Where are the best food and wine experiences in Sicily? Do you love food and wine and are you looking to experience a new culture? Sicily is the best.
Need some culinary inspiration?
Where are the best food and wine experiences in Sicily? Do you love food and wine and are you looking to experience a new culture? Sicily is the best.
Is it the food? Is it the people? Is it the culture? Is it the history?
Yes, it is all of these things in that wonderful interaction of the slow way of Sicilian life, where little old nonnas (grandmothers) sit outside their front door of the house they have lived in for 50 years; where older men gather in the afternoon to play bocce in the town square; where the traditional ways of slow cooking are passed on from family to family.
Learn all about Historical Sicily at Piazza Armerina, Villa Romana di Casale and Caltagirone on Dominique Rizzo’s Sicilian tours.
How travelling and experiencing different cultures has influenced my cooking – Dominique Rizzo’s Interview by A Taste of Harmony
Everyone would have to agree they are inspired, even just a little by the gastronomic delights they experience when travelling. For me it’s the same, I come back from my tours completely energised and even more inspired to cook more, use more fresh seasonal produce, shop at local markets explore new places, and most importantly what I bring back with me from my travels is the emphasis on keeping things simple and to let the star ingredient shine through.
The simplicity of the street food in Sicily, chickpea panelle arancini, Pane con le milza,sfincioni and croquettes, date back thousands of years, with traditions that have been handed down through generations and techniques and customs passed on through the many different cultures that has stepped upon Sicily’s soil. Romans, the Spanish, Swabians, Greeks, Normans, Arabs and so on have all left their mark on the food here. I used to think that my food was sometimes too simple and then whenever I come back from one of my food tours, I am comfortably confident in what I do and the recipes I come up with. I give them my own twist and flavour but fundamentally I always reflect back to the food I ate on my tours, their way of life and the importance of culture, tradition and community and it always grounds me.
My cooking has become a melting pot of them all, combining the flavours, ingredients and methods of cookery. In all honesty, I feel that these cuisines are some of the healthiest ways of cooking. Their cuisine styles are simple and I believe it is with the addition of the exotic spices, fresh herbs, fresh and dried fruits and nuts, that simple 3 or 4 ingredient dishes can sing louder with flavour, and have us drooling more than some of the more lavishly garnished, intricate ingredients and long, complicated dishes we find.
More locally, Norfolk Island has been an amazing food experience and left a definite mark, not only on my cooking, but more so on my philosophy for living and importance in strength of community. Norfolk has this amazing, friendly, wonderful sense of freedom. Its waters and air are pristine, it has a very interesting history and unique flora and fauna. Apart from some pre-packaged items and a couple of fresh ingredients, everything is grown, harvested and produced locally. I absolutely love that. Their traditions and history are really embraced with great pride and respect from the locals, their precious island and its unique lifestyle is embraced by everyone. It is an amazing place to visit for either a quiet relaxed getaway enjoying some amazing wine and food experiences or a wild adventure of fishing, sailing, boating, rock climbing, bush walking and attending the many events and festivals which they have on the island.
Yes absolutely, it’s part of the main reason I love running my food tours. I have the greatest honour of meeting so many amazing, passionate and interesting people and as much as I have learnt so much about them, the stories of their lives and how they interact with others, their quirks and why they might do the things they do. I have learnt so much about myself, which I have been so grateful for.
I have always believed that sharing a meal, engaging in a cooking lesson together, tasting wine and enjoying conversation, any means of gathering together around food brings out the best and sometimes the worst in people, but usually the best.
The biggest lesson I have learnt in my life that has been reinforced through running my food tours is never judge or make judgment on others as you never know what is really going on for someone behind closed doors. Until you have sat with them, engaged, connected, communicated and listened to their stories, it’s hard to imagine some of the painful events that people have experienced, which in turn has made them who they are.
I really like to just sit back, ask questions and listen to get to know people and what they like, dislike and I really enjoy asking people about their life. I find the more I know about someone, the more I am able to better understand who they are, their culture, beliefs, and in return they can better understand me and I believe this is the basis to peace and harmony between us as humans.
That’s a very difficult question!
It wasn’t necessarily an experience, more like a moment where we were all in the most beautiful moment of laughter, joy and sharing a stunning dinner on the Island of Salina. It was a series of little events, positive outcomes for some of my clients and some wonderful transformations they had simply by being able to just sit back, relax and be guided around on my tour. I design and host my tours because I know what it’s like to organise travel either before you go or while you are on the go and quite frankly it can be exhausting.
