What to do in Sicily ? The ancient Modica is one of the most beautiful towns in Sicily with its opulent Sicilian baroque architecture that leaves any visitor in awe. However, when you are in town make sure you do not forget to devote some time to another local attraction: Modica chocolate.
Spanish conquistadores brought the cocoa beans to Sicily around 16th century. They learnt ancient recipes from the Aztecs in Mexico, who believed in invigorating powers of “xocolatl”, as they called chocolate.
Very little changed in the production of Modica chocolate since the Emperor Montezuma times: toasted cocoa beans are ground on a stone mill by hand and gently heated to 35-40 degrees centigrade while mixed with sugar. Because the temperature remains relatively low, the sugar granules do not melt giving the chocolate its characteristic coarse grainy consistency. The result of this simple process is delicious: the small thick chocolate bars have a rich and creamy taste with bitter notes. There are only two honest ingredients: chocolate and sugar, nothing else. No synthetic additives or fats spoil the natural flavour and the texture remains crumbly. A single natural flavour is added sometimes: vanilla, cinnamon, chilli pepper, lemon zest, Sicilian salt or carob.
Some connoisseurs say that the best way to enjoy Modica chocolate is to melt it in milk or water. Locals would also eat it with a piece of fresh bread. It is also used in savory dishes, and some good traditional restaurants would have “u lebbru ‘nciucculattatu”, rabbit cooked in chocolate, on their menu.
There are a few family-run shops that sell excellent chocolate in Modica. The Antica Dolceria Bonajuto (Corso Umberto I, 159) is one of the oldest and most famous internationally. Here you can also taste mpanatigghi, little pastries stuffed with minced beef and chocolate, their 400 year-old recipe remains a closely guarded secret. Another delicious thing to try is liccumie, a type of cookie with eggplant and chocolate stuffing. Other good places to gorge on local chocolate is Pasticceria Cappello (Via Nazionale, 206) and Casalindolci (Corso Vittorio Emanuele 2/a) where you can also see how the chocolate is made. Here are some examples on what to do in SIcily !
Photos by: Jelle Drok, Patrizia Ferry.