La Madia

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You don’t go to Licata unless you are going to La Madia. This two starred restaurant has put the small Sicilian city on the international map. As Michelin says in their definition of a two star restaurant, this restaurant will definitely require a detour, Agrigento is the nearest destination, and that is still an hour away. Ring the door, and they will buzz you in. Reservations are a must.

Enter into the dining room and you’ll be surprised by its lack of décor. All hard surfaces reflecting harsh bright light, the room would echo if tables weren’t so far apart. A few photos on the wall, a brightly colored vase, tile floors, this is not your typical two-star dining room. The focus is on the food. The wine list may be comprehensive but servers are quick to recommend an inexpensive local wine. As far as restaurants of this caliber go, La Madia is a bargain, with prices much less than many other similarly ranked restaurants.

The chef pays homage to his Sicilian upbringing, recreating the dishes of his youth. Modern techniques play a supporting role, adding to a dish, rather than defining it. The famous Sicilian street food snack, Arrancini, are re-envisioned, with the soft saffron-tinted rice encompassing delicate red mullet and served with a tomato wild fennel ragu. The resulting croquette is baked instead of fried for a delicate crispness and lightness absent from the original. Octopus is served “On a Rock,” a dehydrated nest of the cooking broth which retained all the flavor of the octopus. Homemade mozzarella has a light mousse-like interior as rich and creamy as burrata, but lighter in texture. Cod is pine smoked, with a silken sashimi texture and served under a creamy potato mousseline with a delicate crisp pastry ring and slices of raw porcini on top. The flavors of the fish shine through, subtly offset by creamy potato and crisp pastry; meanwhile a fillet of beef served alongside smoking embers of almond wood is as tender as any fillet mignon you will ever find. Unmarred by sauce, the flavor and tenderness of the meat is on full display. Desserts riff on Sicilian classics, Cassata is redesigned as an ice cream bombe, while Cannolo is a bit more classic, stuffing the crisp pastry shell, with a lighter filling and serving it with a scoop of ice cream on the side.

Suggestions: Reservations a must. If you want to spend the night stay at the charming B&B Grangela, walking distance from La Madia.

Corso Re Capriata F., 22, Licata. www.ristorantelamadia.it; tel: 0922 771443. Closed Tuesday, and Sunday lunch or dinner depending on season.

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