greeted by the friendly staff.
As appetizer, we ordered caponata. I could not leave Sicily without getting my dose of caponata, one of Sicily’s symbol dishes. Caponata is a concoction of mediterranean flavours, featuring fried eggplants (in olive oil please!!!!) as main ingredient.
When asking a Sicilian about caponata, prepare to get a thorough, accurate, and historical explanation. It is more than a dish, it is culture. It is an emblem of crowded, long family tables during long, hot summer days. It is the patience and devotion of Sicilian grandmothers in the kitchen frying eggplants, peeling tomatoes, slicing celery, pitting olives, adding vinegar and sugar. Its sweet and sour flavour, determined by pairing capers and olives with pine nuts and sweet raisins, is owed to the arab influence on traditional Sicilian cooking.
Caponata is cooked today and served tomorrow – at room temperature.
We continued with Busiate alla carrettiera – Pasta with garlic, almonds, pine nuts, basil, and fresh tomatoes.
Busiate is a corkscrew – or spiraled – shaped pasta made of durum wheat very characteristic of the Trapani Province.
The term “carrettiera” comes from the word carretto, meaning a hand cart, the most widely used means of transportation in Sicily during the last century. Peasents used hand carts to transport all kinds of goods including their lunch, which they usually prepared on the road. Therefore, their meals had to be cooked using simple methods and basic ingredients such as pasta, tomatoes, basil, and garlic.
In this recipe, the chef added some nuts to enrich the dish.
We also ordered the typical dish of Favignana – Couscous di Pesce – Seafood Couscous.
This recipe is probably the fruit of the Arab influence in traditional Sicilian gastronomy, specially in the northwestern part of the island. However, preparing couscous is not simple: it requires not only specific couscous steamer pots, but also a certain ability to prepare it. Nowdays in supermarkets, there are many kinds of pre-cooked semolina couscous, but nothing compares to handmade couscous.
In Sicily, couscous is brought divided into three different serving plates: one contains seafood, vegetables or meat; the second includes only semolina grains; and the third one is the saucer with seafood, meat or vegetable broth.
And you have to assemble it!! I though it was so much fun!
We finished with a glass of Passito, a dessert wine from the Sicilian Island Pantelleria.
Contrary to what we read, our experience was very positive. The food was great and excellent value for its quality. We paid about 30 euros per person – including a bottle of white wine and water.
Trattoria La Bettola – Via Nicotera, 47 – Favignana – Tel. (39) 0923.921988