The Great Escape: Palermo


The Great Escape: Palermo


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Alberto Tasca d’Almerita is the CEO of Tasca d’Almerita and the eighth-generation scion of this Sicilian winemaking dynasty. A man of diverse interests and talents, he is also Vice President of the Istituto del Vino Italiano di Qualita, Grandi Marchi, where he educates on the culture, quality, and varieties of Italian wines alongside fellow winemakers, as well as President of the Foundation SOStain Sicily, promoting sustainable viticulture across the region. Here, he shares his guide to Palermo.

Palermo is a city of magic and mystery. Peeling away at the layers of history and lore, as an insider, what is your essential list of places travelers must go to get a true sense of Palermo’s spirit?

From the historical and artistic point of view, the beauty of Palermo is the number of churches and palazzi located in the city center. I love to walk and walk and discover them one after the other. I would like to recommend visiting “Gli oratori del Serpotta” the circuit of the artist Giacomo Serpotta; of which the Oratory of San Lorenzo and the Oratory of Santa Cita are certainly the two most fascinating. They are examples of spectacular expressions of baroque stucco. It is captivating to watch the incredulous expression of tourists as they enter these entirely white rooms; the naughty faces of the cherubs who are pulling at each other’s hair, sleeping placidly under a blanket, or blowing soap bubbles will forever remain etched in your memory. Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri, for four incredible reasons: first the marvellous medieval decorations on the wooden ceiling of the aula magna, which are so colourful and well preserved that they could be observed for hours with a telescope. Second the incredible modernity of the graffiti traced by the prisoners in the prison of the Holy Inquisition. Third, the impressive painting “La Vucciria” by Guttuso in which you can feel the desperate look of love of the boy in the foreground for the girl from behind. Finally, the artistic work of the architect Carlo Scarpa in the restoration of the Palazzo. Of course, the place of my heart in Palermo is Villa Tasca for its incredible romantic garden that inspired the music of Wagner.

From the culinary point of view, street food is “classic” in Palermo, I don’t think there is another city in Italy where this traditional practice is so widespread, alive, colourful, and authentic. The meal that is eaten standing in front of a kiosk and the street vendor who has just prepared it. The food I love the most in Palermo is ‘cibo povero’, (poor man food) and the wonderful seasonal produce here, I love Mediterranean fish and wild vegetables. How can I not mention two delicious palermitani traditional desserts? ‘La Savoia’ from Pasticceria Magrì, and ‘Setteveli’ which was invented by Pasticceria Cappello. Furthermore, I recommend visiting the intricate markets of Capo and Ballarò. They are extraordinary because of colours of their fruits and vegetables that change with every passing season, the smell of the spices, the chaos of the motorbikes that dodge the stands, the sunlight that filters through the awnings, and the calls of the market vendors.

Your family also runs one of the most formidable cooking schools in Italy Anna Tasca Lanza. When setting the table for a quintessential Sicilian meal, what would you serve — dishes, wines and vintages you love?

Even today, ancient recipes handed down from our grandparents still live on our table, telling a family story. There is no shortage of ghineffe, balls of rice fried and served in hot chicken broth. The old recipes are the gastronomic heritage of the Tasca d’Almerita family, which has reinterpreted the tradition of the Monsù, the family chefs who, in past centuries, traced the furrow of aristocratic Sicilian cuisine. On each estate, the meal is prepared with the best local products.

Traditionally, at Tenuta Regaleali, Almerita Brut 2018 and Almerita Rosè 2017 are the wines that open our meals paired with panelle, traditional Sicilian fritters made from chickpea flour and appetizers. Some guests continue with bubbly, with Almerita Contessa Franca 2015, or the family classics such as Regaleali Bianco 2021 or Regaleali Le Rose 2021. As a starter I can suggest uova alla monacale, which are hard-boiled eggs emptied of the yolk and stuffed with a mixture of the yolks themselves, ricotta, caciocavallo, parsley, and nutmeg, and finally fried, paired with Lamuri 2019 or Regaleali Rosso 2020 our interpretation of Nero d’Avola grape.
As first course, I can suggest pasta with meat sauce paired with Vigna San Francesco Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 and pasta with tuna roe paired with Vigna San Francesco Chardonnay 2019.
In autumn, we love macco di fave, broad bean, paired with an old vintage Nozze d’Oro 2010. In winter, the Nebrodi pork roast with Rosso del Conte 2016 or Riserva del Conte 2010. To finish, the sweet Capofaro Malvasia 2019 paired with the Sicilian ricotta cannolo.

We recently opened our estate Tenuta Tascante on the Etna, Europe’s highest volcano. You can taste our wines made from indigenous grape varieties, Carricante e Nerello Mascalese, Buonora 2021, and Ghiaia Nera 2020 paired with wonderful local products. Indeed, Etna has a long tradition of artisanal production of cheese and cold cuts.

Tenuta Capofaro is where Aeolian cuisine meets the gastronomic traditions of the Tasca family, shaped by the best local raw materials thanks to the creative flair of the talented chef, Gabriele Camiolo. I can recommend tubettino noodles with redfish, almond, and tenerumi, leaves and tender shoots of a long squash plant, paired with Didyme 2021. Aeolian-style crudo of Salina prawns and sea urchins’ mayo paired with Vigna di Paola 2021.

As a sailor, tell us about your favorite Aeolian getaway.

Salina is the greenest island of the archipelago, Tenuta Capofaro and his lighthouse is definitely my Aeolian getaway! The Lighthouse with its reassuring appearance and the charm of its intermittent light, since the mid-1800’s it’s been the sentinel that keeps watching over the sea and the Capofaro ridge. It’s the first signal for those arriving from the Tyrrhenian at night, the northernmost lighthouse in Sicily. The lighthouse has double the range of the smaller coastal ones. Described in the travel logs of Luigi Salvatore d’Asburgo, an adventurous explorer of this part of the Mediterranean, who most likely inspired Hugo Pratt when he created the fictional character Corto Maltese. More than 20 years ago, turn after turn with a landscape that takes your breath away, my wife Francesca and I arrived for the first time at Capofaro. The charm of the slightly run-down lighthouse and a vineyard at the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea: the same vineyard that we once admired from the sea. We sat down on a small rock wall and began daydreaming. The Estate is located in the Malfa area along the cliffs of the Capofaro promontory. This is where one of the finest expressions of local typical wine is produced, the Malvasia delle Lipari. As in all the other Tasca d’Almerita projects, in Salina, everything started from the vineyard. When Capofaro’s six hectares of vineyards were purchased, mostly grouped in the scenic “Amphitheater” vineyard, there had been Malvasia planted for about thirty years. The best parts of the vineyard were preserved and the buildings of the facility were renovated. The qualitative potential of one of the oldest plots on the Aeolian islands was enriched by the complexity of the best Malvasia brought to the island. Since 2017, Capofaro Locanda e Malvasia has been part of the Relais & Châteaux hotel group and is a place for discovering luxury and the simplicity of beautiful things. It has twenty-seven rooms surrounded by 4.5 hectares of vineyards. From the terraces of the rooms, shaded with bamboo shades “cannizzi”, it’s possible to enjoy a breathtaking panorama with the profiles of Stromboli and Panarea on the horizon.

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