We visited Galati Mamertini, a small town in Sicily that is the birthplace of my client, an owner of upscale Italian restaurants in Los Angeles. On the drive from Palermo to the area around Messina where Galati is located, I could only think of two things. First, how did they ever build this road? It follows the Sicilian coastline, meandering through the mountains that hug the Mediterranean Sea. We went through tunnel after tunnel, some of which are two miles long! The engineering and construction costs must have been enormous. And some people think Italians are only good at food and sports cars. Second, this road didn't exist in the summer of 1943 when General Patton, after freeing Palermo, marched to Messina. How in the world he moved the Seventh Army across this terrain baffles me.
We pulled off the highway that hugs the northern coast of Sicily and turned south into the mountains. Thank God for navigation systems – because we may never have found our destination. Halfway to Galati, my client’s brother spotted us and guided us to his family’s restaurant. We drove by town after town, each one hanging off the side of the mountain, before finally arriving.
We had two memorable dining experiences. At the family restaurant, where they tried to kill us with course after course until we begged "no more," they brought out some carved pineapples for dessert. How these pineapples, which were originally grown in South America and then later in Hawaii and Guam, eventually ended up in this tiny village deep in the mountains of Sicily confirmed once again how small our world has become.
That evening, we went to the only restaurant in Galati. In this little town, in the middle of nowhere in Sicily, we enjoyed the most fabulous pizza you can imagine. It made us wonder why Americans settle for the dreck you get at Dominos and Pizza Hut. Too often, we sacrifice quality for convenience in our hurried lives. My bet is there is a place in every city in America that makes pizza worth eating instead of what we too often stuff down our throats.
The house we stayed at was just off the town square. The only way you can envision it is by watching the bucolic scenes in The Godfather when Michael Corleone was sent to Sicily. In the afternoon, we saw many people in the cafes of the square, playing games and talking. At night, there were more people, hanging around and talking. The following morning, people were still sitting and talking. It was straight out of a time long ago. That is something we don't do much anymore in America. We are all too busy, mostly with our electronic devices – and I am as guilty as anyone.
I don’t know what they were talking about, but it was nice to see people engaging each other instead of a machine - a great thing to do this Memorial Day. Ciao.