Taormina, Sicily Restaurant: L’Incontro a True Sicilian Experience

May, 2012  I just returned from Taormina, Sicily – it was our first visit there, but we frequent Italy every 2 years, and have become very familiar with different parts of the country and what to expect to get a true (non ‘touristy’) experience. DO NOT MISS Ristorante L’INCONTRO when you visit Taormina. We were in town for 4 nights, and being that we were new to Taormina, the first night we ventured out on our own – only to find ourselves second-guessing every restaurant because there are so many in town that try to lure people in. It’s a crap shoot really. You really have no idea what’s good, or what just looks good from the outside or from the menu.

As a well-versed Italy-traveller (and I lived there years ago too), I don’t want to eat what I can get anywhere. I want to eat like the people of the region eat!  So I asked my hotel (in Italian of course) my typical question: can you please direct me to a great, family-run, truly Sicilian restaurant that is not just a tourist spot – someplace where you would find locals? L’Incontro was the first they mentioned. So we tried it – and the service, the food, the hospitality – magnificent. Well-traveled Tony is the manager and Antonio is the head chef – and they, as well as the whole staff, were warm, inviting… they went out of their way to make sure we had a wonderful experience. They introduced us to some Sicilian specialities – and Antonio even invited me into the kitchen, and showed us how to make the caponata (a Sicilian eggplant ratatoille that is just out of this world). My experience was so wonderful the first night that I grabbed a bunch of cards and immediately started telling anyone who would listen to me in our hotel – GO THERE!  A few couples actually did – and they too had a great experience with Tony and the team. Apparently, one of the couples went for lunch (pranzo) and Tony was able to set them up on a winery excursion around Mt. Etna the next day. Because we loved it so much, we went back a second time – any restaurant that gets a second go around from my husband and me is one that ranks high, and is definitely one where the service and friendliness is top of the line.

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On our second visit, I had a hand made (fatto a mano) pasta for starters.

I love simple food and this pasta pomodoro was wonderful. Antonio made it special for me because it wasn’t exactly on the menu per se. My husband, both times, had a hand made pasta with eggplant, sausage and fennel – and he said he would eat it everyday if he could! For my secondo, the first night I had a wonderful fresh tuna preparation – Antonio did it with sauteed red onions and lemon, a little olive oil – it was delicious. So I asked for what was fresh the second day, a white fish, prepared the same way. My husband had the grilled prawns and (he is VERY picky about anything fish related) said they were wonderful. While in Italy, we tend to want to treat ourselves to gelato for dessert (something I never do in the US), so while we don’t often order dessert in a restaurant, Tony brought us out some Semifreddo – also an Italian dessert – the first night. It was wonderful. He brought 2 kinds: one was an almond semi-freddo (there are a LOT of almond specialties in Sicily and you MUST try them); and the other was a semi-freddo with ricotta. Both were excellent. I loved the almond and my husband loved the ricotta. Antonio came out a shared with us how to prepare it on our own too. I’ll add that Tony brought us a ‘digestivo’ after our meal the last night. It was a homemade fennel liquor. I am NOT a big drinker. This was really quite good! Totally worth it. I would drink that again!

This restaurant is an absolute must. It makes my (hard to make) list of restaurants I recommend to friends and family when they goto Italy! And do it on your first or second night because you will want to go again! Great if you are a couple, a family, for business, a group of friends, whatever! A last comment: value for the money? Definitely one of the best I have had in Italy. Not expensive at all, great local food, great service. What more can you ask for?

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