Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cinco de Mayo (cinque maggio) in Italia 5.5.06

Yesterday was the 5th of May. In Arizona and the American southwest, they celebrate this Mexican holiday that commemorates a battle in Mexico’s war for independence mostly by eating Mexican food and drinking margaritas and Mexican beer. Friends of ours, George & Bitsy in Phoenix, used to have a yearly bash at their house complete with margarita machines. They are excellent cooks also and the food was always delicious. After their little daughter Nina was born (I think she is 6 now) they paused for a few years but we always had fun hanging out with the neighbors and meeting the other interesting people who were invited and looked forward to this yearly occasion. The history of this day is really interesting. If you want to read more, go to:

Last year we noted the date but as there were no Mexican restaurants in Perugia we did not have the opportunity to eat tortilla chips or chimichangas or even an enchilada or two. The margaritas they made at the Punta di Vista (the bar just off Piazza Italia with the lovely view of San Domenico and San Pietro) were strong enough to curl your hair so I didn't have too many of those!

But, believe it or not, here in Marina di Ragusa, on the south east coast of Sicily, there is a Mexican restaurant! It’s called La Cantina Tex-Mex and I have wanted to try it for some time now but Bob was skeptical as to how good it might be. It does seem a strange concept. But with yesterday being Cinco de Mayo I talked him into at least going in to try a margarita. We ended up having the fajitas, a chicken enchilada and an order of tortilla chips. The way they prepared all of this was quite different from the way we are used to in the states but it was, nevertheless, quite good! The chips seemed almost home made with a spicy taste and served with three different dipping sauces - a mild tomato salsa, a spicy cheese sauce and a little mixture of spicy ground meat. Now you should know that I cannot eat anything that is too spicy and Bob has a delicate stomach so we try to stay away from anything overly hot. This was just the right amount for us. Which probably means that for all of you back in Phoenix, it was pretty mild stuff. But we enjoyed it very much. The enchilada had nice big chunks of white chicken meat. The fajitas were accompanied by some bean concoction, the hottest of what we were served, corn and another bean, with tender pieces of chicken. The tortillas were thick and crispy. The guacamole left something to be desired and we were told that it is difficult to get limes here in Sicily so that may have something to do with it. But otherwise the meal was delightful. The margarita was a bit too strong for me and I was feeling very giggly by the time the food arrived which might account for my positive opinion of the meal!

The place was very empty when we arrived, after 8:30pm with just a few young people hanging out outside. We wondered how popular this might be with the Sicilians but we know how late these Italians eat dinner.* They seated us at a table near the rear of the restaurant where they had tables for two. Otherwise it looked like they had the place set for a party with long tables of 20 seats or more. The music they played was a mix of Jose Feliciano type Mexican guitar and Mexican rap and reggae - so some of it was very pleasant to listen to, some not so and all of it at the decibel level young people enjoy but us old folks tend to complain about! By the time we left the place was filled to capacity. The young guys who ran the place were adorable and full of energy and enthusiasm. It turned out the brother of one is married to a woman from Mexico so perhaps that is where they got the idea to open a Mexican restaurant.

All in all it was a fun evening and if I can talk Bob into it I might have to go back one more time before we leave Sicily. Maybe this time I can ask them to put a little more mix in the margarita and not so much tequila so I don't get so tipsy so fast! Besides, I'd like to see how they do the chimichangas. I must admit also, that while I love Italian food - it's what I grew up on - it was also nice to try something different for a change.

We spoke to my family yesterday. They are in Palermo. Jim and Evie leave for home tomorrow. Fred & Elaine and Andy & Marnie will be back here on Monday for a few more days. They're having a wonderful time and we look forward to having a little more time together.

The weather looks good. We had a little rain the other day and wind yesterday. But the sun is fully up now (I started writing about 6am) and I think I will go take a walk on the beach. We spent some time yesterday packing up our winter things and starting to get organized for the move. I cannot believe our time here is coming to an end. It will be very difficult to leave but we are excited at what the next adventure holds.

We hope you will come along with us and see where the road takes us.

Buona giornata,
Rosemary & Bob

*about observing the way the Italians eat: This is an interesting phenomenon. There are definitely meal times here. Lunch is around 1pm. Restaurants won't even open to seat you before 12:30 at the earliest. The riposo lasts from 1 to 4ish. Dinner will not be eaten before around 9pm, with restaurants not even open until 7:30 at the earliest. But... we have noticed that around 10 in the morning people are having a second cup of espresso with a cornetto or a brioche (because, of course, lunch won't be until 1 or so and breakfast was just a piece of bread or a pastry and that won't get you till lunch so you're hungry by 10!) and then around 5pm in the afternoon, everyone is eating a gelato (because, we think, how can you wait until 9 to eat dinner if you don't have a little something to tide you over??). So we get a kick out of it because, we think, why not just eat a bigger breakfast and an earlier dinner instead of all the snacking! But, that's the way it is and who are we to suggest anything different! This is Italy! They've probably been eating this way for centuries and it is just too cute anyway.

1 comment:

Susan in Italy said...

How fun to go to a Tex-Mex place for Cinco de mayo. I haven't been to any of the Mexican restaurants here in Milan yet. Where will you go if you leave Sicily?