La Vucciria is a joint venture between Sicilian born Chef Fabio Alacqua and former winemaker and sommelier Brad Dickson, originally from Western Australia.
Growing up in Milazzo in the north-east of Sicily Chef Fabio Alacqua worked in Sicily first, then Spain, the Canary Islands and also in Milan, where he met his Australian-Italian fashion journalist wife.
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As soon as I opened the red lacquered door of La Vucciria, a spell was cast over me. It felt like I was in a fairytale, only for adults. Moody tea-light candles seductively flickered in the window and racks of wine winked at me from behind the gray-veined marble bar. A vibrant playlist of reggae, blues and modern tunes echoed off the polished wooden floorboards and a prickly pear tree cheekily sat in the corner of the restaurant. Despite feeling exhausted, I couldn't help but smile as I looked around. And smile I did, for the entire evening.
For my visit to La Vucciria, I recruited a friend who had just returned from a six month holiday where, lucky for me, she had spent much of her time in Sicily. As soon as we took out seats, a beautiful wine list bound in leather arrived on our laps however we left it up to the experienced hands of sommelier Brad Dickson to choose a drop. As we sipped our wine, my friend couldn't stop gushing about how everything in the restaurant reminded her of Sicily – from the black and white photographs to the religious paraphernalia and Sicilian pottery scattered around the restaurant. But the food was to be the true test.
The menu is written in white chalk on a blackboard at the back of the restaurant – and the menu changes daily, depending on what Fabio finds at the market. Luscious Sicilian olives arrived in a white porcelain bowl with a platter of thinly shaven slices of prosciutto. As we sipped our sweet, crisp wines, the saltiness from the prosciutto and olives were the perfect match. The arancini prawns were light and fresh– not loaded with parmesan and butter – and biting through the crisp exterior, the prawn inside was a textural surprise. While I usually steer clear of any kind of braised fish dishes – on the waiter's recommendation, I opted for the tuna tagliata. The pink fish was tender and packed with flavours with a sweet balsamic jus and salty, crisp sage leaves.
As we neared the end of the night, we were told that the strawberry tiramisu was a house speciality however I only had eyes for one thing. The chocolate pistachio cake. The vibrant green nuts created a crust on the top of the cake that contrasted perfectly to the moist and rich interior. Each dish throughout the evening offered something special and the menu is a tribute to the experience and knowledge of a chef who is quite clearly working in his element. Fabio's food is made with love, just as it should be in a fairytale.