Sometimes you come back not rested or relaxed but slightly stressed and underwhelmed at all the places you missed seeing, the restaurants you didn’t get to, the distance you didn’t travel and sights you didn’t see because you were travelling on your own or organising it yourself. It’s a big job. I saw my clients faces lighten up, their smiles grow more frequent, they were glowing, their personalities opened up and on that occasion, we just laughed and laughed.
For me it was one of the most special times I have had on tour.
I personally, am becoming so despondent at the way we as humans are treating each other. It’s frightening and really sad to see and hear the way some people talk to each other, tease, taunt, troll and hurt others. People don’t listen, they refuse to open up and understand. If everyone could just stop and listen, and accept that everyone is different, that we all have different cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, understandings, ways we do things and ways we think., then I believe we would have way less hate and way more harmony.
I really feel that it is beyond important, almost a necessity to celebrate cultural diversity, not only celebrate but we need to be constantly educated and reminded of its importance. Without celebrating cultural diversity, we wouldn’t have half the interesting aspects of our country that now exist. We would not be open to new ideas and ways of doing things.
The more we can celebrate and be open to cultural diversity, the more we will have stronger communities looking out for each other and not just it being mine, yours and theirs. I sincerely hope that in my lifetime we will be celebrating not just one day through A Taste of Harmony and bringing this awareness to cultural diversity on this day, but that it will just be the norm. Acceptance, understanding and freedom for everyone to live their lives embracing their tradition, culture and to embrace everybody else’s’ with the same respect would be my greatest joy.
To get involved with Taste of Harmony is to say to your employees, we embrace and accept everyone equally. We see the importance of cultural differences as a benefit to our business and we support and respect it. We welcome different, we welcome diverse and we are open and willing to engage in bridging the gaps and to open the lines of communication. It can only be a good positive outcome for businesses to engage everyone together on an even platform – strength in numbers.
Dominique Rizzo is one of Queensland’s leading chefs, author and owner of Putia Pure Food Kitchen. Learn more about Dominique’s Food, Wine & Culture Tours to destinations such as Sicily, Greece, Spain and Norfolk Island here.
This Swordfish Involtini recipe is a rendition of the sarde beccafico, stuffed baked sardines, although this is my version using swordfish and the similar delicious stuffing of garlic, pine nuts, raisins, pecorino cheese, and onions.
Sarde beccafico is a typical Sicilian dish made of fresh sardines filled breadcrumbs, olive oil, pine nuts, and raisins. Beccafico, which is a little bird similar to a quail, literally means beak figs.
This recipe serves 4, takes 15 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to cook. Skill level is easy.
If you would like more recipes and tips like this, then follow Chef Dominique Rizzo on her YouTube Channel and on Facebook or Instagram
For more of Dominique’s recipes go to her cookbook “My Taste of Sicily” https://dominiquerizzo.com/product/my-taste-of-sicily-by-dominique-rizzo/
Want to know more about Chef Dominique Rizzo?
This is an excerpt from an interview with Dominique by “Gastronomy Gal” at http://www.gastronomygal.com/ for their blog “Healthy Eating Month”.
Q: Having an Italian background, I guess cooking is in your blood. Did you start cooking when you were really young?
My mother tells me that I used to make her and dad breakfast in bed when I was three or four and used the hot water tap in the bath to make their coffee, so yes, I started young.
Q: I love the idea of teaching healthy eating from an early age. Do you find that kids are more receptive to trying new things if they have been involved in the process of cooking?
Amazingly so, and also, through seeing other children trying different foods, they are highly influenced. I feel that when children have an opportunity to be in the process of making the food, they really feel proud and want to then enjoy what they have made.
Q: I know you are a big advocate, can you give us the rundown on ‘Whole Foods?’
To me whole foods are, as it says, incorporating “real foods” in your cooking using a variety of grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, and also fresh organic meats. So to me, it’s really cutting out all of the tinned, preservative rich foods that can sustain in packets for ages. Fresh food, like us, is living food and the more we eat the living foods the more vibrant and healthy we will feel.
Q: You’ve just arrived back from an Italian holiday. For Italian novices, what is your favourite region and what did you eat there?
Well, of course, Sicily is my favourite region and my favourite dishes were fresh artichokes baked in the oven with garlic, pecorino cheese, anchovies and bread crumbs. Also, I love their pasta and cauliflower with pine nuts and currants. Swordfish crumbed and baked in the oven with a dressing of parsley garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. I had a wonderful banquet of couscous and a squid ink sauce.. and the desserts……..I could go on for hours.
Q: Biggest food influences in your life?
My Zia (my Sicilian aunt), my mum, my first Head Chef Brenda and my love for foods that say something.
Q: What would your standard weekday lunch or dinner include?
