Ti vogghiu cca saluti

When searching for the best produce to use in our restaurant, I apply the same care and scrutiny as I do when shopping for my kitchen at home. In Sicily, we have a saying that goes ‘ti vogghiu cca saluti’ (I wish you much health) and since I want you all to be in the best of health, I choose to bring solely authentic products to the table!

Fruit and Vegetables

Food does not have to be aesthetically beautiful, but it must be tasty! Take fruit, for example. Nowadays, there is a tendency of discarding fruit that has been pecked at by birds. What a mistake that is! The best fruit is pecked by acidduzzi (birds), because the acidduzzi have the innate ability of choosing the best, most flavourful fruit! We seem to have lost the ability to understand, know and appreciate anything about Nature and its secrets!


All the fish we serve is local, caught in the Ionian Sea. The fish arrives on our table thanks to the direct and continuous rapport we share with the local fishermen. They are sea fish, and have not been forcibly bred, pumped with antibiotics and flours which trace to the abattoir where chickens and swine are slaughtered. As far as possible, our fish arrives directly from the boat, bypassing even local markets. I like to take a good look at the fish, straight in the eye, before I serve them to a table. Frozen fish, or fish which have been chemically treated are banned at our tables!


We favour meat from animals reared on the practices of transhumance, meat from bovine cattle which have been grazed, not fattened in close-packed stables. We have a saying here: “Cca animali s’hann ‘a bbuscari a spisa!” (here, animals have to work to deserve to be eaten!). The animal, therefore, cannot fatten whilst locked up in a stable, rather, it must graze outside in order to earn being eaten. In Sicily, overweight farmers simply don’t exist. Farmers here can’t afford the expensive animal feed used in the stables, so it is therefore necessary for our little farmer to take his cattle out to graze them on grassy fields, in the biodiversity of our pastures. The farmer therefore is forced to act as shepherd. And ‘shepherd’ is a wonderful word. It is he who guides his cattle throughout the year to then later reap the rewards of his toil, which could come in the form of good cheese or an incredibly-tender piece of meat. And we, shepherds, are familiar with these things. Our meat comes from red cows, Cinsara cows, they come from Maniace, from Roccella Val Demone, from the Parco dei Nebrodi nature reserve… all are local meats, which are monitored and certified!


Cheeses are made from unpasteurised milk, because this gives them a more authentic taste. The same thing applies here to dairy products as it does to meat: it is the quality of life and of the cows’ fodder that determine the quality of the milk and thus the cheese!

Cured Meats

We don’t each much of them, but they’re mainly had at functions. They are mainly types of prosciutto or salami made from black hogs.


We bake bread at A’ Massaria using Timilìa flour which makes the bread very light and fluffy. Flours are incredibly important nowadays. The question of reevaluating the use of flours from ancient grains it nothing to do with chic or radical-chic ideas. The question is entirely relevant to our life and our health. The key is to use flours made from wheat that has not been genetically modified and which are thus rich in gluten. The sole reason for doing this is to maintain the quality of the wheat, to ensure that it doesn’t perish easily, that it has a long shelf-life, that it is resistant to anything which could be potential damaging in the fields, thus yielding double the amount in comparison to non-genetically-modified wheat. But we must also be clear about the use of ancient-grain flours. There are certain flours which lend themselves more to bread-making in comparison to others. Heavy flours, such as Bufala Nera and Senatore Cappelli can’t be used for bread-making. Conversely, we find that we can make good bread with Tumminìa (Timilìa) flour.

At I Giardini di Babilonia we also make home-made bread from the by-products of cereal-processing. It’s a type of production that only ancient and skilful hands can do. This type of bread-making process seems a strange choice nowadays. However, it makes use of the most flavourful and nutritious parts of various cereals.

Having said all this, it makes sense to conclude that we are against standardised cooking practices. I’d say that we support artisanal and technical practices. A beautiful Italian word is ‘maestranza’ (mastery). It’s a word that brings happiness whenever you say it. Mastery is history and culture transmitted through the body to the hands… and to the heart!

I must admit in all honesty that it is not just us here at I Giardini that are talented. There are many talented chefs. We’re not successful solely due to our own efforts, but through the products we choose to cook and bake with. As I’ve said before, 80% of the job is done by the products and their quality alone.