Sitting on the steps of the baroque church, we ate our fill of couscous with wild fennel and lemon rind, plus mini bruschettas with spicy smoked anchovies and capers washed down with organic beer, to celebrate the opening of Satra, the small restaurant run by Rita Russotto.
Not surprisingly, fiancé Enrico Russino had supplied the herbs and spices, from the Russino family nursery dedicated to every kind of aromatic plant known in Sicily – more than 150 varieties.
Gli Aromi is on a hillside above Ragusa in the south-east of the island, ‘twixt the Hyblaean Mountains and the sea. There, the Russino clan sticks to traditional methods to grow herbs for culinary and medicinal uses and as ornamentals. They come in their pots and freshly bagged, but also dried or otherwise processed, for sale as far away as the US and China.
But Enrico’s passion goes further. He organises guided tours among the frangrant plants, an itinerary of sensuous experiences with instructions-for-use, recipes, and tastings-cum-aperitifs in an events space created from one of the greenhouses.
The better to tempt you with the likes of wild Hyblaean thyme, pineapple sage, bergamot mint, chervil, dill and lavender and, pièce de résistance, the magnificent caper.