Written by Robert Soriano / Photography by Owen Reyes
Like many other distinct food cultures, the Sicilian food culture suffers from the drawbacks of globalization. Instead of competing with other forms of Italian and Mediterranean cuisines, however, the Sicilian food culture is overshadowed by the popularity of a global pop culture phenomenon, the infamous Sicilian mafia.
“The first thing that people remember when you mention Sicily is The Godfather. We get it, it’s a great movie and all, but people forget about the culture and cuisine in Sicily. That’s the biggest challenge to us. Sicilian cuisine is unique and it deserves a deeper appreciation,” said head chef Nino Quartana. “In Italy, Sicily is considered as one of the best places to visit when it comes to food.”
With its rich cultural background brought about by its trade and encounters with ancient Spain, Greece, and the Middle East, along with its unique location as the southernmost tip of Italy, the region has developed a unique food culture far from Italian cuisine. For one, Sicilian cuisine has a deeper connection to fresh seafood as the entire island is surrounded by the Mediterranean.
A native Sicilian from Palermo, Chef Nino Quartana is an artist who has been here in the Philippines for several years. Here, he met Gerlando Giuliana, a fellow Sicilian, who has been planning to put up a trattoria, a casual establishment that serves modest, family-style Italian food and wine.
“I instantly fell in love when I came here in the Philippines because of the people and the culture. After working here for a few companies, I decided that it will probably be better to start my own business here. We are very lucky because we started up pretty well. Maybe people have been waiting for a genuine Sicilian establishment where they can feel at ease, and enjoy good food with their family and friends rather than the typical snooty and formal ristorante,” the owner and General Manager, Gerlando Giuliana shared. “Nino and I do our best to interact with our guests. In fact, we made quite a few friends here.”
As with most traditional trattorias, Gusto makes use of fresh ingredients, sourced straight from their market contacts. There are no set menus. Everything depends on the availability of the ingredients at the market. “In this trattoria, we serve about 80-percent Sicilian food and 20-percent Italian food. Of course, there is some room for my interpretation but we don’t tinker with classics. I may be an artist but I love making food the way I tasted and experienced it when I was a kid,” said Chef Nino. If that isn’t a pledge for a genuine Sicilian experience, we don’t know what is.
Gusto Trattoria Siciliana: 215 Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes, Parañaque, Manila / (02) 621-3522