September 14, 2011

Sicily: Beach Club Bingo



Twenty minutes from downtown Modica is a golden beach with sand as fine as flour.

The Mediterranean sea lapped warm and shallow close to the boardwalk where I was met with open arms by my old friend, Innocenzo Pluchino, entrepreneur and chocolatier, who was once just a curious young Sicilian who loved to travel.



Now, he is a successful young man, who takes a keen interest in creating quality products and experiences. His Beach Club is a white washed building with an open porch with simple tables,  not unlike some of my favorite places on Bar Harbor Island in the Bahamas, or Barbados in the Caribbean.  There were no dunes on the beach, just a flat horseshoe bay that reflected blue sky and a tourmaline sea.

Francesco, my gypsy driver, stripped down to his speedo before leaving the bus, walked through the Beach Club and out the back door to the sea like he owned the place. He stuck his cigarettes in the sand and took a dive. Merete and I fell into the sea like a baptismal. We lolled for the longest time in what seriously felt like salted bathwater.  The Sicilian sun is strong. A rest under the umbrella brought a nice reprieve.



Innoncenzo invited us in for lunch.  I had asked only for a taste of a few small plates. They started arriving with poetic names like, Involtino di pesce spada in sfoglia di melanzana con cuore di ricotta all menta. "Sword fish rolled with a leaf of fried eggplant stuffed with ricotta and mint."



















Tuna tartar with specks of orange zest.
















Two types of spaghettini—one with ricci, sea urchin, and tomato.















The other with clams, green lemon from Siracusa, and whipped ground toasted almonds.
















The taste of the sea was in our mouths, in our vision and under our nose. Tasca d'Almerita's "Leone" vino bianco was the perfect date—a chardonnay and Insolia blend—it gave a bright fruit forwardness to dance in tandem with fellow Sicilian flavors.

I was really impressed by the Beach Club. The chef is young and passionate, previously a pastry chef by trade and by family. Innocenzo recognized this passion and put him to work. You could feel his heart in the food.



I can recognize a certain note of happiness in myself when the stars line up around people, place and taste and today hit a high note. Bingo. An unexpected aria. The day was splendid—and free.























* Photos by Merete Mueller

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