THE MOST MEMORABLE MEAL IN ITALY WASN’T IN ROME
You will live your life eating millions of meals. Some are good, some are great, but few are truly memorable from the moment you sit down until the moment you walk out the door. If you are lucky, you will experience a memorable meal, one that can still close your eyes and describe every moment — who you were with, how you felt after each bite, the fresh smells and sounds coming from the kitchen, the local wines you tasted and the warm welcome you received from the staff - as if you were joining them in their home for family dinner.
This is how we felt when our life path led us to Badalamenti Cucina e Bottega in Mondello, Sicily for dinner. Mondello is a small borough in the city of Palermo. It was our first time in Italy and our first night of our 2 week family vacation. My parents and brother had never left the country, so I wanted the night to be an easy transition into a new culture for them and the pressure was on to have them really understand why I love to travel so much.
We ordered a cab from our hotel (The Grand Hotel Villa Igiea) and drove alongside the ocean as the sun started to set, to a seaside village with quaint shops that lined the streets, each block filled with Gelatarias and locals walking hand in hand enjoying their summer.
We walked into Badalamenti Cucina e Bottega and were immediately greeted with smiles. We were a bit early for European dinner, because we’re fat Americans and obviously we like to eat earlier in the night (then go bed) so we sat right away. We quickly realized the restaurant was family owned by two brothers, with striking blue eyes, who described the menu and specials to us. I noticed my parents seemed calm and comfortable, which made me happy that this was the first stop on our journey throughout Italy.
Not only was the restaurant a gourmet pasta shop, but the walls were lined with an expensive wine selection. We started with an order of “the most important red wine grape in Sicily,” aka a few bottles of Nero a’Avola wine. Here’s what followed:
Fresh Zucchini Flowers stuffed with ricotta, which tasted similar to a homemade manicotti
Rice balls with minced shrimp, mozzarella, ricotta in a spicy red marinara with fresh mussels
Seafood fusilli special with fresh shrimp and scollops
Rigatoni in a boar ragu with mozzarella
Ravioli with an eggplant, goat cheese stuffing
The pasta was cooked just right and not one person left a single crumb their plate. Think Leo (my dad) even used his famous dad joke “we hated it! take it back!” as they were clearing empty plates.
As we left everyone agreed we had really experienced something special and I felt a sense of relief that my family had a meal to top as we proceeded onto Rome for the next leg of the vacation.