Saturday December 16, 2017 |
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Trattoria La Coppola
The Sicilian way of eating

La Coppola owes its name to those trademark hats Sicilians wear, but it also reflects the owner's love for movies, especially those films directed by Francis Ford Coppola. 36-year-old owner-chef Salvatore Sgroi's training began at an early age. "I was born in the kitchen. Papa runs his own restaurants in Cefalu, where, I believe, only the weather is more appealing, otherwise the food and service are equally authentic in all three restaurants, based on family recipes."
Italy's cuisine is widely regarded as amongst the most popular in the world, but, according to the owner of Budapest's La Coppola, Sicilians took gastronomy even one step further. "Sicily has a different flavor all its own. First of all, local cuisine is infused and influenced by the diversity of cultures of settlers from the Greeks to the Romans, Arabs (Saracens), Normans, Spanish and French," Sgroi explains. "Romans planted durum wheat. The goats and sheep of the Arabs gave the milk for caciocavallo, provola and pecorino cheese. The memories of the Arabs sweet-tooth kept by the nuns, bequeathed us the marzipan fruits, the cassata and the wonderful cannoli. Secondly, the island is blessed with its climate and natural recourses," the chef continues. "Italians eat with the seasons and pride themselves in finding the best and freshest ingredients. But in Sicily, the weather doesn't change that much. Winters are mild and short, hot summers dominate, which means great ingredients are nearly always in season. Here in Hungary, I add more mushrooms, meat and pasta to the menu in wintertime." At La Coppola, emphasis is put on the freshness of fish, mussels, and the fact that only quality ingredients are used. "In my kitchen, pasta is made of durum wheat only. Unfortunately, no mills in Hungary are able to produce what I want the way I want it. Therefore, most of the ingredients arrive from Italy, or other parts of the world," he notes. Then, no hocus-pocus is needed, as the chef states.
"Sicilian cuisine is an ensemble of strong, distinctive flavors, whether it is lamb, fresh swordfish, or aged cheeses. Ingredients are prepared to keep their aroma, and maybe a little bit of the Sicilian sunshine," he adds. Sicily produces more wine than New Zealand, Austria and Hungary combined, but the Sicilian chef loves Hungarian wines as well, and doesn't hesitate to travel the country to discover more varieties. Just as Greek settlers imported their beloved olive trees to Sicily in the 5th century BC, Sgroi has brought an imposing olive tree to Budapest that, even though it is being moved in and out of the restaurant at opening and closing times, has already produced big fat olives. On the terrace, an orange tree also adds to the Mediterranean atmosphere, as do the many Italians who dine here on a daily basis. The owner tends to know most of them by name. Trattoria La Coppola is a delightful place, the restaurant is packed with people who have already learnt how to enjoy food in a Sicilian manner. "The regular practice back home is that lunches begin around one o'clock and last until three or four. Dinners begin around eight and last forever," Sgroi laughs, adding that lingering over meals is very much encouraged. In Sicily, the food is an experience. This is what Sgroi would like to introduce in Budapest. He continues, "There's a Roman saying about the secret of good life: all you need is Siculus coquus et sicula mensa which means 'Sicilian cook and Sicilian table.' Well, I'm here, and so are the tables."