Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Palermo-old style Sicilian at Osteria Altri Tempi

Our cruise is now finished, but we visited some amazing and wonderful places, foremost of which I wish to return to is Sicily. Sadly, we only had one lunch there and many of the restaurants seem to be either closed for summer break in August, and if not, on Tuesday!

We finally chose OSTARIA ALTRI TEMPI (roughly translates to Old Style Inn) in downtown Palermo at Via Sammartino 65/67 which was great because for 20 Euros each we got unlimited table wine, bottled water (which is first poured into a carafe, making it seem very suspicious, but we later found out that this is quite common), and the most wonderful array of antipasti. The setting is small with arched ceilings and lots of local older Sicilians hanging around chewing the fat; there is also an outdoor area in front if you don't mind the heat and the street noise.

While the Cartilage Salad was the least pleasing, it was NOT awful, just a bit chewy. The MARINATED FAVA BEANS were a treat as was the Eggplant CAPONATA, and I truly don't like eggplant. It was superb; loaded with onions and seasoning. Fresh SUN DRIED TOMATOES with Local Cheese was so good, we asked them to pack up a tray to take back to the ship which we served all around the dining room at dinner to great acclaim. A seafood salad had clams, mussels, octopus, calamari and more, and I seem to have forgotten the several other items that just seemed to keep coming. A plate of tempura-like cauliflower and slices of fried dough from chick peas came after all this, so we had to ask our server to simply give us the pasta that followed and nothing further as we were filling up fast.

Two pasta dishes arrived with local long hollow spaghetti (bucatini) and a sauce of eggplant on one and cauliflower and pine nuts on the other (that we were instructed to sprinkle breadcrumbs on, not cheese--this is because in the 19th century Sicilians were so poor they could not afford grated cheese for their pasta and used breadcrumbs instead!). These were true old style dishes of the Sicily of the 19th-early 20th century.

As if this were not enough, along with the coffee came a plate of cookies and little strawberry and lemon sorbetto scoops each decorated and served in small paper thimble. Watermelon arrived as well with three chilled bottles of local liqueur: the always loving Limoncello, a Bay Leaf drink that was sweeter and tasty, and a very licorice- tasting Fennel liqueur. We were rolled back to our minivan tour, but will never forget the wonderful warmth we enjoyed at this adorable spot and in Sicily in general.