Saturday, July 15, 2017

On Mt. Etna, Locando Nerello at Monaci delle Terre Neri is a must (7-11-17)

In between driving up to the Mt. Etna cablecar and climbing our way through the lava flows, lava tubes and more of Valle del Bove, we stopped for an amazing lunch and mini-wine tasting at Locando Nerello, the adorable restaurant in a small hotel, Monaci delle Terre Neri in the town of Zafferana Etnea on the eastern slope of Mt.Etna. The hotel doubles as a totally organic agricultural destination as they not only have a winery, orchards and make olive oil, but they harvest wheat for their own breads and pastries. The décor is funky in a beautiful noble house that is centuries old and it really can't be described, but that said, it's adorable and so was our excellent server. We first tasted the mineral intense and superb Cataratto 2016 from the Guido Coffa Winery which is the name of the winery on site. The Etna Bianco 16 and Etna Bianco M 2015 are made with Carricante (60% minimum required for the name Etna Bianco) which we did not like as much, but the excellent Nero Mascalese Red was a winner.
An amuse of Cavolo Trunzo (local cabbage) with caramezlized onion, plum sauce, dried caper and a splash of squid ink for decoration (not on Sam's plate) was a truly exciting preview of what was to come.
I started with an excellent Beef tongue with caramelized onion, ginger, cherry tomato& purple turnip purees and fior di latte (local mozzarella). Will chose the Cinsara Veal Tartare with Etna Mele Cola Apple Salad while Samuel had an amazing Monaci Poached Egg Fondue Tenerume with Caprino cheese from Cammarata & Timilia (high protein, low gluten, made on site)flour bread chips, which was served with spinach and bread crumbs and he begged for me to attempt to duplicate this for breakfast at home; I'll try.
For his main course he chose the Gnocchi with local almond, olive oil and honey which was oddly sweet, so he asked to switch it for the Courgette Spaghetti with Zucchini Flowers and Sea Asparagus which went over much better.
Will had the superb and rich Sea Urchin Pasta, while I chose the Egg Tagliolini with Seaweed, Red Prawns and Citrus topped with Pistachio Bronte, the pistachios that grow only on Etna and are prized here in Sicily. They give an amazing crunch to any dish which I have come to adore (even today I had an iced coffee with the local almond milk and topped with pistachio crumbs--WOW!).
For dessert we chose the Tonka Bean Crème Brulee with Celery Granita & Chocolate Crumble which was tasty but alas, no crunchy brulee topping here. The Black bee Semifreddo with "carrot cake" and Mulberry Ice Cream was refreshing for sure, but definitely on the outre side.
More chocolates, cookies and treats sent us on our 4-5 hour Etna hikes and excursion well nourished.