HUGE thanks to my friend Jo who has kindly offered us this tempting review of vegan Sicily.
Jo is someone who gets a kick out of discovering vegan food in unexpected locations and she certainly has stumbled across some gems in Sicily.
Read and be jealous!
If anyone is looking for a vegan-friendly corner of the Mediterranean for a get-away, I can thoroughly recommend the south-east of Sicily.
The provincial capital city, Catania, is not only close to the airport (about 15 minutes by taxi, car or bus), has Mount Etna as its backdrop and is full of history but it also boasts three exclusively vegan restaurants as well as three vegetarian restaurants with extensive vegan options.
Food in this part of the world is reasonably priced and of super flavoursome. I was told that Catania was particularly vegan-friendly because it’s a university city but vegan food was pretty easy to find outside the city. Ordering a roasted vegetable sandwich or pasta ‘senza fromaggio’ seemed to raise not even a flicker of surprise.
My food highlights were:
- ‘Seitan Alla Piestra’ (which I think translates as ‘medalions of seitan’) at Zenzero & Salvia
- The ‘Anthony Kiedis’ pizza (spicy seitan, tomatoes and vegan cheese) at Haiku (http://www.haiku-ct.it/). It took a while to chomp through the pizza, partly because the mushroom carpaccio starter turned out to be the equivalent of the size of a UK main course but also because the pizza was generously deep filled and automatically comes with a salad. The setting at Haiku is lovely as they have a beautiful courtyard garden. Despite being happy to slowly plough through my Anthony Kiedis whilst enjoying the lovely surroundings I couldn’t manage to finish. They very kindly offered to give me a box to take the rest home. I soon realised that these large portions are the norm in Sicily.
Haiku also runs a small vegan shop next door to the restaurant where you can buy tofu products (including Taifun), nut milks and a vegan version of ‘nutella’
- My meze meal of roasted aubergine, chick pea fritters and seitan schnitzel at La Cucina Dei Colori, (http://www.happycow.net/reviews/la-cucina-dei-colori-catania-23581, washed down with an unfiltered local craft beer called ‘Tari’, and followed by a very rich chocolate and pistachio mousse. This is a vegetarian restaurant but almost all of the dishes were labelled as vegan. It’s a popular restaurant and wasn’t easy to get a table.
Other highlights include:
- Nicosia Winery’s ‘Nero D’Avola’ wine – made from grapes grown in the Etna valley. They sell a red and white wine both labelled as organic and vegan and can be bought in supermarkets.
- Stecco Natura: they sell a large range of vegan ice lollies and have branches in Catania, Taormina and Syracuse. My favourite was the ‘mandorla’ (almond) flavour. Other Gelateria sold vegan gelato and the Sicilian ‘granita’ (a bit like more natural tasting slush puppy).
- ‘Latte di mandorla’: this is a traditional home-made almond milk drink made as a spring and summer cooler drink from almonds grown locally and served in cafes and bars. Some are sweetened with honey though so you need to check
- Maccu – a traditional ‘peasant’ dish made of fava beans and wild fennel. It’s like a thick soup served with pasta;
- Vegan ‘artisan’ chocolate in Modica
My food highlight though has to be Moon restaurant in Syracuse (http://www.moonortigia.com). Not only is it a beautifully-styled restaurant (it felt a bit like sitting in a contemporary art gallery) with a fantastically chilled ambiance and right in the centre but all the dishes are vegan. I had the most delicious seitan ‘kebab’ and almond parfait for desert. They also serve the Nero D’Avola wine and the restaurant doubles as a music venue in the evenings.
Thank you, Jo!
I’m sure I’m not alone in being amazed by these glorious vegan food options in Sicily.
One thing to be aware of though is that it is common to add lard (“strutto”) to bread dough in Sicily, so you always need to ask.