The impending arrival of Morandi, the amply covered, Sicilian-inflected restaurant from Keith McNally, may have whetted your appetite for the island’s regional cooking. (Seeing the menu certainly did it for us.) But Morandi isn’t open for another week, and if you’re anything like Jeffrey Chodorow, you’ll want to be prepared to offer your own informed critiques of the place should the mean ol’ major critics review it harshly. So where can you train your tongue by sampling Sicilian specialties in the meantime? We’ve got just the three places for you.
With the closings of Caffe Bondi and Bussola (and with the exception of Don Pintabona's Dani and some venerable outer-borough focaccerias), Sicilian food continues to be woefully underrepresented even in this Italian-food-crazed city. That's one reason we were happy to hear about Cacio e Vino, a new "wine bar, pizza, and Sicilian spuntino" opening this week in the former East Village location of A Salt & Battery. The other, of course, is the installation of a wood-burning pizza oven, to be manned by ex-Mezzogiorno pizza chef Alessandro Ancona, who's named one of the menu's 27 pies after his Sicilian hometown. The Castellammare del Golfo features anchovies, shrimp, ricotta, capers, oregano, and the Sicilian herb mixture called ammogghiu — not a topping you're likely to find at your neighborhood slice joint. That oven will also be put to use for flatbreads called schiacciate, and stuffed calzones called farciti. Beyond the wide world of baked dough, Cacio e Vino honors its Sicilian roots with regional specialties like caponatina, stuffed sardines, and cassata, the love-or-hate-it fruitcake of Italy.
Cacio e Vino, 80 Second Ave., nr. 4th St.; 212-228-3269.
— Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld