Friday, July 21, 2017

Palermo's Grand Hotel Villa Igiea does decent dining at Donna Fraca Florio (7-19-17)

Since we were tired from the drive, cooking class, and fabulous lunch at the palazzo, we ate dinner in our hotel simply because it was easier than starting to trek out as the hotel is about 10 minutes from the city center on the coastline. The restaurant called Donna Franca Florio is the "mid-range" spot in the hotel with bars being simpler (and offering little for a vegetarian) and the fine dining being way too much. The setting is outdoors and quite elegant with silky linens. But we had to move as soon as we sat down due to heavy smokers nearby; a big issue with mostly outdoor dining being the norm in Sicily!
Despite its ranking as the top place in town, the menu needs some spelling tweaks, as "chunk" of amberjack is not very appetizing!
I started with the Red Snapper Tartare on chickpea fritter (the same type we made for lunch that day) with a divine wild fennel and lemon dressing. It really just goes to show that sushi/sashimi isn't just from the Orient, the Sicilians have nailed raw fish here at every spot. Will had the Roasted Ocotpus with Ragusano Cheese Fondue and Tomato Powder, which was a nice novel take on the standard dish with the gooey cheese addition.
Sam started with a Cream of Asparagus soup that he adored which was not on the menu. The staff went out of their way to make him dishes other than the same ones he had been repeating.
His main course was a gorgeous plate of grilled veggies that were clearly the freshest available.
Our wine was a Quater Bianco made from four varietals:Grillo/Cataratto/Carricante/Zibibbo 2014 which was superb but the price was more than TWICE as much as it was anywhere else we had seen the wine on a menu, and really stunned me at over 50 Euros! Wine here generally runs 12-30 Euros a bottle for a good brand! They also tended to slug pour the wine in huge amounts, so that it was gone quite fast. At one point, they even poured some into Sam's Sprite (in a wine glass admittedly), and then sent two additional glasses of white at no charge for us later not that bad.
The pasta course that Will & I split was a revelations: Mezze Maniche with Fried Zucchini, Bacon, Basil Pesto & Toasted Almonds prepared and flambéed tableside(check the FB fotos). The thick circular rings of pasta resemble giant calamari rings and are perfect for holding the rich sauce made with cream, EVOO, butter and cognac (definitely not Sicilian) and gave me an impression of a thick Sicilian Pesto "Carbonara." It was an impressive production, but was even more impressive in the mouth.OMG!
We also split a main course of delicate Turbo Fillet with Lemon Sauce, Crunchy Spinach and Celeriac Chips...but the spinach was not crunchy, it was sautéed. Nonetheless, the dish was delicious and the fine main course to split after the rich pasta.
Since we split the dishes, we all felt entitled to dessert, especially after seeing the magnificent tarts being rolled around on the dessert trolley:
Wild Strawberry Tart, Chocolate Mousse Cake with Crocante on bottom and my Pistachio Mousse Cake; all were superb. It was a super meal indeed, despite the prices, but not one for locals for sure as they would have had a heart attack with "il conto!"