This restaurant was one of many recommendations given to us by a wonderful Sicilian lady now living in Australia who runs food tours around Sicily during the summer. A pretty trustworthy source I’d say. However, when we took a turn off the main road onto a rocky, gravel path which looked to be heading towards nothing but darkness, I was beginning to have my doubts. Double and triple checking the address, stopping and restarting google maps and all out praying that this wasn’t the end for us.
Finally, a light in the distance. Praise Jesus! Things were starting to look up. Or so we thought. We stopped at the bottom of a long driveway facing up a steep hill. We could barely make out the building at the top. Slowly creeping up the driveway we came into a car park. We drove up next to one of only two cars parked there. As I swung open my car door I looked down, I looked back at Georges, I looked down again. My eyes widened as I said with as much English sarcasm as I could muster. “Oh look Georges, two dusty baby handprints printed on the side of that car. Well that’s not scary at all.”
Yes, it bloody well was! We got out of the car and I grabbed Georges hand. This was it, our time, our end. We walked around the corner towards the building, the sound of stones beneath our feet was all that could be heard as we edged closer and closer. Lights were on. We knocked on the door. “Bueno sera!” exclaimed a friendly looking man as he swung open the door. “Have you made a reservation?” No, we hadn’t. “That’s ok, come in, come in. We are not open until 8pm.” It was 7:45pm. “But come in and have a seat and we’ll be right with you.”
Immediately I could feel the blood rushing back to my face and my fear subsided. We were guided to a table for two in front of a pull down projector screen where the owner was sat watching the last 15 minutes of his favourite game show. We watched with him, not understanding a single word but smiled when he smiled and laughed when he laughed. As soon as 8pm struck the screen was rolled up and the owner greeted us with genuine enthusiasm and asked what we would like to order. We told him kindly that we would love him to order for us, which he did with pleasure.
"Stick a FORK in me, I'm done."
The restaurant was empty. And I mean empty. Other than the chefs and waiters we were the only people sitting in this 250 seater restaurant. Georges and I looked at each other thinking that business must be tough and were pleased to have come out all this way to help what looked like a struggling restaurant. About 20 minutes later we swallowed our words. Big time. Every seat had a bum, the place was a bustling, hectic, noisy, happy room full of couples, families and parties. The owner worked the room, going from table to table greeting old friends and new friends.
As we patiently waited for our starter we dug into the DIY tomato bruschetta. A mortar and pestle sat on our table filled with tomato, olive oil, salt and pepper and basil. We gave it a little stir before loading up slices of fresh, crispy bread. Like I’ve said before, you can’t beat simple things that are done well. There was so much flavor and each ingredient spoke for itself. It took all our strength to not eat an entire loaf of bread just so we could mop up every last mouthful of tomato juice.
Well thank goodness we didn’t because what came next would leave a competitive eater shaking in their boots. A 21 dish antipasti platter which just kept coming and coming. A mere snippet of it included a potato and liver dish, fresh ricotta, meatballs, tripe, escargot, zucchini, olives, quail egg, ash cheese, ham, pork, aubergine. You get the picture; it was a lot.
The main course however, was my favourite. Unfortunately, I only had room left for a few mouthfuls but those few mouthfuls were heaven. A pistachio cream gnocchi with cheese, crushed pistachios and saffron. It was incredibly rich with a silky smooth sauce and perfectly cooked pillows of gnocchi. It was unlike anything I had had before and one of my most memorable dishes of the entire trip.
Holy moly! I couldn’t move. As I leant back in my chair there was no other option than to pop the button on my shorts to make room for my expanding waistline. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been this full but what I did know is that I needed to be horizontal……. and fast. We put up our hand to order the bill but by the look on the owners face, that clearly wasn’t going to happen. He came over and looked baffled as to why we weren’t ordering dessert. We told him there was no way we could fit another bite. His response? You haven’t seen my wife’s ricotta cake. He walked us over to the dessert cabinet and showed us the freshly baked ricotta cake, soft and warm having just come out of the oven. I honestly couldn’t tell you how we did it but we did. We ordered a slice to share and quite easily (and surprisingly) demolished it. I even think I could’ve have squeezed in another slice. I swear it’s true what they say about having a separate dessert tummy.
Ardigna was definitely worth the two and a half hour round trip. I mean it’s easy for me to say as I slept for most of it but even Georges claims it to be his favourite meal of the holiday. We also found out that they are renovating to add accommodation within the surrounding buildings which is the perfect ammunition to get us back eating more of their beautiful food.