L’Arco dei Cappuccini – restaurant review Taormina

Hurrah, finally we had a meal at a restaurant I had been trying to get into for days, L’Arco dei Cappuccini on via Cappuccini, a small street tucked around the corner from the city gate of Taormina, Sicily.

It was my sister Susie’s actual birthday and due to a series of events mostly surrounding my three year old nephew Sam’s bad behaviour, Mum, Dad, Zorba, Susie and I went out for dinner.  Ben took a hit for the team and stayed home with the kids :(.

The restaurant was set in a small outdoor courtyard with its high walls covered in climbing vines. Carmelo was one of our friendly waiters and when he explained to Dad that there weren’t any beers large bottles of beer, much to Dad’s verbalised disappointment, Carmelo responded in Italian, “It’s not the end of the world, just drink two small ones!”  I thought that was brilliant!

For antipasti, Susie and I both had Tuna Tartar, raw tuna with lemon juice.  It was fresh, meaty yet tender and amazing.

Tuna tartare

Zorba had the white bait which consisted of hundreds of tiny fish formed into fish cakes and fried crispy on the outside. They were crisp, salty in a moorish way, and sensational.

Mum and Dad both had marinated anchovies and they were so delicate and so, so delicious.  Before you screw your face up, the marinated anchovies are little slivers of white fish marinated in a olive oil, lemon juice and a touch of vinegar. They are seriously good and do not resemble anything like the ‘hairy fish’ on pizza that we think of in Australia when anchovies are mentioned.

Marninated anchovies

For main course, our friendly and funny waiter Carmelo showed us the fresh fish that was available.  The sea bass looked so fresh and when he described that it would be cooked with a Sicilian sauce of tomatoes, capers and olives, I was sold. No one else wanted any, so I pretty much had the whole fish to myself.  It was a bit too much for me to finish – but never fear, the Greek was near!  Zorba enjoyed helping me finish it off.  Yum yum yum!!

Zorba had home made fresh pasta with tuna and he thoroughly enjoyed it.  So much so that he wolfed it down fast and I didn’t even get a taste!

Susie, Mum and Dad all had linguine alla vongole – linguine with a clam / pippis.  They ooh and ahhed with every mouthful.

We can thank Antonia our land lady for the restaurant recommendation.  Zorba and I tried to get in on Tuesday night but the restaurant was fully booked. On Wednesday we went back to make a reservation, but it was closed.  While we were trying to figure out if the restaurant was indeed closed or if we were too early, we met a couple of Scandanavian boys who were also trying to make a reservation.  They said that they had eaten there once before and the food was phenomenal and there were no tourists in the place, only Italians. This only made me more determined to experience a meal there and I’m so glad we did. It was fantastically fabulous.  From the friendly chatty service, the intimate garden courtyard setting, to the unforgettable food, it is worthy of its Bortoletto holiday title of ‘The meal of Sicily’.

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FACT FILE

L’Arco dei Cappuccini‪
Via Cappuccini, 1, 98039 Taormina, Sicily, Italy
Tel: +39 0942 24893

Castelmola – another hard hike

Castelmola is a hilltop town 5km from Taormina, uphill the whole way.   Some crazy person suggested that it might be a good idea to walk there and have a look at the town (hint – Walter).

The plan was for Mum, Dad, Zorba and I to meet at 8.30am, walk 10 minutes from our villa to the funicular, catch the cable car up the hill to Taormina, have a decent coffee, walk to the Greek amphitheatre to check it out and then walk up to Castelmola.

So we left at 9am…a little later than we would have liked, but that’s life when on holidays.

Taormina itself is ancient and dates back to 3 BC.  The Greek amphitheatre is said to have been complete in 2 AD.  It cost 8 euro each to enter and it was worth it, quite impressive. The awesome views from the amphitheatre are worthy of the entry fee on their own.

The Greek Amphitheatre, Taormina

There were heaps of roadies at the amphitheatre setting up staging and lights for a series of concerts that are going to be held over the next few days.

The Greek Amphitheatre, Taormina

It would be a gorgeous setting for a concert – we were hoping to be able to see something there whilst in Taormina.  As it turned out, the music concert on that night was sold out, and the only other show during our time there were two Italian comedians. My Italian language skills can impress some that don’t speak a word of another language, but they are no where near good enough to understand the jokes of a couple of fast slang talking comedians.  Che peccata! What a shame!

From the amphitheatre, we went to the tourist information point in Taormina to enquire about the walk to Castelmola.  Dad asked the questions and I entered the conversation as the lady behind the counter was giving her answer.  “Yes, it’s just a 20-minute walk, up many steps, but slowly slowly, you will get there – just 20 minutes.”

