Allow me to introduce my favourite (food) discovery of the year: Granita. You may remember granita was our top pick in the Top 10 Ten Vegan Desserts of 2010 post. We first heard about this frozen treat, which is made from water, sugar and fruit or almonds, when we were in the north of Italy. We saw it from time to time in gelato shops while in Venice and Florence, but waited until we made our way down to Sicily before trying it. In Sicily, you’ll find the best granita in the world (duh, they invented it!). Knowing this, we held out for the good stuff.
Not all Granita is Made Equal
Example A: watery and chunky granita in Florence, Italy.
Example B: Creamy, silky smooth granita made with almond milk and fruit in Acireale, Sicily.
We stayed with locals while in Acireale, a coastal city in the north-east of Catania, Sicily, Italy. When they asked us what we wanted to do during our stay, we said spend time at the sea and try granita. They were impressed that we had the right idea about how to enjoy the summer in Sicily. We were eager to taste our first scoops of granita, but our host tried to convince us that it’s best enjoyed after an afternoon of roasting on the rocky beach. On day one, we were too excited to wait and headed straight to Orazio Condorelli, one of the town’s most popular spots for grabbing a cup of granita.
I decided to pick two scoops and try both the almond flavour that Sicily is famous for and a fruity option. For the fruit scoop, I picked mulberry, known as granita di gelsi. I stared at my towering cup of of granita, forcing myself to recognize the precious treat I was about to enjoy. It looked so beautiful, the deep purple of the mulberry running into the white almond. I took my first bite, closed my eyes, and took a moment to really taste and experience the flavours. I then proceeded to make a lot of romantic sounds as I dug my way down to the bottom of the cup. I didn’t snap out of it until I realized my spoon was making an annoying sound as it clanged on the glass, begging for more. It’s difficult to describe just how good this simple combination of ice, sugar, almonds and fruit is. You’d never expect them to make for such a creamy, flavourful delight.
John too was faced with the question of which flavours to try. He choose wisely and picked pistachio and almond. This was the ultimate combo. The nut-based flavours were incredibly thick, rich and creamy. Very close to eating ice cream…just imagine pistachio milk ice cream or almond milk ice cream…why aren’t companies making this yet!?!
Our host and Acireale local went with the traditional combination of granita di mandorle (almond) e brioche. Wikipedia described brioche as “a highly enriched French bread, whose high egg and butter content give it a rich and tender crumb. It has a dark, golden, and flaky crust from an egg wash applied after proofing.” Not even close to being vegan. Oh well, at least we have the granita to enjoy. Let’s be (very!!) thankful for that.
This is Orazio Condorelli, the cafe where we tried Sicilian granita for the first time. Their generous portions of granita will cost you €2.50 Euros ($3.24 USD). Such a small price to pay!
Via Oresta Scionti, 26
Acireale, Sicily, Italy
On our second day in Acireale, we returned to the sea. You’ll notice there’s no sand, it’s all rock here. But it’s so hot, and the water is so refreshing, you don’t really care.
We managed to hold off this time, enjoy a swim in the sea before heading to a cafe for our granita fix.
John was kind enough to share a few spoonfuls of his pistachio and almond granita the day before, but it left me craving more. This time, I got a big cup of pistachio and almond granita for myself.
John mixed it up and tried dark chocolate and almond. Another winning combination.
Our host stuck to the local traditions once again and ordered the very typical coffee and almond granita, which is often eaten for breakfast. It sounds crazy, but after tasting it I can totally understand why someone would want to eat what is essentially a lighter version of ice cream for breakfast. You only live once…right?
Our second round of granita was at the Cafe Cipriani, which is in the center of Acireale and frequented by lots of tourists. Still, the prices for this delicacy are reasonable at around €3.00 Euros ($3.88 USD) a cup and the wait wasn’t very long.
Pizza L. Vigo, 3
Acireale, Sicily, Italy
Almond and Pistachio Milks
This is kinda straying from the granita theme…but not really. You may have noticed the common element of almond granita. Sicilians sure do love their almonds! I thought you should know that almond milk is widely available in Sicily. We found it in many small, basic supermarkets.
Sicilians also love pistachios, which they grow in the eastern region of Sicily. We even spotted some pistachio and almond milk. Crazy you say? How about crazy delicious! I made some almond milk smoothies and they were awesome. Thick and sweet. Yum!
I’ll leave you with a picture of where we slept while in Acireale. Our Couch Surfing host didn’t have a couch to share but let us use his tent and camp out a huge terrace. We’re are so spoiled!