Up and down the picturesque old town – Ortigia – in Siracusa, Sicily, tiny osterias line the alleys, and it is nearly impossible to choose which one to visit. In Osteria La Gazza Ladra (Via Cavour,8 – 96100, Siracusa, Sicily) or “Magpie” we found a spectacular hole-in-the-wall serving up tasty, homemade Sicilian food at reasonable prices. The moniker osteria used to refer to an inn, but now just refers to a rustic bar or restaurant where you are likely to get a good home-cooked meal. The menu is small and consists mainly of specials that are updated daily. The restaurant had only 8 tables and we had the sheer luck to arrive at about 9:30 PM JUST as a table was vacating. Sicilian food is very different than what most Americans associate with typical Italian food, and Sicilian cuisine focuses on fish, nuts, citrus and olive oil.
We started out with a Sicilian cheese plate (despite being a relatively dry island, Sicily has an interesting variety of cheese), including a particularly tasty sheep’s milk pecorino. For our next starter, we selected the orange and fennel salad. Bright and fresh, this citrusy salad was only dressed with lemon and oil, and was a standout of the meal (it has also since entered our recipe rotation at home).
Along with a variety of roasted vegetable sides, there was also a selection of more unique pasta dishes featuring unique-to-us local sauces. We tried the pasta with red pesto, as well as the pasta with almond cream sauce. Both were light and delicious, and we were particularly intrigued by the red pesto, which consisted mainly of tomatoes and red pepper flakes. The almond cream sauce dish was garnished with breadcrumbs, a typical Sicilian touch.
The service was also excellent, and the little restaurant was atmospheric and the perfect place for people-watching. We highly recommend La Gazza Ladra – we can’t think of a better place to enjoy local Sicilian cuisine. Incidentally, our visit to Ortigia stands as one of our favorite trips, and if you are thinking of visiting Italy, you should definitely make some time for relaxation, history and good food on Ortigia.