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A chef, a restaurant, a borgho, & a curious Celtic cross with a little Sicilian history

Posted by Suzanne Turrisi on 01 Jun 2021


A charming restaurant in a quiet, interior borgho

About 30 minutes from Polizzi Generosa there is a wonderful small restaurant, ‘Fuoco Lento’. 

Down some stone steps in the tiny, sleepy borgo of Cipampini (not far from lovely Petralia Soprana)  'Fuoco Lento’ , housed in a two storey stone building, has drawn me back quite a few times since I discovered it a few years ago, in ‘The Lonely Planet Guide to Sicily'.

When I think of Fuoco Lento and Cipampini good food, passionate owners, quiet walking, music, history and a small stone Celtic cross come to mind.

Looking up to Fuoco Lento 


Down the stone stairs


Entering Cipampini


A passion for food and a lovely borgho

The food, local and delicious, is prepared and served with total passion by the welcoming owners, Diego and Patrizia. Diego dons his white chef’s hat and coat and he can be seen through the kitchen door working away. 

Summer 2018 the food included  local cheeses with home made rose jam, 'asino' (donkey) mortadella, and fresh ricotta polpette in bread crumbs, slow cooked pork and a frittata with ricotta and mint, and deep red sweet cherries-  the ulimate summer fruit.

And a spaghetti pasta dish decorated with the brighest cherry tomatoes. And the quintessential Sicilian dessert so loved...Sicilian cassata. 

Their home made absinthe liqueur is a treat and a slow walk through the quiet, sunny streets past blooming flowers, herbs, and fruit trees laden is a delight after lunch.

I have loved returning to this charming restaurant and cannot wait to eat there again and walk the quiet streets of tiny Cipampini.



Sicilian cassata (photo by L.Turrisi) 


 Main course


Spaghetti dish (photo by L. Turrisi)


Small green doorway -no.20.


Glorious cactus blooms


Golden stone and green  


Doorway bordered with  jasmine 


A streetside rosemary hedge


Tiny street draped with grapevines


Balconies and nespole (locquat) in fruit


Russian posters, a curious stone cross, views and a grand piano

The stone walls are dotted with Russian posters (from memory, film) and there is a grand piano in a corner. Guests are welcome to try it out and on two occasions guests from New York and Australia have played when I have been there.  (Deigo also has a passion for music.) 

Fuoco Lento, felt near perfect.

It seats about 30 and there are views from the front door over old stone buildings and a curious, small stone cross to the interior of Sicily.

Enna can be seen far in the distance perched 931m along a monolithic ridge.


Grand piano


Looking to the kitchen over the piano (photo by L. Turrisi)


Russian poster


Vast Sicilian interior


That curious stone cross


A small stone cross rouses curiosty

Deigo has mentioned that the little cross sitting atop the stone wall a few metres from his restaurant is Celtic.

And that the ruling king of Sicily at the time, King Frederick II (1198-1250, he took up power in 1208) did not trust the locals and that he looked to the  Gauls - French Celts for assistance. 

I have found out that there were lots of French connections in Sicily before and during Frederick's time.

As historian Denis Mack Smith's says in chapter 5 of his book, 'A History of Sicily- Medieval Sicily 800-1713'  Frederick's first wife was Constance of Provence. He also mentions there were previous Queens of Sicily with links to Provence and that "many Frenchmen had come to live permanently in Sicily".  

Constance, when she married Frederick in 1209 "arrived in Palermo with a train of 500 cavaliers". Frederick, as Mack smith notes engaged the Sicilian barons in military campaigns (but no mention of Celtic French) when in 1220 he opened "a full scale war in order to control the no- man's land of the interior".

With my reading it's hard to come to any real conclusion. But it is, nonetheless, fun and interesting!


Civil war, race riots, tough landlords, Muslim rebels and Frederick's control

During this time historian Denis Mack Smith says that Sicily was in a state of "civil war" and  that there were race riots again and "Arab speaking Moslems who still survived in the interior and south west of Sicily’"were "a threat to both church and state".

Chaotic times.

Remaining Saracen farmers along with "villains" were at the mercy of "less considerate and more exacting Christian landlords". And he says that "some (farmers) had altogether lost their means of livelihood”. "Resentment"also grew "among this alien population" from taxes imposed by Pope Innocent III for his crusades, powerful barons were meddling, Muslim rebellion grew and the crushing of the rebels by Frederick II followed.

One of Frederick II's first problems, Denis Mack Smith says, when he took over government in 1208, "was to defeat these bandits". And bring the barons and "other overmighty subjects'"to order in his "restoration of state authority".


Making a little sense

Was tiny Cipampini one of those interior areas under rebel /bandit control who were freed by one of Frederick II's campaign forces with maybe Celtic connections? Erected then or some time later?

Could this be the reason for the small stone cross down from Deigo and Patrizia's restaurant?


A Bed & Breakfast & the thought of staying

Upstairs Deigo and Patrizia run a small bed and breakfast. The New York piano playing guest was staying there…it is called La Locanda di Cadi. 

I do think that to stay a night at Locandi di Cadi after an evening of good food, wine and music would be nice. I would return to Polizzi the next day stopping in lovely Petralia Soprana.


Please note: The Sicilian House is still closed to guests until further notice.





Source: Chapter 5 in ‘A History of Sicily, Medieval Sicily 800- 1713’ Denis Mack Smith 1968, Chatto & Windus


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