LAUNCH OF SICILIAN SEAFOOD COOKING AT COASIT, Marisa Raniolo Wilkins – Pushing out the boat

One upon a time, when people talked about “launching” something, they were usually talking about ships and the launch usually involved some celebrity smashing a bottle of champagne across the bow and standing back to watch the hull slide down the slipway and into the water! Or spectators crossing themselves and praying for the vessel’s safe voyages.


My feelings of anticipation, excitement and relief were just as intense when Richard Cornish launched my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking, at the Museo Italiano in Faraday Street Carlton, last Sunday (6 November).

And while Richard didn’t crack a bottle of champagne over the lectern, and I did not make the sign of the cross, there was certainly plenty of wine, food and bubbles to float my book out into bookstores, and a great crowd of well-wishers who to lent a hand to see it on its way. All of them need to be thanked.

Crowd shot 1

First, thanks to the staff of CoAsIt and the Museo Italiano and  especially to Carlo Carli who is the Coordinator of the Museo Italiano, and Rosaria Zarro, Italian Education Officer at CoAsIt, who hosted the launch in the spacious and well-equipped conference room in Faraday Street, Carlton.

Crowd shot 3

Special thanks to Richard Cornish, award-winning author and journalist. I have always admired Richard and his writing and I am deeply honoured and seriously grateful to Richard for launching Sicilian Seafood Cooking.

Richard Cornish is best known to readers of Epicure (the Age) and Good Living (Sydney Morning Herald) for his articles on food, concentrating on ethical and sustainable production. Richard has also co-authored a series of books on Spanish cuisine with Frank Camorra, chef and owner of Melbourne’s Movida restaurants. The latest book MoVida Cocina is published in November 2011 so I know how busy he must be.

The Sponsors


The wine was generously provided by three producers – two of them, family companies, Coriole and Brown Brothers – and the other, a major producer of wines in Sicily, distributed by Arquilla Food and Wine.

Coriole 2

Coriole [link to] provided two varieties of Sangiovese, a wine whose Italian origins are most closely linked to Tuscany. Led by Mark Lloyd, Coriole has ventured further and further into the production of Italian varieties in their McLaren Vale vineyards, south of Adelaide. Coriole began with Sangiovese in 1987, and followed by Nebbiolo and Barbera. The experimentation has continued with plantings of Fiano (recently awarded Best McLaren Vale White Wine), Sagrantino and Nero d’Avola, which is yet to have a vintage – maybe next year.

Brown Brothers provided a sparkling Zibibbo, the Sicilian name for a grape originally named Muscat of Alexandria. You can never finish a meal in Sicily without being offered a glass of Zibibbo!  Brown Brothers, who established their first vineyard at Milawa in the lower King Valley, grow the grapes for their Zibibbo at their Mystic Park Vineyard beside the Murray Valley Highway about halfway between Kerang and Swan Hill.

Arquilla supplied traditional Sicilian wines, Nero d’Avola and Frappato, produced by Feudi del Pisciotto. I first tasted the Feudi Nero d’Avola at my favourite Sicilian restaurant, Bar Idda, another fabulous family affair in the hands of Lisa and Alfredo La Spina, with Lisa’s brother Anthony managing the bar and the drinks.


The book didn’t just float out on glasses of Sicilian wine. There was a selection of tasty finger-food (or as they are called in Italian, spuntini).

Fiona Rigg and Richard Cornish

Fiona Rigg, who was the amazing food stylist for the book, made a Christmas caponata [made with celery]. Being very creative she made some sauces (cipollata and mataroccu) from the chapter Come Fare una Bella Figura from Sicilian Seafood Cooking. [link to]


Lisa and Alfredo from Bar Idda contributed roasted peppers [link to] l Iove to eat at their restaurant!


The highly capable pastry chef, Marianna DiBartolo, who owns Dolcetti, [link to] a Sicilian-inspired pastry shop (pasticceria) in North Melbourne, made special fish-shaped biscuits for the occasion, which were perfectly matched with the Zibibbo.

I was really pleased to see the editors of two important publications at the launch: Agi Argyropoulos editor and publisher of Seafood News 

[link to] which I contribute a recipe to every month. Agi held the publication so that he could include photos from the launch, which deserves a special thank you, and has given it a whole page in the November edition.


And Danielle Gullaci from Italianicious, [link to] the bi-monthly magazine which celebrates all things Italian, and which is publishing an article on me in the January-February 2012 issue.