That sounded pretty good to me.  Although, I learned later that the 20-minute walk was to the old ruined castle on top of another nearby hill that Walter was keen to check out, not Castelmola. Sigh.

I think I can, I think I can…

It’s safe to say that the five kilometre uphill (more like up-mountain) walk to Castelmola was difficult.  A never-ending staircase took us about half way up, and the steep road interspersed with steps, took us up the other half.  It was a blistering hot day – must have been close to 40 degrees – and whenever we found a spot of shade, we stopped to catch our breath.  I was coping, but finding it difficult, Zorba was a Greek mountain goat (yet again – see Hiking in Cinque Terre) trotting up and then waiting for us to catch up and Mum and Dad were both feeling the heat.

After a solid hour of uphill climbing and profuse sweating, we reached Castelmola.

So happy to have reached the top!

Yippeee!  W all felt the great sense of achievement of conquering the mountain!  And what a quaint cute little hilltop town it is.  Simply gorgeous!  The views go forever and ever over hills, over other towns, Taormina, and of course the blue Mediterranean Sea.  Che bella!

Castelmola is a tourist friendly town with tourism officers at the entrance of the town waiting to greet visitors. Walter asked them about the bus that goes back down the hill to Taormina and he was told that it leaves 15 minutes past every hour.  Great!

We walked through the agreeable little town, had a taste of the speciality of the town, Vino alla Mandorla – an almond wine that I thought it was quite nice. It was like a marzipan liqueur. Walter didn’t like it, but Zorba and I did.  We made a mental note to buy a bottle on our way out (which we conveniently forgot to do).

Looking down on the world from way up here

Mum and I were looking at the few shops that were in the town when we lost Zorba and Dad.  Hmm, I bet they have gone up to the top of the castle I say.  The last thing we felt like was climbing more stairs, but Gina and I soldiered on.  Once at the top, the view was lovely, just as lovely as from the town just below. The ruined wall that was once a castle isn’t worth mentioning (and I was too knackered to appreciate it), and Walter and Zorba were nowhere to be seen. Thank God there were a few trees up there providing some shade. It was really baking hot.  Back down to town, and down the stairs we trudged, step after step.

Back into Castelmola, we found the boys sitting in a bar at an outside table under a tree enjoying a large ice cold beer. Aaah, two more thanks!  Beautiful cold beer, a well deserved too.

Tuna steak cooked in Sicilian sauce of tomatoes, capers, and olives. Delicious!

For lunch we chose a restaurant called La Taverna dell’Etna for no particular reason except it looked good, was covered and protected from the baking sun, and had a nice view.  It proved to be a good choice as lunch was scrumptious!

Mum and I both had tuna steak cooked Sicilian style in a sauce with red onion, cherry tomatoes, olives and capers; simple yet delicious. I could eat that every day and not get sick of it.

The boys had scallopine con funghi – veal with mushrooms.  It too was very tasty, but I think Mum and I chose dish of the day.  All side salads were fresh and crunchy.  Absolutely delightful.

Veal with mushroom sauce

We rushed to leave because we wanted to catch the 2.15pm bus back to Taormina. We all agreed that the walk up was sufficient torture for the day and we wouldn’t be walking down.  My knees were whimpering at the mere thought of the steep descent!

Dad quickly paid the bill (thanks Dad!) and off we scurried, out of town, down the hill, down the stairs into the blazing sun to the bus stop.  Uh-o.  Un problemo.  The bus timetable at the bus stop stated that there was a bus at 13.15 and the next one at 15.15.  Bugger!!!  Even the buses have siestas!  Poo poo poo!  Zorba and I contemplated walking back down for about 20 seconds.  In the end, the decision to walk back up the hill into town, find a place to have a beer and wait for the next bus at 15.15 was a far more appealing option.

When we reached the entrance to the town of Castelmola, there was a lovely shiny taxi just waiting there, seemingly for us.  For 15 euro, he drove us 20 minutes down the steep windy road back to Taormina, however dropping us off at the other end of town, the far end.  Sigh.  Have I mentioned the stinking hot blazing sun already?  I felt my skin frying as we walked through town – thank the Lord for air-conditioned gelaterias.   Everyone enjoyed a gelati, except me, I had a coffee granita instead. The icy cold coffee was the perfect pick me up.

Oh hurry up and get me home!  What a mission to get home: A walk through Taormina looking at closed shop after closed shop, a walk down the hill to the funicular, a wait at the funicular, and then the never ending walk back to Villa Il Suk, our home for the week.

I collapsed on the bed for about 10 minutes, tired, hot, and a bit cranky then mustered up the energy to get changed into swimmers and jump into the Hollywood pool.  Aaaah, that’s what I needed!!

