Tasting Sicily Enzo’s kitchen is located on Panton Street, less than a five minute walk from Piccadilly Circus station. They offer Italian style ‘aperitivo’, a la carte menus, set lunch menus, private hire and even cookery demonstrations! Dining here means taking your time and enjoying what you’re eating, at Tasting Sicily you’re encouraged to share dishes and linger over each course, and to enjoy drink of course! I can recommend the Aperol Spritz!
This is the flagship restaurant of the Tasting Sicily brand, a deli food company offering hand prepared and hand packaged Sicilian specialities to consumers and caterers. Their goal is to spread Sicilian food and ‘slow eating Presidia’ worldwide. The Presidia are a slow food projects, they ‘sustain quality production at risk of extinction, protecting unique regions and ecosystems and recovering traditional processing methods, safeguard native breeds and local plant varieties’. Opening the restaurant about eight months ago, their ingredients are shipped over from Sicily, supporting small local farmers across the Islands. We discovered that Sicilian food is really diverse with one dish tasting different depending where in Sicily you taste it. There’s also a big influence of Sicily’s history in its food, for example sweet and sour dishes influenced by when Sicily was under Arabian control.
Whilst we were chatting to our lovely meal companion Francesca (who works with Tasting Sicily) learning about Sicilian culture and food we had some Pane, olio e olive: Bread served with Sicilian extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Sicilian olives, which were high quality and tasty.
Chef Enzo recommended our starters of L’Arancina del Commissario con panelle e crocchette: Sicilian rice balls with ragu, crispy chickpea fritters and potato croquettes and the Antipasto “Tasting Sicily”: “Tasting Sicily” Caponata, sweet and sour pumpkin, selection of cured meats from Nebrodi, olives, and crostini with “Tasting Sicily” pates. This was a great mix to introduce us to some Sicilian flavours, the arancini and croquettes were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside and well flavoured. The chickpea fritters were crispy and very tasty – a new flavour to all of us. The tasting platter was great, in particular the caponata was delicious and the varied pates (sundried tomato, aubergine and tapenade) were really something special.
Again for our mains we trusted Chef Enzo to surprise us with some favourite dishes. We had the Spaghetti alla Eoliana: Aeolian sauce spaghetti with Salina capers, olives, cherry tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. Anelletti alla Palermitana: Little ring – shaped baked pasta, with ragu and peas, minced meat, eggs, ham, Sicilian caciocavallo cheese, aubergines, breadcrumbs. Risotto al nero di seppie: Risotto with cuttlefish and black ink sauce and finally the Tonno in cipollata: Sicilian marinated tuna steak with red onion in sweet and sour sauce.
The Aeolian pasta was simple but great, really tasty considering there were so few ingredients – the al dente pasta (we didn’t have the spaghetti version) was great and we loved the sweet capers. The risotto was fantastic, jet black but creamy, messing with the brain but not the taste buds! It tasted delicious with the small chunks of cuttlefish running through the rice. The tuna was meaty and tasted great, the sweet onions married well with the sweet and sour sauce and all combined perfectly.
To finish of course we had to have the Cannolini Siciliani: Tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy ricotta cheese. Cannolini is my absolute favourite and I always get excited when I see it on a menu, these didn’t disappoint! The crispy deep fried shell was stuffed full of sweet ricotta and chocolate chips and finished off our meal perfectly.
Head chef Enzo Oliveri, who is the president of the Federation of Italian Chefs in the UK and the official chef for the Italian national cycling team, says that he has had a passion for Sicilian food since he was a child and this shows in his authentic menu and delicious food. The passion for his country shines through in his restaurant. If you’re looking for the real deal take a trip to Tasting Sicily, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!