Others I would like to thank for their contribution to the success of the launch, include:

UCG Wholesale Foods at 58 A’Beckett Street Melbourne for the Novara Mineral Water,

The Sicilian travel experts, Echoes Events [link to] for the posters of Sicily and a special thank you to the photographers on the day,

David and Rilke Muir, directors and cinematographers for Making of Movies, [link to]

Valerie Sparks, [link to]  and

Rita Price [link to]


EVENT | Thursday 17 November 2011 at 6:30pm

Marisa Raniolo Wilkins

Readings Hawthorn: 701 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn, Victoria, 3122
Food, wine, book signing
*Entry is free but you must book before Monday by phoning: 9819 1917. 
The Adelaide launch of Sicilian Seafood Cooking is at:
Il Mercato, 625 Lower North East Road, Campbelltown at 3.00pm
on Sunday 20 November.
Il Mercato specialises in Italian food, wine and culture.
If you wish to attend the launch please RSVP to Cynthia at Il Mercato:
Sicilian Seafood Cooking will be launched by Rosa Matto – a great friend and a cook I’ve admired and respected for as long as I have known her.
Rosa and I will be introduced at the launch by the newly appointed Minister for Education and Child Development in South Australia, Grace Portolesi MP, the Member for Hartley (which includes Campbelltown).



Ingredients for making cazzilli and cooked Marlin potatoes


In Sicily, these are one of the common dishes of the cucina popolare — popular food or street food. The cazzilli are fried in vats of hot olive oil and sold in the streets, usually in the evenings; they are wrapped in a little grease proof paper. When cooking these at home, I use a non-stick fry pan and shallow fry them. They can be eaten as a contorno (side dish to accompany the main) or as an antipasto.

Recently, i ate cazzilli at Bar IddaSicilians have a fascination with body parts. Cazzo is slang for penis and the word is most often used as a swear word. Cazzilli are little penises.

Italians boil potatoes whole and unpeeled to prevent them from becoming soggy and then peel them once cool.

potatoes, 700g
garlic, 2 cloves
parsley, ½ cup cut finely
eggs, 2 lightly beaten,
fine breadcrumbs or a little flour, to coat the croquettes
extra virgin olive oil, as needed
salt and freshly ground pepper
Cook the potatoes until soft.
Peel the potatoes when cool enough to handle. Use a ricer or a mouli to mash them (these kitchen implements prevent lumps).
Add the parsley, seasoning and the eggs.
Shape the mixture into egg-shape patties and just before frying roll them in breadcrumbs or flour,
Fry until golden and only turn once.
Drain on absorbent paper.

I made the cazzilli with a new potato on the market called Marlin potatoes. Interestingly  some speculation about their name (Marlin potatoes) and machine guns.

There was a machine gun developed between 1891 and 1895. It was known as a “potato digger” for its peculiar down-swinging arm driven by a gas piston – it has a very powerful action and if fired over the ground it has the ability to lift clods of earth.

There are machine guns developed by the Marlin-Rockwell Company around 1918 called Marlin “potato digger” and several others developed by other companies after this. The name Marlin “potato digger”  was retained.



FRAPPATO WINE from Feudi del Pisciotto, Sicily


It is a bottle of Frappato (a red Italian wine grape variety planted primarily in Sicily) from the winery called Feudi del Pisciotto. It is a very enjoyable light, but full-bodied wine.

I love the wine label on the bottle as well, and it is not just to give the bottle a pretty face. The label is part of a collection drawn by Italian stylists in order to support continued restorations and charitable works throughout Sicily.

Caltagirone, Piazza Armerina and Vittoria form a triangle and the Feudi del Pisciotto winery is located within it. Caltagirone is inland (about 70 km southwest of Catania) and is famous for its ceramics. Vittoria is very close to Ragusa, but further inland. Those who have seen the famous mosaic floors in Villa Romana del Casale would know that it is located about 5km outside the town of Piazza Armerina. (Unfortunately there is a mistake on their web page and they call it Piazza Almerina).

 I enjoyed this bottle of wine at BAR IDDA.

They are still going strong those Sicilians on Lygon Street and each time I go there I enjoy their food. I like the way that Alfredo (known affectionally as Freddy, the owner and chef) successfully experiments with traditional Sicilian dishes. This time one of the many dishes on offer were the barbequed sardines with marjoram oil and the other were the cazzilli (potato croquettes) to which he added fennel seeds. You are not likely to find these variations in Sicily, but this type of fusion works – the flavours go together and are compatible (for example, unlike coriander in a Sicilian recipe).

