Perfect location, perfect granita …

5 September, 2010

This week I visited Salina, one of the Aeolian Islands off Sicily’s north-east coast, and came upon Da Alfredo, a tiny waterfront bar, famous, I’ve since discovered, for its granita.  I had never heard of Da Alfredo, but one taste of its granita and I knew it was something special. 

The bar’s location is perfect: it is in a tiny piazza on the waterfront in Lingua, a peaceful and attractive little village on the south-eastern tip of Salina, looking out over the water to the islands of Lipari, Panarea and Stromboli.    

The more I learned about Da Alfredo and its granita, the more impressed I became.  Perhaps not surprisingly!  I always derive pleasure from seeing traditional products being made with great care and skill, and family traditions developing as sons or daughters pick up the skills of their parents with energy and enthusiasm and take them to a new level.  Both these things are part of the story of Da Alfredo.

During the period of economic hardship that followed the Second World War, there was a large wave of emigration from Salina to Australia.  Among those leaving the island were most of Alfredo and his wife’s families – but they, Alfredo and his wife,  decided to remain on the island.  Alfredo perfected a form of granita using traditional methods, and in 1968 they established a small bar known as Da Alfredo.   

At first, Alfredo made only two flavours of granita: lemon and coffee.  It didn’t take long, however, for his granita to attract a following, and gradually, other flavours were added.  Today, there are more than ten, including melon, strawberry, orange, mulberry, pistacchio, chocolate, watermelon, fig, peach and prickly pear. 

The flavours can be eaten alone or in combination.  On our first visit, intending to order one peach and one almond granita, we were presented with two combined peach and almond granitas.  It turned out to be a happy mistake:  the individual flavours were better than anything I’d tasted before and the combination was perfect.  The peach was pure peach, with flecks of the reddish skin visible; the almond pure almond. 

During the next few days, we sampled some more flavours and watched as others sampled flavours we hadn’t tried, including both strawberry and  coffee served with cream.

Another speciality of the bar, which we didn’t get to try, is a local version of bruschetta, known as ‘pane cunzato’.  The Aeolian version has tomatoes, capers, anchovies and chilli; the Salina version has baked ricotta added.  

Over the years, Alfredo has been joined in the business by his two sons, Pietro and Angelo, and in 2007 the Ristorante Da Alfredo, where Pietro is the Chef, was opened nearby.   

Pietro’s enthusiasm for the business, and for Salina itself, is boundless.  When I asked him what it was that made Alfredo’s granitas so special, he told me that they are made with less water than usual – they are essentially just carefully mixed frozen fruit – and also less added sugar.  

As I sat at the bar’s outdoor tables in the fading light, looking out across the water to the islands of Lipari, Panarea and Stromboli and feeling, almost physically,  that veil of stillness and tranquillity that seems to descend on the Aeolian Islands, it occurred to me that Alfredo and his family had done well to stay on the island they so obviously loved.  I felt pleased that their venture had been so successful – and sure that they would not be forgotten by their Australian relatives.

4 Responses to “Perfect location, perfect granita …”

  1. Louise F Says:

    Sounds and looks delicious! Did you get to Stromboli on this trip?

    • kateludlow Says:

      I’ve decided Salina is one of my favourite places – but maybe that’s just because I’ve been to it more than I’ve been to the other islands. This time I just explored a bit more of Salina – didn’t go to any of the other islands at all, apart from brief ferry stops on the way through.

  2. Sally F Says:

    I want to be there – and can “taste” it all as I read …


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