Green Gold: Pistachios of Bronte

The sky was blue, the air crisp and Etna was smoking.Bronte is the pistachio capital of Sicily. The trees are not indigenous but they date back to the days of the Phoenicians, so almost native. The Sicilian pistachios are longer, thinner and richer in flavor than other pistachios, probably due to the volcanic soil and biennial harvesting.

We were thrilled to spend the day with Laura Lupo, owner of Aricchigia. This company is about five years old, but the pistachios, almonds, olives and fruits are from their family farm which goes back at least three generations.

The organic farm is filled with volcanic stones and Mt. Etna is visibly steaming and smoking in the not-really-distant distance. Trees grow around and through the stones. Dried nuts are then used in savory (pesto, oils) and sweet (cream/spreads) products. It was our first look at a pistachio tree; we learned there is one male tree for every twenty female trees. We were able to see where the flowers for the nuts begin and walk along hundred year old trees wrapped around stones.The property has fruit orchards, olives and other nuts; all are in their product line.

After the farm visit, and before our pistachio cooking class, we spent a little time in town and saw the Real Collegio Capizzi. This school has graduated many famous Italian poets and writers since it opened in the late 1700s. We then visited an exhibit of local artists work and went inside the town’s church.Anticipation building, we took a tour of the beautiful pistachio production facility. It is a small and efficient operation. We saw ovens being loaded with pistachio crunch candy, pistachio pesto and pistachio cream being jarred, shelled pistachios getting weighed and bagged. We saw where the Christmas panettone is made along with the gelato machine.Our mouths watering from the delicious aromas and beautiful-looking products, we were led by Laura’s sister, Valeria, to the kitchen/dining terrace area of Laura’s home. We were looking forward to this part of our day. We enjoyed pistachio pesto with fresh tomato and mozzarella as a bruschetta, of course there was a dish of mixed pistachios and almonds, cheese and mortadella and some sun-dried tomatoes as a starter. This was followed with pistachio, mortadella and ricotta stuffed and fried zucchini flowers. The next course was freshly-made pasta with, you guessed it, pistachio pesto. The meat course was a filet of veal with a pistachio breadcrumb crust. We drank a Sicilian craft beer and shared the meal with Laura, her sons and her sister. Dessert was fruit from the orchard and the best pistachio gelato. Finally, we enjoyed a guitar performance by Laura’s youngest son. This was such a spectacular meal. From farm to table in the truest sense of the expression. We will be bragging about this benchmark experience for a very long time.

We purchased a few ingredients to make the food and the memories last when we return home.

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