The restaurant’s creator and essence: Chef Antonio!

I’m Antonio. My passion for authentic food was borne at home, a home in which every little trace of Mediterranean culture could be found in the kitchen: fresh products, local products, products transformed in the home from buttigghi i pumaroru to anciova sutta sali (tomato conserves and acciugata sotto sale) It’s a tradition inherited from mothers, grandmothers and mothers of grandmothers. As for me, I hope to continue bringing this family tradition to the table. It’s a tradition through which you encounter people who go on to happily supply you with tomatoes, a friendly farmer who supplies peaches, apricots or oranges, a fisherman who brings you his catches of the day…

If I close my eyes to visualise what I’ve done with my restaurant, I can explain it to you like this: I put my heart and soul into having my very own garden, with products I know like the back of my hand, and I am only too happy to serve them to you! As a chef, I channel 30% of my energies into producing a dish; the remaining 70% is spent to ensure my garden and products are organic. I don’t need to invent anything to bring goodness to the table. If I look at my garden at A’ Massaria and see daisies popping up between the garlic and onions, I’m happy about it, because I know that there are absolutely no herbicides in my garden and thus on my table. Perhaps my garden isn’t the most beautiful out there, but it certainly does its job.

The modern-day customer has become increasingly demanding because, along with local customers, both they know and we know the secrets and goodness of homecooked food. We must therefore be fastidious and demanding when picking out which products we choose to cook with.

Everything that is natural – that is, not industrially-produced, is particularly scrutinised by us and held in the highest esteem. We do this on behalf of our customers. Hence why, therefore, I myself choose to go to the fishing port to pick up the products directly from the fishermen each morning. Unfortunately, since the natural product isn’t always exploited when needed, it is becoming increasingly rare to cultivate. It goes without saying that (and I don’t wish to make such a song and dance of it) the careful selection of products requires time and a careful eye from both the chef and the restaurant. However, it’s true – and I feel I must emphasize this – that our health is directly impacted by the quality of the food we consume. My restaurant is 100% based on this principle. I haven’t been swayed by any trend or modern convention – on the contrary, I look back to the past! And slowly but surely, I turn to past customs.

At my restaurant, 80% of dishes are created on the spot. Yet the process isn’t “express” – it’s the result of long and well thought-out preparation, a way of cooking that needs its own time to produce excellent results. In a tourist hotspot like Taormina, in a place of gastronomical ‘grab and go’, this is all completely unheard of. In my restaurant, you don’t come to just sit down and eat 5 minutes later. Ours is the slowest restaurant in Taormina – forewarned is forearmed! My restaurant wasn’t established just ppi ghinchiri a panza (to fill an empty stomach)! If I rush the process, I lose the magic of my kitchen. And for me, my kitchen is, in essence, magic. It has to be magic! My restaurant isn’t a place where you just eat; it’s a place where you can truly savour food! It’s a restaurant that does justice to whoever sits down to eat here – justice to their life, to their health and to their pocket.

For me, cooking is expansive and contrastive. If a restaurant serves you a dish without talking about it, without expanding on its history, its ingredients, its significance, it hasn’t done its job. It has simply filled your stomach.

Nowadays, food is the crossroads at which thousands of themes converge: the environment, sustainability, ethics and even politics. It’s true – even politics – because the choices we make as consumers ultimately determine wider political and economic decisions.

In Italy and in the Mediterranean, our religion is the table, our religion is the family. The table is a place that envelops everything. The table is where encounters happen. At our table, we encounter each other and develop friendships and we come together to discuss business.

As a result, my restaurant isn’t for everyone. It has nothing to do with price. It has everything to do with my ambitions to work with people who want to look after themselves, who have fun and are attuned to their senses, their tastes. I’m a restaurateur because I like to engage in dialogue with my customers, I like to meet new people, chat, challenge myself, discover myself, enrich myself by talking and listening. The table can open the doors to new opportunities in life!