Text by Cheryl Teo @ Makansutra
Images courtesy of Chef Lino Sauro
Chef Lino Sauro, Sicilian and proud of it
If you have always thought that Italian cuisine was just about pizzas and pastas, Chef Lino Sauro, who specialises in Sicilian – a southern Italian cuisine- can’t wait to tell you what you’ve been missing.
The 41-year-old Sicilian spent the last 26 years picking up and honing his skills in Sicilian cuisine from kitchens all over the world.
Six years ago, he landed on our sunny shores and had stints at DOMVS Sheraton Towers and Garibaldi. In 2010, together with the Garibaldi Group, he opened Gattopardo, whom he is now the Executive Chef and Managing Director of.
So who better to ask when we have burning questions of this niche Italian cuisine? Chef Lino gives us the low down on what exactly Sicilian food has to offer and some iconic signatures you must not miss.
1. How would you describe Sicilian Cuisine in layman’s terms? Fresh and healthy. It has simple combination of ingredients yet the tastes are so unique and exciting!
2. Sicilian cuisine is said to include culinary influences from different places. What are some of them? And how has this combination make Sicilian cuisine stand out against the other cuisines in Italy? Due to Sicily’s geographic location – we are in the middle of Africa, Middle East and Europe – we have influences from everywhere. Thanks to the Arabs, we use saffron, raisin, mint, cumin etc, and from the Scandinavians(Normand), Bacalao is part of Sicilian cuisine as well.
Sicily also has our own rich harvest of natural ingredients, like leeks and eggplants that are commonly used in Sicilian cuisine. Oh, and with our weather (the Sun, most importantly) allows our(Sicily’s) harvest to be sweeter than those from elsewhere.
A beautiful dish of Caponata ($12)
3. Italian cuisine is popularly associated with pastas and pizzas, what dish best represents Sicily that not many know of and what is a flavour/ taste that represents Sicilian cuisine? Unfortunately, we are wrongly associated with Italian cuisine. Sicilian cuisine has more of a sweet and sour taste to it. Caponata, or seafood salad for example is very Sicilian, everyone thinks of Sicily when that is mentioned. It is cooked with eggplant, onions and leeks. It has vinegar and sugar, hence both the sweet and sour tastes.
There’s also the Arancini Rice Ball, it has two versions, vegetarian – with mozzarella and green peas or with meat where it will coated in thick bolognaise and then fried. It is conic to Sicily. It is basically a fried rice dish, very savoury and bit saltish.
4. How is the local response towards Sicilian cuisine so far? It is getting better and better, and I am very happy because I am one of the first ever to bring Sicilian original recipes and tastes without local adaptations to Singapore.
A Sicilian twist on the fried rice as we know it Arancini Rice Ball ($12)
5. Have you received any strange feedback from the locals? Yes, in the beginning (6 years ago). I remember being accused of not serving Italian food. But Singaporeans are getting more and more educated about Sicilian dishes like for the Arancini Rice Ball in particular, some of my regulars call me up before hand to tell me to prepare.