Cuisine of the Gattopardo

Rocco Forte Hotels

Cloudless sky, stoic cliffs, pristine sand, and crystal waters meet as if in silent agreement. For millennia, Sicily’s beauty has beckoned travellers, who recount their visits like voyeurs humbled by her charms. The landscape is a compliment to the vibrant hues of Palermo’s bustling markets, where almond-studded biscotti, emerald-green olives cultivated from generous soil, and ruby-red tomatoes blend like a painting.

Indeed, each community, conqueror, and inquisitive neighbour has left their brush stroke on Sicily. Each dish served here today is a celebration of resilience, creativity, and culture. Of farmers, rightfully revered as experts of their craft. And of a persistent spirit that seems to come from the island itself, passed through its people and their eternal love affair with food.

Sicily has been a gracious witness to its own history, shaped as it is by the roots of sixteen conquests, by its enticing position as a crossroads for Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, and by colonisation, settlement, and radical social change. Sicily’s customs, agriculture, and language are a melting pot of Italian, Greek, Arabic, French, Spanish, and Northern African influence. Its cuisine is a cultural text that tells the story of a place in ways that words cannot.

Sustaining narratives

Sicily’s literary landscape is as layered as its evocative, deeply felt history. Writers have long sought to claim its inscrutable character on the page. Shakespeare sets The Winter’s Tale on Sicily’s ‘Fertile’ isle, whose climate is ‘delicate’, and whose air is ‘most sweet’. D. H. Lawrence reflects that ‘anyone who has once known this land can never quite be free from the nostalgia for it’. While Goethe submits the enigmatic, ‘Sicily is the clue to everything’.

First-time visitors might take Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s 1958 novel as a point of reference for their travel lens. The posthumously published Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) is acclaimed for its portrayal of Sicily and all her nuances, contradictions, and ghosts. Gastronomes will have spotted, among Lampedusa’s other literary devices, food as a recurring motif within the challenging prose.

Through protagonist Don Fabrizio, head of Sicily’s ruling class, we witness detailed preparation of pasta con le sarde – suggestive of persevering tradition amid tumultuous times. The capon (castrated rooster) in the novel’s grand banquet scene embodies the political neutering of Sicily’s aristocracy. And the author’s placement of an arancini ball in the squeezing hands of the ‘uneducated as a cat’ Angelica speaks to an emergent bourgeoisie thriving under Italian unification and its influence in shaping Sicily’s fate.

Sincere and natural cuisine

Villa Igiea features as a backdrop to Lampedusa’s masterpiece. Our ancient palazzo is written into The Leopard’s pages, adding a layer of authenticity to its portrayal of the aristocratic world. And the narratives within our walls are equally compelling. The food served at Florio, Villa Igiea’s Belle Époque restaurant, pays elegant homage to Palermo’s rich culinary history, while the restaurant’s original Louis XVI hall keeps the secrets of artists, royalty, and Hollywood elite who dined here. Simplicity, quality, and generosity characterise Florio’s dishes, designed under the philosophy of Fulvio Pierangelini, two Michelin-starred chef and Creative Director of Food at Rocco Forte Hotels.

Produce grown and harvested in Villa Igiea’s own gardens and orchards supply flavours that are at once nostalgic and novel. Fulvio’s menu is a joyful ode to sincere, natural cuisine, and to Sicily’s abundance, with sea-fresh fish, raw crustaceans, and golden orbs of arancini evoking those delicious tensions of tradition and modernity. A menu made with such devotion asks only the same in return. Take your time, take a seat at our table, and allow Sicily’s storied past to grace your palate as you savour the cuisine of the Gattopardo.

As a Rocco Forte Friend, we recognise you as family. Expect invitations to unique culinary events and enjoy 15% off drinking and dining at Florio during your stay.

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