The more time I spend living in Sicily, the more I am convinced that island mentality is akin to small town mentality. The scope changes as the size of the island increases, yet the physical boundary of the water presents just enough barrier to force extra human interaction among island residents.
This is like a small town where you just know 25-100% of the public because of various work and social obligations.
On the island, some of the best places I have visited outside of the major tourist (Taormina) and historical (Greek ruins in Agrigento) attractions, are places that I have heard about through a friend. Or, that I have heard about through a friend of a friend (to the nth degree).
Locanda COS is such a Sicilian establishment.
To reach this deceptively modest winery, agriturismo, and resort, we drove from the smooth, orderly autostrade surrounding Catania, through winding, rambling foothills and farms, and around a final few roundabouts to the tranquil grounds of Locanda COS.
This friendly creature and his airplane ears greeted us warmly.
Seriously! Check out these ears. I was engaged in a game of tag for tens of minutes trying to get a good shot. These quick snaps will have to suffice to show you the unique ears.
The woman above the lovely pair of legs is my colleague Jess. She and her husband Nick were among the group of delightful friends who came to Locanda COS for a warm spring afternoon of hearty food and drink.
Here are Jess and Nick.
Jeremy, Sara, Warren, Joyce, Mike, that German couple, Jacqueline, Terri, and many more came to partake in our host Pino’s delectable spread.
Pino is a brilliant chef who grew up in Calabria, and spent years cooking and acting as head chef in German high-end restaurants. Love brought him together with his lovely wife, and love of life’s gusto brought the both of them to Sicily, to Locanda COS.
Pino described the food he served with love and tenderness, though his sharp eyes and harsh laugh bely some rough edges around the experiences that shaped his life. Flavors popped in his food in a way I had only dreamed about since learning that I would be moving to Italy.
Although I have eaten the same ingredients that Pino uses in his food, the Locanda COS meal was the most dynamic flavor profile yet. Just when the soft, creamy texture of the eggplant parmigiana lulls you nearly to submission, the sweet-tart tomato-basil combination startles you to attention.
“But I’ve had eggplant, tomato and basil in combination dozens of times!?!!” I thought.
Somehow, Pino made this dish spectacular. He also served baked ricotta to die for, a hot pesto sauce with soft and chewy al dente fresh pasta. The secondi was a perfectly grilled slab of beef. It was a rare beef occasion for me; one that more than blew me away with the grilling technique, high quality olive oil, and rosemary used in the production and presentation.
After the meal concluded with fresh berries and fresh cream, we took a pause to enjoy the sun, then headed to the winery for a short tour.
The drawings on the wall drew my attention the most.
I love wine cellars! The big barrels, the damp musty air, (hhhhhhmmmmmm-inhale-ahhhhhhhh), this is the life.