Lunch usually for me is a salad with some sort of grain. I love chickpeas, lentils and salty things like olives, feta, capers and then tossed with roasted free range or organic chicken or tuna and a home-made dressing with loads of herbs. Dinner usually is fish, I love salmon so its salmon, seared, steamed, grilled and served with as many vegetables as I can find in my fridge. I am big on dressings and make great Asian, Mediterranean and yoghurt dressings to jazz up things.
Q: What is your favourite type of food to splurge on?
Q: What is your favourite really healthy dish?
Cold Soba noodles, greens and cold poached salmon with a sesame seed dressing or a green papaya salad with a good handful of Thai herbs and prawns with a zesty lime and chilli dressing.
Q: What would you order when you are eating out and trying to be conscious of weight/health?
Usually fish or seafood, I had a beautiful warm seafood and Thai salad with coconut tom yum broth….fantastic. Or I will order chicken if it’s free range or organic. I don’t really eat a lot of meat as my body never really asks for it.
Q: How do you manage to stay so slim whilst loving food? Diet and exercise combination?
Definitely, in fact I get asked that all the time, people are amazed and always say how slim I am which I don’t think I am, but they feel that as I am a chef I must eat all the time, and I do but it’s what I eat. Yes, I also do exercise about 4-5 times a week. It’s about balance, I eat what I want, then exercise allows me to have that food freedom.
Q: Do you have any extra tips for Gastronomy Gal on healthy eating?
Listen to your body on hunger and feeling full signals, that way you can eat what you want, just stop when you have had enough.
Q: Most used cookbook?
Stephanie Alexanders “Cooks Companion”….its now falling apart
Dominique Rizzo went to Sicilia for the first time at the age of three. With her Italian father and Australian mother, her older and younger brother, they stayed on the farm of her uncle. It was here that she first remembers seeing the process of the pigs being butchered and meat prepared. It was the start point of a lifelong fascination with simple, fresh food, and specifically, a love of Sicilian food which led her to carve out a successful career as a chef.
Dominique’s father, Vincent Rizzo came from a poor family in Palermo. At the age of ten he left school. At the age of eleven, he started working as an apprentice carpenter with his older brother Andrea. His father, a seaman, had travelled all over the world including spending three or four years in Australia. On his return to Sicilia, he talked of Australia and suggested Vincent emigrate. In March 1961 at the age of 20, he boarded the ship ‘Aurelia’ for Australia for a thirty-five day journey, before arriving in Melbourne. It was the last voyage for this ship, which was dismantled soon after. The boat was small, quite rocky, and 35 days was a long time to be with with 1200 other migrants leaving from the port of Genova – a variety of nationalities including Spanish, Maltese, Yugoslav and Greek. There were three people from Palermo on the ship, who he never saw again after disembarkation. Sponsored by a friend, he found work and a home in Melbourne.
His first job was at the foundry making parts for tractors, working 12 hour days. He learnt english from other Italian migrants who had been in Australia longer. Vincent came to Brisbane to be best man at a friend’s wedding and while here he met his future wife at the dance hall, Cloudland. When they married, he returned to his original trade as a carpenter as they began to build a life and family in Brisbane. Vincent was the only one of his four siblings to come to Australia.
Dominique regards a trip to Sicilia for a gap year after high school, as the point when she felt a distinctive connection with her Italian roots. The family had continued to regularly visit Italy during her childhood. She remembers watching the cutting of pigs for the bleed and then the processing and use of every part of the animal. From the kitchen’s of her Zia’s and Nonna, she picked the vegetables, collected the eggs, rolled the polpette, stirred the pasta, picked the cucuzza and arranged the fruits. She sat on a rickety stool cleaning garden snails, peeling vegetables, washing wild greens. The menu could consist of tripe, goats heads, pigs trotters and intestines, rabbits, wild fennel, fresh broad beans, fresh pastas, grains, prickly pears, breads, goats cheeses or sheep infested with maggots being the delicacy. She recalls the abundance and generosity of the tables, from those with so little, yet willing to share everything.
These experiences inevitably contributed to her love affair with Italian food. Living with family and working in cafe’s during her gap year gave her a longer experience of the rustic land, peasant lifestyle and family filled eating extravaganzas. She describes the recipes of her Italian family as being some of her most cherished , with the history of flavours from the most simple and freshest of foods. Dominique continues to share her passion for Sicilia through her cooking and food tours back to her father’s homeland. She describes the ongoing sense of joy on returning to Italia and the emotion on leaving. Dominique’s life and work focus centres around her philosophy that ‘through the sharing of food we share life and one is never lonely or hungry.”
© Jacqueline Bawtree. Used with Permission.