Please excuse the photo quality - I had to dig through the archives for this one.
In light of my recent trip to Italy, I decided to think back on the last time I was there - the last time, and the very last city I was in. It was on that trip and in that city that I'm convinced to this day - 6 years later - I had one of the best plates of food of my life.
I'm going to cut to the chase here and spare you the complete back story. Because I could go on for a long, long time describing how working in a Sicilian hotel kitchen - proving that you're not a "snotty little American girl" just there to drink wine, and that you're actually serious about cooking, which is why you're withstanding the 100+ degree kitchen 12+ hours a day 6+ days a week - could actually just drive you mad. And that when your first godsend of a day off delivers you in a semi-questionable rental car to the old city streets of Pozzallo, Modica and Ragusa, pretty much ANYTHING you do and eat would feel like heaven. But this... this was truly it.
(Turns out I wasn't really sparing you anything.)
Duomo. Ragusa, Sicily, Italy. My American-partner-in-Italian-crime and I treated ourselves to lunch. There were courses... I can't recall how many. I'll go out on a limb and say there was prosecco. There was fresh bread with grassy green olive oil. There were ravioli in flower shapes and I only remember these because of a photo. I remember no other real details except for the company, the luxurious feeling of pure freedom for a day, and… the spaghetti with tuna bottarga, carrot crema and anchovy and I don't know what the secret was or how exactly to recreate it but for the love of all things good and holy - find this pasta. Find it, find it NOW. Travel to the southern-most tip of Sicily if you must. And I believe you must.
This dish, in all its simplicity of ingredients and complexity of connection, spoke to me. Fresh pasta. Saltiness, sweetness. Hints of ocean, but not strong enough for me to really pinpoint what umami was entering my bloodstream. The flavor was there. The texture was there. The mystery was there. The olive oil and crema united to create a silky sauce that coated every noodle and incorporated each component of sense and flavor. Bottarga, a delicacy of salted, cured tuna roe, was shaved over top forming teeny crumbles of briny crunch. The pure sensuality of it made an incredible impact in my mouth and in my life and although pastas do compose the majority of my favorite foods list, this particular combo of spaghetti and sea Was. Just. Extraordinary.
It all seemed so simple - both the food and the spot. But I suppose there had to be a reason why this Michelin-starred gem was hidden amidst uneven cobblestone and minimal signage. Duomo needed nothing more.