Sicily’s ‘slow food’ a labour of love

Some people are born to cook.

Neither Carmelo nor Luisa Restivo is a trained chef but they are the reason for the success of Sicily Restaurant and Pizzeria.

For 30 years, they have cooked side-by-side, rarely saying a word in the kitchen, both just knowing what the other needs to produce traditional Italian food six days a week.

Every dish is made from scratch and many have Carmelo’s unique “twist” that brings people from as far away as Toronto just for a meal at Sicily’s.

“I love baking, but Carmelo has the talent in the kitchen,” says Luisa. She grew up in Sarnia, earned a degree at Western University in biology and chemistry, married Carmelo and joined the family business.

The Restivo family opened Sicily’s in 1978 in the Wiltshire Plaza.  Luisa began working alongside her husband in 1983, and five years later they opened the present restaurant at 1754 London Line.

Carmelo and Luisa base their success on the fact nothing leaves the kitchen that isn’t prepared fresh. They make their own breads, desserts, sauces and sausages.

“Every menu item has Carmelo’s hand in,” says Luisa. “He’s a natural in the kitchen.”

Sicily’s Puttanesca, for instance, is a vegetarian pasta in a tomato base with capers, black olives and garlic.  Years ago, Carmelo added artichokes to his recipe.

“I learned to cook when I came from Italy to join my brother in Sarnia,” he said. “I didn’t like Canadian food, so my brother and I started to cook, learning all the basics from my mother.”

The first few years were slow, he said. “I think the only reason I stayed open was pride. Then, after a while, people started to come.”

After 35 years in business, there is only one complaint that won’t go away.  People don’t like to wait, says Luisa.

But she and Carmelo decided long ago to cook everything to order from fresh, quality foods.

“When you come here you’re coming for a dinner, not a quick bite to eat,” she said.  “People may complain, but that’s our problem and it will never go away.”

“We have people who come back from Italy and say they like our food better,” said Carmelo.  “It’s the way we cook that takes time.”

 

RECIPE: SICILY’S CHICKEN VESUVIO   (three portions)

* Oven roast 3 pieces of dark and light chicken (bone in) with some olive oil, salt and pepper, until thoroughly cooked.

* Pan fry three large potatoes cut into chunks with olive oil. Cook until half done (still somewhat crunchy).

* Remove chicken from the roast pan and arrange in a baking pan with potatoes.

*Add 6 oz. to 8 oz. of white wine and the juice from half a fresh lemon.

*Season with salt and pepper and rosemary. Luisa says the rosemary is the secret to Chicken Vesuvio and some people like more than others.

*Cook in a 425 degree oven for about half an hour.  Uncover and bake a few minutes more to let the top brown and the sauce thicken. 

 

– Cathy Dobson

Curious about a local restaurant and their recipes. Call Cathy Dobson at 226-932-0985 or cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca.