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A Guide to Sicilian Food, and Where to Enjoy it in Central London

If you love Mediterranean cuisine, then chances are you’ll adore Sicilian food.

Sicilian food derives from the Island of Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 autonomous regions of Italy. It is influenced by a range of cultures, mostly Italian, but also Spanish, French, Greek and Arabic.

Sicilian food: history and influences

Sicilian cuisine has quite a history. Mithaecus, born in the 5th century BC, was the first known Sicilian cook to share the gastronomy of his country with Greece, producing the first ever cookbook in any language that can be attributed to a named author.

Arab influences on Sicilian food date back to the 10th and 11th centuries, when the region was under Arab rule. Such influences include fruits such as citrus, apricots and melons, plus sugar, rice, raisins, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, pine nuts, pepper, saffron and rice, all contributing towards the cuisine’s distinctive flavour.

Adding to the mix, Spain introduced an array of items from the New World, including tomatoes, peppers, maize, cocoa and turkey.

Meat is also a popular ingredient, deriving from Norman origins, and couscous, stemming from North African influences, is widely used in the west of the island. Over in the east, Catania was originally settled by Greek colonists, who left behind a love of fresh vegetables, broad beans, pistachios and fish.

So, it is easy to see why typical Sicilian food is so eclectic, offering up such variety of flavour, with something to satisfy every palette.

Sicilian dining

Starters, known as ‘antipasti’, are an essential element of Sicilian food, and include bruschetta and ravioli.

Next, it is customary to order a pasta dish as the ‘primi piatti’. Sicily is the oldest Italian and, in fact, western location on record to incorporate pasta into the local cuisine, an accolade that dates back to around the 12th century.

Following the pasta course comes ‘secondi’. This is the main dish, which will usually consist of meat or fish.

Lastly, what all the sweet-toothed have been waiting for, is ‘dolci’. This is a particular speciality of Sicilian food, rounding the meal off perfectly with the likes of profiteroles, tiramisu and refreshing gelatos and sorbets.

Sicilian tipples

Most diners will accompany their Sicilian meals with wine. Conditions on the island are perfect for grape growing, thanks mainly to Mount Etna. Wine making has been part and parcel of Sicily since the first Greek colonisation and nowadays, all the provinces of the country are wine-producing.

The red wines of Sicily will usually be served with grilled or roasted meats. Look out for Alcamo Rossa, created mainly from Nero d’Avola, and the slightly spicy Etna Rosso, which pairs well with fish as well as meat. Poultry and pasta dishes tend to lend themselves to Sicilian white and rosé wines, whilst your dolci will command a complementary dessert variety, such as a quaffable Marsala, or a Malvasia delle Lipari.

Other tipples that will often follow Sicilian food include the lemon liqueur limoncello, and the herbal drink Amaro Siciliano, which works well as a natural after-dinner digestive.

Where to enjoy Sicilian food in central London?

If you’re looking for a Sicilian restaurant, London has a fair few to offer. But if you’re honing your search and seeking out a Sicilian restaurant in central London, then you’ll have a slightly more limited choice. Refine that search even further so you’re in quest of a Sicilian restaurant that’s pure Instagram gold dust, with décor that’s nothing short of spectacular, and you’ll find yourself in the mesmerising surroundings of Circolo Popolare.

Just a short walk from the main shopping districts of central London and nestled into the gloriously tranquil Rathbone Square in the heart of the Fitzrovia district, Circolo Popolare is one of London’s finest Sicilian restaurants. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, and for brunch till late afternoon on weekends, this is THE place to truly indulge in Sicily’s finest cuisine.

Catering well for vegetarians, vegans, celiacs and a range of dietary needs, Circolo Popolare is the perfect place to round off a city shopping trip, and ideal for those very special occasions where memories are made. In the summer, you can take your place on the sunny Sicilian terrace, or sit yourself inside and gaze up and admire the spellbinding starry ceiling.

Chef Francesco’s menu changes every month in line with the seasons and fresh arrivals, but typical Sicilian food staples on offer include delectable chunky truffle churros with a parmigiano dipping sauce, and the Love Mussel, a crusty bread bowl filled with steamed mussels in a scrummy tomato and oregano sauce.

After your antipasti, try the home-made spaghetti with tomato sauce, fresh basil pesto and lashings of parmigiano reggiano, or the Rupaul Ragù, a very slow cooked oxtail and San Marzano tomato ragù packed with typically Sicilian raisins and pine nuts, and served with fresh pappardelle. So that’s your pasta course in the bag, so now for your secondi.

The Big Brisket Panino is an 18-hour slow-cooked beef brisket for two, served in a brioche bun with sautéed green peppers and camembert di bufala fondue. Fish aficionados will revel in the Monkfish Alla Livornese, soft white fish baked in a rich sauce, with tangy capers, anchovies and olives, served with fried polenta.

And finally, the Sicilian food party piece… the dolci. Baywatch Carpaccio is a fruit fan’s dream, packed with thinly sliced pineapple, coconut Chantilly and crumble, laced with passionfruit coulis, fresh lime and basil leaf. And how about this… the dessert pizza, brimming with chocolatey hazelnut spread. Oh so naughty! But perhaps not quite as naughty as the giant profiteroles, oozing with vanilla gelato and warm dark chocolate and topped with caramelised pecan nuts.

If you’ve never experienced Sicilian food before, you’ll be hooked after a meal at Circolo Popolare, that’s for sure!

Tempted to try Sicilian food? Visit Circo Popolare, Rathbone Square’s very own taste of Sicily.

Whether you’re shopping in central London, or you’re venturing into the capital to meet up with friends, a visit to Circo Popolare is a must if you’re tempted to try typical Sicilian food. And if you’re headed this way, why not make a point of exploring everything else Rathbone Square has to offer? We look forward to welcoming you!

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