Graziano Nani

Caffè Sicilia and the principle of Assenza.

26th November 2018 - For Intravino


Caffè Sicilia is a school of though unique in the world. No other is represented by a manifesto so effective as to be in one word. No other, after all, has a manifesto that corresponds to the same name as the founding father. The philosophy of Assenza lies entirely in the family name: the work he carries out every day is excellence by subtraction. Just like in sculpture, where gradual removal eventually brings out the masterpiece.

First it was the turn of the biggest dichotomy of the kitchen, sweet and salty, pulverized by the awareness that nature does not separate the sapid from the sugary, those who do are us. Here then is the meat ice-cream, the cherry tomato tart, the candied olive. But it was a phase, then by subtraction also that disappeared to go to the heart of the matter, the Sicilian patisserie. What we find at Caffé Sicilia, in its highest form because purer.

Crossing the threshold what immediately strikes is what is not there. The design revised after the hit on Netflix, the prices revised after the hit on Netflix, the humility revised after the hit on Netflix: none of this. There is the Caffé. With the counter, the sweets showcase, tables and Mrs. Nives at the register. It is all you need. There are waiters, a unique distillate of professionalism and friendliness, and yet how many have we met in our bars. The superiority of normality. No pretentious furnishings, no over polished staff, no rules or new prices, what remains is the wonder of the Italian Caffé. Unique in the world, sublimated in its essence.


I am moved but I am also in a Caffé, I read the Gazzetta [daily Italian sports newspaper]. The Cannolo arrives, it arrives flying. Wealth without gravity, sweetness but different it is a more nuanced sweet, the result of raw materials rather than sugar. The sheep ricotta is foamy, the wafer is dry but not dry, wonderful friability. Everything is focalized, each element is distinctly recognizable, even the tiptoe sweetness of the sugar on the surface. And the principle of subtraction took away the candied fruit, I thank him.


The Cassatina is absolute purity. The feeling is that the recipe has been dismantled into the individual components, like a clock studied in every mechanism, and reassembled working on the tenths of a millimetre to crystallize the splendour of the highest watchmaking. The glaze, the sponge cake, the candied fruits are gears that work in total fusion and mark the time of tasting dilating it to infinity.


The appearance really is deceiving and if my eyes project me into the vicious dimension of Tiramisu, the mouth, on the contrary, starts off on a more refined journey like aboard an Orient Express. From the window, delicate almond groves lashed by Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee bursts, while foamy clouds of zabaglione run in a sky that is already etched forever in the retinas.


I try the cakes, I try many. The Trancio di Nocciola , the Trancio Imperiale nd other creations that unwind along a thread that seems to me more and more outlined. Each slice of cake is to a conventional cake what memory is to life: what remains is the poignant feeling of that lens that filters only the best. So it works, we look back and the beauty of what has been is so vivid as to make the rest disappear. The cakes of Caffé Sicilia are selective memories in the pure state so that forever, in our mind, there will be no other cake outside of those of Assenza.


The last day is the day of breakfast at the bar before leaving. Zuppa di mandorla and brioche: indelible. The soup is hot. First it embraces me with the sweetness of this absolute land and then it announces the melancholy that I will feel with that pure and infinitesimal bitter touch of the almond of Noto. Together, the totalizing bliss of the brioche, of its hour of leavening and the unattainable quality of the individual ingredients.


I look out of the porthole as Sicily becomes smaller and I am in heaven and I think that in the end certain principles are so universal that they are worth for everything. Like that for which to remove weight is equivalent to freeing the potential. It is worth for the group that returns to carburation abandoned the ballast of the egocentric, for the individual who breathes deeply into the lungs after a kilogram of incinerated insecurity. For the contemporary wine that loses a bit of heaviness every year and for these patisserie masterpieces so air-like that they are forever imprinted in my memory, flying away with me.

In Assenza of gravity.