The Monzu - Great masters of Sicilian Baroque cuisine: Urna and Alicata

Time to talk about two other great Sicilian Monzu, Paolo Urna and Sebastiano Alicata.

Urna, the one in the picture, started working in a kitchen at the early age of 12 with his father Casimiro Urna, who was the personal chef of the Prince of Sperlinga and Manganelli. Later he worked at the Grand Hotel in Catania with chef Paolo Marsala and became chef when he was 20 years old and started to work at the Hotel Templi di Girgenti in Agrigento.

Like many other monzu, he travelled often and worked outside of Sicily, in Naples as the director of the kitchen at the Hotel Victoria and in Milan for the Club Unione dei Nobili.
In Lombardy he worked for various aristocratic families and restaurants such as the Grand Hotel Pallanza on the Lago Maggiore.
In 1902, he returned to Palermo and was employed at the Hotel Milan, before returning to Catania where he worked for several families, inclucing the Prince of Cerami, owner of teh Grand Hotel S. Domenico in Taormina. For three years he also worked for Lord edward Stock Hill and in 1906 started directing the kitchen of the Prince of Sperlinga where his father worked for over 40 years.

I have not manage to find information regarding the personal and working life of Sebastiano Alicata. I will keep researching, I promise! All I know is that he was very active in Catania and found a perfect summer recipe he published in 1906 on the Messaggero della cucina: Watermelon ice cream.

Here is my translation with added comments:

Ingredients for 12 people:
Prepare one liter of sorbet with 300gr sugar, 2 tablespoons jasmine water and the juice of half watermelon using the sorbet ice machine (Today use an ice-cream machine).
Then take 1/2 liter of watermelon, take the seeds out and cut into small cubes. Then prepare 300gr of cane sugar, 120gr of chocolate (I would say chocolate chips), 50gr pistachios, 120gr small cubes of candied pumpkin, a teaspoon of cinnamon powder.
Blend all the ingredients with the sorbet and fill a large watermelon-shaped mould (obtained by taking the pulp of half watermelon out) which will be then frozen for two hours inside a large tub with a great amount of salted and nitrated ice (today just put it in the deep freezer).

As with many aristocratic Sicilian recipes, great presentation was always a must. i can imagine the big night summer parties in the garden when guests where first charmed by the presentation of what seemed a common melon, then amused when finding out that the reddish pulp was marvelous ice cream, the seeds where chocolate chips, and the taste was just watermelon delight.

(My own translation from a Sebastiano Alicata recipe in "Messaggero della Cucina" Roma, July 15, 1906)

Written on
July 31, 2009