The myriad of wonders that are available in Sicily’s supermarkets take some time to get through. An expat really needs to leave behind the idea of eating the familiar homely foods and embrace this essential part of Sicilian life.
There is the meat counter where along with the usual selection of cuts, there are breaded meats, burgers and involtini. The latter are rolled meat on skewers mixed with various cheeses, pistachio or other meats. They are simply mind blowing, even for a fish fanatic like me.
The cold counter, which is usually close by, provides endless varieties of raw and cooked ham, blocks of cheese, bread, grilled vegetables (courgettes, aubergine etc), cooked fish (dried or in vinegar/oil), various marinated olives.
Here it can be a struggle to get served. Make sure to find the ticket machine and get a number, otherwise elderly women will be elbowing you out of the way and skipping past you all evening. They often don’t bother getting a number, instead expect someone to say “Prego!” and let them go ahead. While waiting at the checkout they also try to skip, as they simply cannot bear to wait even one moment. Perhaps they think they don’t have many left.
Many supermarkets in Sicily for some bizarre reason are French owned and so the rest of the supermarket is quite similar to the generic variety which can be found all over Europe. There is the fruit and veg area where a man will insist on putting the items into a bag for you in case you were too intellectually deficient to do it yourself. I’ve also seen supermarkets here where they re-weigh the fruit and veg at the till in case you put an extra one in after weighing. Suspicious at every moment.
A dazzling variety of wines are then in view and a paltry selection of beers. Italian beer is not often drank by those outside of Italy and even Italians themselves are less then satisfied with it. The below photo shows just a small selection of wines which were positioned next to the cheese for dramatic effect.
At the supermarket till the attendant will typically have no change and will actually give you abuse if you arrive with a €50 euro note. Even a €20 euro note causes some groans and looks of disgust. Unlike Northern Europe however, they will not insist that you pay down to the last cent.
In Ireland if your bill comes to €20.01 many places will insist that you pay that last cent. Here, such tightness is avoided, especially if it means they don’t have to part with their precious change.
So after elbowing a few grannies, I re-emerged onto the street with some super quality items and made for home to see the results.
Some suggestions for your shopping list:
Wine: Nero D’Avola
Cheese: Grana Padano
Ham: Crudo di Parma
Salad: Pomodorini (cherry tomatoes), Olive nere (black olives)
Bread: Schiacciatine con olive (‘crushed’ bread with olive)
Below is a selection of the bread available in a local Sicilian Paneficio.
John P Brady writes fiction, articles and a blog about life in Italy, where he has chosen to make his home. His first book, a collection, entitled Back to the Gaff has been recently published by Roadside Fiction. It concerns the wild happenings in Dublin by night and documents the attitudes of the youth in modern Irish society. Keep up to date with his writing by subscribing:
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