Author Topic: What IS Sicilian?  (Read 2440 times)

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Offline pizzablogger

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What IS Sicilian?
« on: December 18, 2009, 07:05:00 PM »
This is a topic that continues to intrigue me.

Is Sicilian the name of the style because it is the pizza you are most likely to find when in Sicily itself OR because it is the type of pizza most often cooked by a Sicilian person (often associated with "nonna") here in the US due to the slight ease of being able to use a pan to shape the dough?

I ask this because my parents went to Sicily recently. I am sure there are area/regional differences in Sicily just like anywhere else, but they were in much of the western and central parts of Sicily, from bigger areas like Taormina and Catania to smaller towns and villages like Caltagirone and Agrigento. My dad is a pizza person and mentioned to me he did not notice any of the square/rectangular type of pizza we associate with "Sicilian" being offered in the pizza shops he passed by.

Interesting that some friends of the family, where the wife's side of the family is Sicilian, also mentioned she really hasn't seen much "Sicilian" style pizza in shops there as well. I'm sure it must exist, and quite frequently, in other areas of Sicily. Does anyone know if this is the case?

While my Dad and friend of the family both said they did not see much "Sicilian" pizza, if any, while being in Sicily, I have learned that you can never take your own experiences in life, much less the word of one or two people, and extrapolate that into a stereotype or be-all definition for a topic.

Still, I am intrigued. Is it "Sicilian" because this is the everyday type of pizza served in Sicily itself, or because, say, a large group of Sicilian immigrants, likely having limited access to wood fired ovens or potentially having very limited counter space or resources in tenement style housing, started using pans as a more easy to use method of creating pizza in their own homes? I know two Sicilian "nonnas" who make this style of piza here in the states, but they are unable to elaborate on whether this originated in Sicily, as there is a language barrier to overcome. My Italian, like my Spanish, is incredibly rudimentary, if even that and not knowing another language fluently is one of my only, and biggest, regrets in my life.

Any info would be very helpful. Thank you.
"It's Baltimore, gentlemen, the gods will not save you." --Burrell


Offline Pete-zza

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Re: What IS Sicilian?
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2009, 07:29:48 PM »
PB,

You are not the first one on the forum to ask that question: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,6307.msg54113.html#msg54113.

Peter

Offline Matthew

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Re: What IS Sicilian?
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2009, 07:24:41 AM »
This is a topic that continues to intrigue me.

Is Sicilian the name of the style because it is the pizza you are most likely to find when in Sicily itself OR because it is the type of pizza most often cooked by a Sicilian person (often associated with "nonna") here in the US due to the slight ease of being able to use a pan to shape the dough?

I ask this because my parents went to Sicily recently. I am sure there are area/regional differences in Sicily just like anywhere else, but they were in much of the western and central parts of Sicily, from bigger areas like Taormina and Catania to smaller towns and villages like Caltagirone and Agrigento. My dad is a pizza person and mentioned to me he did not notice any of the square/rectangular type of pizza we associate with "Sicilian" being offered in the pizza shops he passed by.

Interesting that some friends of the family, where the wife's side of the family is Sicilian, also mentioned she really hasn't seen much "Sicilian" style pizza in shops there as well. I'm sure it must exist, and quite frequently, in other areas of Sicily. Does anyone know if this is the case?

While my Dad and friend of the family both said they did not see much "Sicilian" pizza, if any, while being in Sicily, I have learned that you can never take your own experiences in life, much less the word of one or two people, and extrapolate that into a stereotype or be-all definition for a topic.

Still, I am intrigued. Is it "Sicilian" because this is the everyday type of pizza served in Sicily itself, or because, say, a large group of Sicilian immigrants, likely having limited access to wood fired ovens or potentially having very limited counter space or resources in tenement style housing, started using pans as a more easy to use method of creating pizza in their own homes? I know two Sicilian "nonnas" who make this style of piza here in the states, but they are unable to elaborate on whether this originated in Sicily, as there is a language barrier to overcome. My Italian, like my Spanish, is incredibly rudimentary, if even that and not knowing another language fluently is one of my only, and biggest, regrets in my life.