I also like the hospitality that the staff offer, Lisa welcomes you as if you were visiting her home, Freddy comes and speaks to guests and Antony knows how to recommend a good Sicilian wine, and all the time, smile, smile, smile. And they mean it.

Avanti e Complimenti Bar Idda!

Recipe for  cazzili:


Other posts about this eatery:

Happy Birthday Bar Idda

Bar Idda and Padre Pio

Bar Idda and Insalata di melanzane with Saint Anthony





The happy chefs of Bar Idda (photo). Alfredo is on the right.

Lisa and Alfredo are the proprietors of Bar Idda in Lygon Street. They have returned from their holiday in Sicily full of ideas and enthusiasm for their small, Sicilian restaurant.

On the 5t of July they celebrated their first birthday and their new menu strongly influenced by their recent discoveries of different recipes experienced while in Sicily.

Anthony is the bar person and after discussing the wine with him we selected a bottle of ROSSOJBLEO, a bio-organic, Sicilian Nero d’Avola from Chiaramonte Gulfi (Ragusa). My partner and I then ate our way through many very enjoyable Sicilian specialties. These included:

Hot ricotta soup with home made pasta. Ricotta is very much appreciated by Sicilians especially when it has just been made.  Particularly in Ragusa and the environs people visit cheese makers (sometimes on farms) and watch the ricotta being made. Ladles of hot, fresh curds and whey are usually poured on broken pieces of bread and eaten like soup.  

Gelatina di maiale (brawn, made with pork- see recipe and photos below) and some affettati (a selection of cold cuts of salumi). An eggplant caponata was also included in this antipasto.

Farsumagru (il falsomagro is a beef, meat roll stuffed with hard boiled egg and can include cheeses , salamini and mortadella).  It is braised in a tomato sauce and presented sliced. In this case it was made with minced beef and Alfredo’s version included a little zucchini for colour and variety of textures. Farsumagru translates into false–lean. It contains delectable ingredients including meat, so this is a pun on ‘lenten’ food – during the liturgical seasons Catholics were required to eat simple food and to abstain from eating meat. These laws have relaxed over time.


The farsumagru was accompanied by a warm potato salad with capers and comichons, and a fennel and orange salad with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

We then had a glass of Malvasia a very rich flavoured dessert wine made by drying Malvasia grapes (bianche– white variety)  before crushing.  It was an excellent accompaniment to the small fried pastries called cassateddi. There are many local variations to this recipe, and in this version the dough was stuffed with ricotta, cinnamon, and honey. I could taste some alcohol too. (Honey is used instead of sugar in the Ragusa area).

Thank you Bar Idda, for a very enjoyable meal. Auguri e complimenti and may there be many years to come.

 Recipe and photo of the Gelatina I make

Gelatina (means gelatine or jellied). It is sold as a Smallgoods food.

In various parts of Sicily the gelatina di maiale is called by a variety of names: jlatina di maiali, Suzu, suzzu, or zuzu.

I found a recipe for gelatina scribbled in one of many notebooks which I use to record recipes when I visit Italy. In this particular notebook from 1980, there are many Sicilian recipes, but on this particular trip I must have visited the relatives in Genova (a Piedmontese aunt married to my father’s brother and living in Genova and her daughter Rosadele who is an excellent cook also). There were  also some recipes written in Trieste (my zia Renata was from Rovigo and married my mother’s brother).

I have not made gelatina di maiale for many years but I have nearly always included a half of a pork’s head – this provides the jelly component. The tongue adds texture and extra flavour (you can throw out the eyes).

It is always a good idea to pre-order a pork’s head beforehand and I was not able to purchase one. I used pork feet instead (as you can see by this photo) and fortunately it turned out very well. In this gelatina I included approx 1.500 kilo of lean pork (cut into large pieces) and four pig’s feet.
The recipe is one of my zia Niluzza’s who lives in Ragusa (Sicily) and it simply says:
1 part vinegar to 3 parts of water, red chilli flakes or whole pepper corns and salt. Use a mixed selection of pork meat, including the head.
Place in cold water mixture, cover meat.
Boil for 6 hours (covered) on slow heat.
Filter broth, remove some of the fat and reduce, remove bones, shred meat.
Lay meat in earthenware bowl, cover with cooled broth and leave to set.

Over time, I have altered the recipe and include bay leaves and peppercorns and I boil the pork without the vinegar only for about 3 hours (until I can see the meat falling off the bones).

