Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Festa di San Francesco

Weekend of festivities in May for the Festa di San Francesco, the feast day of Saint Francis. The statue is taken from his altar in la chiesa di San Francesco, and taken on a special route around the city, on a float carried by a specially chosen troup of men. Traditionally people throw petals from balconies to bring good luck as the statues passes. The klu klux clan in white herald his arrival... remants of the Spanish Easter processions. Luckily the town council hadn't turned off the street lighting back then. This, we had huge carneval florescent lights in garlands outside the church, and cannoli (ricotta-filled pastries) for all. Followed by the usual magnificent firework display. Since then, the town council has gone back to its state of crisis, and is little by little cutting the street lighting in many streets around the town ...

The Godfather moment

Sooner or later in Sicily, you come across a Godfather moment. Even when you live here amidst all the humdrum frustrations of daily Sicilian life. At last: a day trip to Savoca, where we had the obligatory coffee at bar Vitelli, were some of the most famous scenes of the original Godfather were shot, in 1972.

Siesta and stroll in Taormina

We went to Taormina recently. Took the usual photos of Mount Etna from the piazza and some of the arches over the narrow sidestreets. But my favourite photo was this one. I want to know this: who is that man sleeping his siesta on the bench in glam Taormina's main square? And, more interesting still: who is the dignified elderly man dressed in the exquisitely tailored suit, out for a silent digestive stroll?

Kitch fish

If you want pesce al sale - oven-baked fish in a salt crust - this is how it will come to you at Pachamama...
Mid-week we get a request for a booking for a party of twenty, for a girl's birthday. She wants to spend a maximum of €60 - four bottles of prosecco. A bottle costs €16, so she wants a little discount, plus she will bring a cake which our waiter will slice and serve ... and of course, service is included - the plates and flute glasses and the dishwashing, and the laying out of tables for the twenty or so people. Although they will occupy most of the upstairs room, there is no rental fee for the space. Never mind that a table for two would generate €60 with much less effort. On the night itself, she saunters downstairs every so often, 25 years old with the ways of an 18 year old. She apologises that many of her friends haven't turned up and so she would like one less bottle ... this happens several times throughout the night, despite the fact that the waiter notes all twenty places are occupied at the table, with more standing. When she tries to renegue on bottle number two, he mentions this. In the end, the young lady pays a grand total of €35 for entertaining her large group of friends. The following night we have a booking for another party of 15 this time. They want prosecco and antipasti and fruit - plus the service and space, naturally, all included in €100. So €60 for the 4 botles of prosecco, leaves €40 for the fruit and antipasti - just over €2 per person. Errr, profit? And the man who made the booking asked for a discount on this ... As if he were doing us a favour. We decided that we need to ask for half of the total amount up front. I would have done this long ago, but my husband is afraid of offending customers. I think by now, though, that our reputation is well enough established. Otherwise, what is the point?

England Vs Italy, Quarter Finals, European Cup

We have had a group of English guys up at the restaurant for the last few weeks. I met them coming up the steps to the borgo one fine evening in May. They greeting me in English, and when I replied in the same language they immediately asked me where they could find a restaurant with an English menu... Look no further, I said, and led them to Pachamama. They said they were tired of pasta and wanted to know what it was they were eating! On a six week contract at the refinery, they are responsible for cleaning the waste tubes, the areas where the burnt residues of oil collect. Needless to say, this is the filthiest refinery they have ever worked in. This was particularly reassuring to know in May and early June, when experts were predicting hugh earthquakes in the South of Italy ... The six English gentlemen from Licoln munched their way through many steaks, to my surprise (rather than the seafood options), and downed copious quantities of beer (to everyone else's surprise). The waiters were amazed that they drank 23 pints and two vodka tonics between them during the England-Italy match - pretty normal - and yet made faces of disgust when they drank the shots of vodka at the end of the match - offered to all who watched it with us. However, they made the atmosphere. The Italians were all nervous and excited about the match, but the presence of the jolly bunch of inglesi made it all the more tense. Great banter was exchanged though there is a lot of doubt as to who understood what! Outside one of the waiters and one of the Englishmen smoked their way through a packet of cigarettes to calm their nerves, and pigeon English and sign language abounded. The Sicilians were all impressed by the English handshakes and pats on the back at the end. The Englishmen went home on Monday, telling me it was the tastiest steak they had ever had. Compliments to the chef!