An Evening in Sicily

Last night, the most delicious and extravagant dinner in Pittsburgh was not served at a swanky restaurant on Mount Washington, it was presented in 11 fabulous courses at a pizza place in Beaver!  Phyllis Loffreda-Mancinelli, with the assistance of Patricia Colavincenzo, Lynn Clayton and Joanne Wright, assembled each dish from locally sourced suppliers for a special SLOW FOODS dinner.  We started with two kinds of caponata served on locally baked bread slices.  That was followed by a beautiful plate of cold seafood dressed with fresh herbs, olive oil and lemon.  Next came the tiniest and tenderest little neck clams swimming in a saffron tomato broth.  No one let a drop of that broth get away.  The antipasti were rounded out with a refreshing orange and sliced fennel salad in a balsamic vinaigrette.

For primo piatto we sampled two different pastas.  The first was linguine topped with a shaving of bottarga (cured tuna roe) that gave a more subtle and deeper seafood flavor than I had expected.  Kind of a seafood umami.  That was followed by thin strips of curly edged pasta called “lasagnetti” with a light cream sauce and crushed pistachio nuts.

Secundo Piatto included an unctuous red snapper that had been baked in a salt crust to contain all the flavor and moisture during baking.  It was not in the least bit salty but melted on the tongue.  The plate was beautiful with a drizzle of olive oil,  lemon slices, some long chive fronds and a sprinkling of red peppercorns.  That was followed by two perfectly marinated and grilled little lamb chops and some locally produced Sicilian sausage, grilled on a skewer with a fresh bay leaf on the end.  These were accompanied with braised swiss chard that was flavored in the traditional Sicilian agro dolce method and accented with pignoli nuts and the sweetest white raisins.

Dolci was a fabulous Cassata Siciliana with layers of liquer infused sponge cake, ricotta cream, chocolate and candied orange peels.  Beside it on the plate was a Semifreddo al Torrone, a frozen mousse dessert with hazelnuts and chocolate – my two favorite flavors in the world.

I don’t know if we can ever talk Phyllis into doing another of these fabulous dinners – once may have been enough for her! – but if it’s possible I’ll  be sure to let you know in advance.  It was an unforgettable and totally authentic dining experience that you could never duplicate in a restaurant.

I’ll try to post some pictures as soon as they are available.