The Hollywood pool

 

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FACT FILE

La Taverna dell’Etna
Via A, De Gasperi, 29, Castelmola (ME)
Tel: +39 (0)942 28868

Tiramisu Restaurant and Pizzeria, Taormina

Our Sicilian landlady Antonia and the trusty Lonely Planet, both recommended Tiramisu restaurant in Toarmina so Zorba and I were keen to check it out. 

We arrived about 8:45pm for dinner and the waiter looked doubtful when we said we didn’t have a reservation.  Nonetheless, we were seated at a table for two near the stairs.  The setting was lovely and I immediately noticed that there were stacks of Italians in there and not that many tourists.  The area had tree-size leafy plants in large pots scattered around the restaurant, a partially covered terrace, fine cloth napery, and lovely big wine glasses.  Oh a little bit of posh I do like!

As Zorba and I had grazed with the family earlier at another restaurant that they went to with the kids (Indi 5 and Sam 3 years old), we weren’t totally famished.  We decided just to dive straight into mains.  The linguine alla scoglio with scampi, prawns, mussels and calamari (for two) sounded beautiful.  And it tasted beautiful too.  I love the way Italians can cook pasta properly – al dente.  The sauce was seafood delicate and the sauce had a lovely depth of flavour to it.  It was just so tasty!  Really, really good.

Linguine alla scoglio – delicious seafood linguine

We didn’t follow normal dining protocol and washed it down with a bottle of red rather than the text book white that is said to go with seafood, a Sicilian Nero D’Avola, which was also very good.

Well, the second bottle was good. The first bottle I ordered came to the table and it wasn’t the one I ordered. A Nero D’Avola it was, but it was from a different winery. When I quizzed the waiter about it as he was opening the bottle, he said that it was the same grape variety and that the other one I had chosen was finished.  Hmmm, I didn’t like that. He should have alerted that to me first before just going ahead to open the bottle, don’t you think?  I enquired about the price and he assured me it was the same, 16 euro per bottle.  Va bene.

The nice Nero D’Avola

When I tasted the wine however, it wasn’t nice. It was sharp, acidic, and didn’t taste like it could open up and be a lovely smooth easy drinking vino after some time airing. In fact, there was nothing at all pleasant about it.  I passed my taste remains to Zorba who concurred. I told the waiter that it wasn’t good and invited him to pour himself a taste in a clean glass to see for himself. He did just that and took the glass as far up as his nose and put it down again without tasting the wine.  He promptly apologised and brought another bottle – a Sicilian Nero D’Avola from a different winery.  A lovely one.  Hurrah!

Despite the wine mishap, the service was professional and efficient, the prices were reasonable, the setting was lovely, and our meal was delicious!

FACT FILE

Tiramisu Restaurant
Via Cappuccini 1, Taormina
Tel: +39 (0)942 24803

Trattoria Don Ciccio, Taormina

This gorgeous little trattoria off a side street from the main pedestrianised drag of Taormina has cute little balconies that step down to follow the gradient the of the sloped street.

It was 11pm when we sat down for dinner.  Yes, 11pm.  But after the huge day of travelling, the transfer from Catania airport to Taormina, the check in process that seemed to take forever, then the walk to the funicular up to Taormina, and then the lap of the hill top town we did before finally choosing a restaurant.  No wonder we were knackered!

Trattoria Don Ciccio did not disappoint us for our first dinner in Sicilia.  My feet were aching and it was a relief just to sit down.

I was delighted to see caponata on the menu – I’ll have one of those thanks!  Caponata is cooked a little like a ratatouille but has eggplant, pinenuts, raisins, and a agrodolce sauce – sweet and sour.  Zorba and I shared it as a starter and the memories the taste brings back makes it one of my most favourite Sicilian dishes.

Zorba wanted pasta for dinner because his favourite pasta con sarde (pasta with sardines) was on the menu.

It was a hard choice for me, in the end I chose a fresh pasta dish typical to the area, pasta campanelle with mussels, zucchini, and mint.  It was a combination I’ve never tried before, and one I want to try again and again.  The mint was fresh and it goes so well with zucchini.  The fresh pasta was made and cooked perfectly, absolutely delicious.  Buonissimo!

This was washed down with a very quaffable carafe of house red wine.

For dessert, we decided to wander down the street and have a gelato – this was around 12.30am. Surprisingly, some of the shops were still open and if I wanted a new pair of shoes post midnight, this wish could be accommodated in Taormina.  We stumbled in the door totally full and spent around 1.15am.  ‘Twas a really wonderful first night out in Sicilia.

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