Licata is a port town in southern Sicily near Agrigento that doesn’t have much going for it except for the fact that Pino Cuttaia was born here and opened up a restaurant, La Madia. On a Monday night in April the restaurant was full, and I am pretty sure that most of those people came to Licata just to eat here (like we did).
I wrote before about Gambero Rosso and how to rate trattorie with 1, 2 or 3 prawns. Similarly, they rate restaurants with 1, 2 or 3 forks. There is only one restaurant with 3 forks (tre forchette) in Sicily, and this is it. The restaurant also has two Michelin stars. I tend to agree more with Gambero Rosso’s judgements in Italy than I do with Michelin’s, and that holds up in this case as well.
Apart from an a la carte menu, La Madia serves three degustation menus for 80, 95 and 115 euros. We chose the latter, aptly named Sapori di Mare. Unlike similar restaurants, La Madia does not offer a wine pairing and does not serve amuse bouche. We asked the sommelier to pick Sicilian whites from the wine list, and the first he picked was a dry zibbibo (moscato) from the area of Siracusa, Cyane from Pupillo. It was very aromatic and went well with the dishes.
One dish on the menu, called Caponata di mare, was not available and was replaced with this pizza. We were thoroughly fooled by it, because we were wondering how we were going to survive 8 courses if they were all going to be this big. It turned out to be very light actually. What looks like melted mozzarella is actually potato mousse. The crust was only a very crispy very thin round of dough, and underneath the ‘cheese’ there was lovely cod smoked on pine wood and some semi-dried tomato. Great flavors and wonderful presentation. 10/10
We weren’t fooled as easily the second time, so we immediately assumed that this was not a whole ball of mozzarella. And we were right, because it was reconstructed destructed mozzarella. It had a very nice flavor of buffalo mozzarella, but with a feathery texture. Even the ‘skin’ of the mozzarella looked real, and it was served with a great tomato coulis. The flavors, textures and lightness were again amazing. 10/10
Battutino di gambero rosso, maionese di bottarga di tonno e olio al mandarino. Carpaccio of prawns, flattened into a perfect disc, served with a bottarga mayonnaise and mandarin olive oil. It was suggested to spread out the ‘mayo’, which we did, and it was a great combination with the prawns and didn’t overpower them. Great balance of flavors, although I may have liked a slightly ‘fresher’ taste. A perfectly paired wine could have fixed that. 9/10
Polpo sulla roccia. Very tender octopus with a nice ‘charcoal grilled’ flavor, on a very crispy ‘rock’ made of octopus (although I don’t have a clue how) and parsley mousse. Very good combination of flavors and textures. The ‘rock’ was unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before. Not onlycrispy, but also quite sturdy and thus really like a rock. 10/10
Meanwhile we had finished the bottle of zibbibo, and the sommelier has picked out another bottle of Sicilian white for us: a blend of local grapes with great minerality, Flavinia la Muciara.
Pasta e minestra di crostaceo. After all the very interesting and light antipasti, this is a very substantial dish that is loaded with flavor. The stock is very concentrated prawn stock with a very good balance between a wonderful strong prawn flavor and some chile pepper. The pasta is al dente and there are some morsels of perfectly cooked juicy fish in there. 10/10
As a nice touch a pot with more of this is put on the table, so you can serve yourself some more if you like. This is a very nice way of allowing the guests to regulate how much they would like to eat.
Tataki di pesce Sikano. A piece of ricciola, prepared Japanese style: chargrilled on the outside, and still raw on the inside. Very fresh fish with a great flavor and texture. A dish with smoldering almonds is added for the scent, and there is a slice of potato fondant that is very soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. You guessed it, another 10/10.
There was a choice of desserts and I picked the apple tart. It was a nice apple tart, served with vanilla sauce, ice cream and a slice of apple with a very unusual but nice texture (nicer than simply dehydrated apple, which can be quite chewy). 9/10
The sommelier suggested a very dry marsala with this, but when I insisted I preferred something sweeter with dessert, he came up with a very nice sweet nero d’avola.
This was an amazing dinner. The perfect balance of flavors and textures, the ‘lightness’ and the constant high level of all the dishes is something we’ve rarely seen before. 10/10 for the food.
The service was good. The chef was present in the dining room a lot, inquiring on a regular basis whether everything was alright. He seemed a bit shy to talk in Italian with non-Italians for some reason. At first the dishes were coming a bit too fast, but after we asked to take it slow (piano), the pace was perfect. 8.5/10 for the service.
The only thing that could have made our experience even better would be to have a wine pairing rather than choosing wines by the bottle. A different glass of perfectly matched wine with each dish could really take this over the top.