Any info would be very helpful. Thank you.

PB,
Maybe I can shed a little light on this.  My parents are both from Sicily,  specifically Pachino, which is in the province of Siracusa.  In the summer, because of the extreme heat, most families spend alot of time "in campania" (at the farm) & do not do much cooking at home.   Most campania's do have a wood burning oven that is housed in a covered outdoor kitchen.  The pizza is baked in a wood burning oven at bread baking temperatures, without a live fire.  Once the oven is brought to temperature, all the coals are raked out & the pizza is baked in pans.  They use a very interesting technique in knowing when the oven is at the proper temperature.  There is a special stone that is placed in the oven during heat up & once that stone turns pure white the oven is ready.  The toppings are very simple, fresh plum tomatoes, oregano, salt, EVOO, & a little parmigiano.  Another popular pizza is comprised of thinly sliced sweet onions, a layer of thinly sliced potatoes, followed by fresh sausage, another layer of thinly sliced potatoes, ricotta cheese, oregano, sea salt & a drizzle of EVOO.  You are absolutely correct in that if you go to a restaurant you won't see this style of pizza on a menu.  This pizza to Sicilians is more like bread & is eaten along side of their meal.  They don't eat it is a main coarse.

Pizza in our region of Sicily is secondary to what we call "vota vota"  which is basically a calzone.  It's rectangular & folded similar to an envelope as appose to a calzone that is half moon shaped.  The typical fillings are: parsley, sundried tomatoes, sicilian tuna;  ricotta, potato, onions; broccoli & sausage; spinach & sundried tomato.


Matt
« Last Edit: December 19, 2009, 07:30:14 AM by Matthew »

Offline Jose L. Piedra

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Re: What IS Sicilian?
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2009, 07:46:17 PM »
Is it "Sicilian" because this is the everyday type of pizza served in Sicily itself, or because, say, a large group of Sicilian immigrants, likely having limited access to wood fired ovens or potentially having very limited counter space or resources in tenement style housing, started using pans as a more easy to use method of creating pizza in their own homes?

Pan-baked pizzas were traditionally made throughout Italy; while there exists an irreducibly unique Sicilian variant known as sfinciuni (among whose distinctive features is a dough made of semolina flour), it is a rather different animal from what we think of as Sicilian pizza on this continent. I would not be surprised to learn that the term "Sicilian"- like "Hamburger" or "Frankfurter"- was originally adopted by some American cook-book author or restaurauteur to name and/or brand something that has only the loosest connection to what people in its supposed region of provenance actually eat, and is otherwise distinctly American.

-JLP
« Last Edit: December 19, 2009, 07:49:34 PM by Jose L. Piedra »
Scarsu d'ogghiu, e riccu di provolazzu ::)

Offline pizzablogger

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Re: What IS Sicilian?
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2009, 02:15:25 PM »
@Peter: Thanks for the link  :)

@Matt: The "Vota Vota" sounds interesting. Any pictures of such a thing?

@Jose: I would not be surprised at all if that was the case. Good points!
"It's Baltimore, gentlemen, the gods will not save you." --Burrell

Offline Jose L. Piedra

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Re: What IS Sicilian?
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2010, 12:48:26 PM »
Just a heads-up to the effect that the subject-matter of sfinciuni (cf. sfincione) is presently receiving a rigorous and detailed treatment in the following thread: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,9946.0.html

-JLP
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Offline Matthew

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Re: What IS Sicilian?
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2010, 04:41:58 PM »


@Matt: The "Vota Vota" sounds interesting. Any pictures of such a thing?


Sorry, I must of missed this one.  I don't have any photos, but will definately take some next time I make them.

Matt


 

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