Splendid Sicilian in Mannheim

Sicily’s complex history has left its mark in architecture, landscapes, culture, and customs, but nowhere is it more evident than in the food.  It has been conquered, invaded and settled by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs.  While Italy has some influence, the foods of Sicily are an eclectic fusion of Arabic, Mediterranean and African flavors.

Guiding us through Sicily’s cuisine is Ezio Usbergo.  Ezio is a native of Palermo who has worked in different (star) restaurants all over the world.  He is the chef at Ristorante Ai Sapori, where one can enjoy typical Sicilian dishes.  Working closely with Ezio is Marcella Vermeer, co-owner of Ai Sapori and a fellow Food Explorer!

Marcella Vermeer and Ezio Usbergo of Ristorante Ai Sapori

Food Explorers’ Lunch Expedition “Streets of Sicily”

Agrodolce – Italian for “sweet-and-sour” – is one of the signature flavors in Sicilian cuisine.  We experienced this in a grand platter of “Antipasto Siciliano” – popular Sicilian appetizers such as antipasto misto, arancine, caponata, carciofi, cardi, and sarde a beccafico – all carefully chosen to balance flavours and textures, simple with complex.

Antipasto Siciliano – popular Sicilian appetizers such as antipasto misto, arancine, caponata, carciofi, cardi, and sarde a beccafico

As main course for seafood lovers, Ezio prepared “Pesce Spada alla Messinese” – swordfish cooked in the style of the city of Messina.  Swordfish are large predatory fish that are most recognized by their long flat bill that looks like a sword.  Also known as the ‘Emperor of the Straits’, it is historically hunted in Sicily using special boats and is highly prized for its meaty texture and delicate flavour.

Pesce Spada alla Messinese

The other main course is “Noce di Manzo al Marsala” – beef in a sauce made with Sicily’s Marsala wine.  Marsala is a fortified wine most commonly used in cooking to create nutty, rich caramelized sauces.  Many of us couldn’t decide which main to choose, so Ezio offered us mixed platters of both!

Noce di Manza al Marsala

We ended our meal on a sweet note with “Sfince di San Giuseppe”.  This traditional Sicilian pastry dessert is prepared to celebrate Father’s Day in Italy every March 19th, which is the same day as Saint Joseph’s Day (father of Jesus Christ).

Sfince di San Giuseppe

Grazie mille to Ezio and Marcella for making us feel at home and for sharing a glimpse into the wonderful cuisine of Sicily!

Ai Sapori offers weekly specials inspired by produce that’s in season, so be sure to drop by regularly to enjoy dishes prepared using the freshest ingredients!

Ristorante Ai Sapori, Zähringer Straße 103, 68239 Mannheim

Looking for more ideas on where to dine in the Rhein-Neckar region?

Check out other reviews of places where Food Explorers have eaten.

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