Once it is cooked, I leave it to rest overnight.

The next day I remove the meat from the jelly, I add ½ cup of vinegar and the juice of a couple of lemons to the broth and reduce the liquid down to a third of the original amount.

I shred the meat and place it into a terrine and cover it with the cooled reduced stock. Any fat will rise to the surface and can be scraped off when it is cool (in fact, it acts as a seal).


Eggplant salad, INSALATA DI MELANZANE (with Saint Anthony and other saints)

I ate at Bar Idda again last night and this time I was directly in the gaze of Sant’ Antonio. On the table, sitting in a glass was a small holy picture with the image of Sant’ Agata, (the size to fit into one’s prayer book). She is the patron saint of Catania. On the back of the card there is the information about a six-course feast on Sunday 7th February at Bar Idda.

Saint Padre Pio was still there, but out of sight around the corner.


Once again I had a wonderful meal. Sicilian ‘peasant’ food does not have to be tasteless and Bar Idda’s food may be simple (choice of inexpensive ingredients, method of cooking and presentation), but it is always full of Sicilian authentic flavours. I am talking about the agro dolce, mint, fennel seeds, cinnamon and cloves. The food is fresh and seasonal, and I always enjoy eating there.

I know all about Sant’ Agata (Agatha). She was the beautiful and rich young woman who lived the life of a saint while she was still alive. A man of power (Quinctianus) wanted her, but she refused. She was beaten, imprisoned and tortured. Her breasts were cut off and finally she was roasted over hot coals.

Naturally there were miracles – she is recognised for averting eruptions of Mount Etna (over Catania) and she also saved the Catanesi from the plague. And they still love her in Catania and celebrate her feast day. There are cakes and sweets (shaped as breasts), not to make fun of her, but to commemorate her sanctity.
But Sant’ Antonio is said to be from Padua in the north of Italy. It is a short distance west of Venice. So why is he in a Sicilian Restaurant?

It so happens that the picture belonged to Lisa’s nonna. Sant’ Antonio is usually depicted holding baby Jesus in his arms.  He also holds a lily – in Christian art the lily is a symbol of integrity and purity of life.  In Europe, lilies are in bloom in the middle of June when the feast of St. Anthony is celebrated. Sometimes he is also holding a book because he was a scholar. He is the saint who finds lost things (old Sicilian recipes?). He was primarily a saint of the people – especially the poor. He was also close to St. Francis of Assisi. He, too, performed many miracles during his lifetime.

But Sant’ Antonio is not from Padua at all. He was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195 and entered the Augustinian Order at the age of 15. Two years later, he relocated to the convent of Santa Cruz in Coimbra and spent eight years in study and prayer.

In 1220 a number or Franciscans were martyred in Morocco. Saint Anthony was inspired by their martyrdom and was determined to preach the Gospel in the Moslem lands of North Africa. He joined the Franciscans and tried to sail to Morocco, but his ship ran into storms and was blown east across the Mediterranean on the east coast of Sicily. The friars in Messina nursed him back to health.

And there you have it – a connection to Sicily. Whether Lisa and Alfredo of Bar Idda know this or not, they do know that Sant’ Antonio is the patron of finding lost things and they have him facing the kitchen, keeping an eye on the ingredients.
Sant’ Antonio later went to France and Italy and ended up in Padua and died there on June 13 in 1231 at the age of 36.

One of the simple things I ate last night was an eggplant salad. I know about this recipe because a Sicilian friend of my mother used to make it.


Wash, prick and cook 2 whole eggplants in salted boiling water.
Once cooked (and soft), place them in a colander and cut them into strips- allow them to drain.
Dress with extra virgin olive oil, a dash of vinegar, salt and fresh mint (cut finely).

When I make this salad I also add some finely chopped garlic.

I also know that as a variation in some parts of Sicily (this salad is also common in some parts of Calabria) a few chopped anchovies can be added, but I prefer the fresh taste of the eggplant. Simple, in season and fragrant!!!

Well done Bar Idda once again.

This photo of two different types of eggplants (the light purple ones are called violette) was taken in the Ballaro` market in Palermo.


