After a long week at work, my husband Mark suggested we go out for dinner on Friday night. He suggested Bar Idda, a Sicilian restaurant only a few kilometers from home in East Brunswick. I was very keen to try it as we will be traveling to Sicily in September and one of the things that excites me most about visiting southern Italy is the food. The first thing that struck me when I entered the restarant were the old fashioned lacy curtains in the window and the tiny tv tucked up high in one corner, silently playing episodes of my favorite Italian TV show, Ispettore Montalbano. We sat down at a bar seat, looking out onto Lygon Street feeling very comfortable in the simple uncluttered room.
Sicily is close to Malta, which is where Mark’s father is from. He looked right at home nursing a Sicilian Spritzer (Vermouth with Rosso Antico and a splash of soda water) listening to italian singer Massimo Ranieri singing Rose Rosse, a song released in the 70s on the stereo.
The menu reflected traditional Sicilian fare with a bit of a twist. There were lots of sweet elements in the savoury dishes, which makes complete sense thinking of where Sicily is located in the Mediterranean Sea and its history of being invaded by both the Moors and the Normans.
As a first course we shared an arancino, which literally means “little orange” (as that is what it looks like). It is a ball of risotto, which is fried then baked and it was filled with pork and beef ragu, mozzarella cheese and peas. We also shared a serve of incredible little fried balls called zeppole, a savoury version of frittole. Bar Idda makes them with potatoes, sultanas, parsley and anchovies and a lemon yoghurt mayonnaise (scalmoriglio) drizzled on top. They were seriously good and I could have eaten a dozen of them! I will definitely try to recreate these at home one day.
There were five different main courses including duck with couscous and cavolo nero, chicken cotolette, pasta with ragu, baked baby snapper on a bed of mashed broad beans (maccu) topped with shaved fennel and porchetta (pork belly). We shared the duck and the fish however the lighting was poor so my photos are dark and too grainy to post. The salads blended the sweet and savory elements perfectly – we shared the roast sweet potatoes with chilli, pomegranate and mint and a wonderful cold caponata. The caponata mixed cooked and raw elements as well as sweet and savory – caramelised cooked pear, cooked carrots and celery with fresh grated apples, walnuts, capers and dates scattered through. It worked rather well.
To finish off this rather wonderful Sicilian meal, we had tiny cannoli served with a glass of golden grappa. The cannolo was to die for – the cocoa pastry shell was filled with a ricotta cream with the ends dipped in crushed green pistachios and it was served on a paper doily, just like they do in cafes in Italy.
I love the simplicity of Bar Idda, including the mismatched plates, embroidered tablecloths covered in protective plastic and the non-pretentious menu. Apparently the owners, Alfredo and Lisa La Spina, visit Sicily a couple of times a year and even take tour groups there on a ‘culinary journey’ so I imagine the food reflects what they see on their trips. I can’t wait to visit Bar Idda again and get a taste of the delightful food that my September trip to the east coast of Sicily will bring.
132 Lygon St
East Brunswick 3057