God Bless Nonna Vincenza and the Sicilian Breakfast!
As many of you know I like to take my students to Campo de’ Fiori because of the amazing selection of food we find at the market and to show them what it’s like to shop for food in the heart of Rome. But recently I’ve found another reason to go back to this area, and the reason is that there is a little piece of Sicily right there in the center of the eternal city. Nonna Vincenza, or Grandma Vincenza is a Sicilian patisserie that honors the tradition of the beautiful island of Sicily.
One of Italy’s unique qualities is the diversity you find in the culture and the cuisine of the twenty regions, which are all great for different reasons, but I have to confess that Sicily is one of my favorites. (I hope my wife isn’t reading, as she comes from Calabria, the arch-enemy of Sicily). When it comes to food and hospitality Sicily can’t be beat. When I pass by Nonna Vincenza I’m mesmerized by the cannoli in the shop window, and even if cannoli are not hard to find in Rome, believe me cannoli like these ARE hard to find. But it’s not for the cannoli that I step in, what I want is something much more special. What I look for is a real Sicilian Breakfast.
The Sicilian breakfast consists of a brioche or “maritozzo” a yeast pastry that can be compared to a flatter and wider French brioche (even though Sicilians would hardly feel flattered by the comparison), it’s big and it can be sliced and shared, filled with a delicious “granita”. The Sicilian Granita is a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and different flavorings, my favorite is pistachio but also almond or mandarin are very popular. But even within Sicily there are different serving conventions, for example granita with coffe is much more common in Messina rather than Catania, where the conventional granita would be with almonds.
Last time I went in the owners showed me yet another example of Sicilian hospitality by welcoming me with by throwing their arms in the air and greeting me with the warmest “Buongiorno” and immediately started making a Sicilian breakfast for my students and me. I will admit this might not be the most dietetic of breakfasts, but it’s certainly one of the tastiest and it’s the reason why I can’t stay away from Nonna Vincenza. And every time I go I promise myself I will play one extra set at the tennis club to burn the extra calories… and since I love tennis almost as much as I love the Sicilian Breakfast, I’d say this is a typical win-win situation, so God bless Nonna Vincenza and her brioche with pistacchio granita!