Bar Idda

132 Lygon Street, Brunswick East, Melbourne
Phone 9380 5339
Food Sicilian
Owner Alfredo and Lisa La Spina

See my earlier post ‘BAR IDDA and PADRE PIO’




Idda is Sicilian for “she” or “her”. Iddu is the masculine – “him” or “his” – and this word sounds much more uncompromising and abrupt than the Italian equivalents, lei and lui. To name a café, Bar Idda, is perhaps the Sicilian equivalent of the French chez, but it is not nearly as common. It implies homeliness and a feminine touch – welcome, warmth and simplicity – unsophisticated but authentic cooking and the use of simple ingredients which vary according to the availability of seasonal produce.

Bar Idda is a relatively new café at 132 Lygon Street, which I was introduced to by some friends who’d eaten there twice before while I was overseas. They thought I’d enjoy Bar Idda’s Sicilian menu. And I did, for all the above reasons.

Chefs_blog 0093

Chef and owner of Bar Idda is Alfredo La Spina, who named the café in honour of his grandmother – she is the idda. Alfredo is of Sicilian heritage and his wife and her brother are also on the staff. Their father is from Sicily and their mother is from Calabria – regions of Italy that could be neighbours if it weren’t for the Straits of Messina, but which are still close enough to grow and enjoy similar produce, sharing some dishes in common with local variations. The spiced polpette (meatballs) cooked in tomato sugo are more a Calabrese specialty than Sicilian.

The menu is short and changes often. Sicilian food, like all Italian food, is regional. Although Sicily is a small island, a third the size of Tasmania, the regional specialties and local variations are numerous and sometimes subtle. You don’t have to travel far in Sicily to experience the differences and Sicilians will point out to you – probably in a much more forceful way than their northern cousins – the distinguishing features and ingredients of their specialty dishes.

Cap & olives front_0059Take for example the archetypical Sicilian dish, caponata.

My recipe and photo (above) of capoanata: CAPONATA SICILIANA (CATANESE, Caponata as made in Catania)

Eggplant is the principal ingredient if in Palermo, but in Catania, on the other side of the island, peppers are the featured ingredient and some Catanesi would not dream of making caponata without potatoes! Put a Palermitano and a Catanese in the same room and they will argue endlessly about which one is the true caponata. They will never agree.

I can remember having a very animated argument waiting for some photos to be printed in a camera shop in Ragusa. I was telling the owner about my aunt’s skill in making ricotta ravioli (a specialty of the area) and he asked me if she used marjoram in her recipe. He was aghast when I told him she didn’t – his mother did – and soon everyone in the shop was voicing their opinion.

I appreciated the varied offerings on the Bar Idda menu. They suggest that Alfredo La Spina has read or researched Sicilian cuisine and is prepared to include dishes from all over the island (not just from his parents’ province).

The food is excellent value and the flavours are traditionally Sicilian which suggests to me that Alfredo has respect for the ingredients and will maintain the cultural integrity of the cuisine.

There are only Sicilian wines on offer and surprisingly the list includes a Pinot Grigio, which is a grape and style of wine grown and produced in the north of Italy. It goes to show, things change – even in Sicily.

The top image is of the Trinacria, the emblem in the Sicilian flag. The term trinacria means “triangle” as for the shape of Sicily. The Greeks called it Trinakrias, the Romans called it Trinacrium, meaning “star with 3 points”. There is a trinacria hanging in the restaurant.


This other image is of Padre Pio. One of the many versions of images of Padre Pio is also hanging in the restaurant (I said it is homely).

Padre Pio is not a Sicilian saint but his picture hangs in many houses (and some businesses – including the post office in Ragusa!) in Sicily.

Padre Pio was born May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy, a small country town located in the Province of Benevento, in Campania, Southern Italy. He died in his parish of San Giovanni Rotondo, an agricultural community 180 miles from Rome on the Gargano Promontory in Puglia, a region in Southern Italy.

In 2004, Pope John Paul II dedicated the Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church and Shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo to the memory of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina.

(Saint) Padre Pio has become one of the world’s most popular saints and there are prayer groups with three million members and devotees worldwide. A 2006 survey by the magazine Famiglia Cristiana found that more Italian Catholics pray to Padre Pio than to any other figure.
The Sicilians love him. A statue of Saint Pio in Messina, Sicily attracted attention in 2002 when it allegedly wept tears of blood. Now there seem to be statues of Padre Pio in all Sicilian towns.

Alfredo, I found this quote and photo of Father Pio’s on the web:

Humility and charity go hand in hand. One glorifies, the other sanctifies.

All the best Alfredo. I intend to visit often.

Marisa (and friends).


Bar Idda, 132 Lygon St, Brunswick East, VIC 305