You have to love a restaurant that has the tag line, “The flavor of Sicily—The flavor of Civilization.” It’s a statement of what coming to the table is all about—being civilized.
Ortygia offers exactly what it promises, a place at their Sicilian table, or in this case a place at unique little eating bins in almost hideaway rooms and an outdoor space that welcomes the true essence of Italy—feasting in a joyous open atmosphere, where Chianti and the stars become one. Imagine all this in a not so desirable neighborhood on the fringe of Village of the Arts in Bradenton.
The cooking is classic Monzu style Sicilian. The French-trained Sicilian chef added such wonderful ingredients as consomme and foie gras. Even today the term Monzu refers to a great chef—fitting for this charming owner.
Fennel roasted in a chardonnay cream graced with black olives and pancetta transcends Italian island cooking. Fresh fennel, when cooked properly, is an incomparable flavor. No one does fennel better than the Italians and the French. Perhaps that is why most American chefs choose to use fennel uncooked in salads, in salads with oranges and goat cheese—a smart move.
The rustic savory tart os to die for, and the stuffed tomato with currants and pine nuts is a flavorful appetizer.
Ortygia is a destination for authentic savory tortes. Torto di Carciofi, another rustic classic from its homeland, is artisan crafted with a freshly made tart filled with artichoke and caramelized onions baked in a hand-rolled crust with a slight sweetness. Pre-order a full torte to bring home; you will need something to hold on to after experiencing something so exquisite in its comfort.
The rustic chicken breast is a classic Sicilian dish.
The entrée sides offer several comfort chicken dishes, but the nightly special of fresh tilapia, capers, olives, extra virgin olive oil and a reduced fresh tomato sauté was nearly sinful. Farsumagru—a freshly ground sirloin steak stuffed with provolone, prosciutto, sweet Italian sausage, hard-cooked eggs, asparagus and pancetta that is slowly braised in red wine and tomato reduction—is not your mama’s meatloaf. It’s large enough to share if you have overindulged in torte.
Dear friend Bob Siccone fits right in with the Ortygia family.
Sure, these food descriptions might send a message of delicisio! It is the feeling of family, from the greeting at the kitchen door to the offering of several different samples of wine to the icing on the cake—a table visit from Dorothy, proud mother of chef/owner Gaetano Cannata. As we lingered over espresso and limoncello, we tried to convince Dorothy, a native of New Jersey, to stay another month. Her sweetness and stories made an already wonderful meal a meaningful gathering of newly found friends.