While driving round and round Castellammare for half an hour, vainly looking for a particular high-ranked restaurant, we kept
going by this modest-looking restaurant/pizza place right on the waterfront. It was the off- season, so not many tourists were in town. The only customers we could see in the dining room were a very large, apparently local family, but on repeated passes by the place, we noted that they seemed to be having an excellent time there.
Finally, too exhausted to keep driving at the advanced hour, for us, of 8:30pm, we parked and gave it a shot. We were greeted by a chic, in-charge lady who greeted us warmly and humorously, even offering me her strong arm to enter (I had just sprained my ankle and was walking with a cane). At first, I even thought I might be too tired to eat, and just asked for a nice, local white wine. When the woman brought me my big glass of golden chard/blend, I reached for it, and she said, "Smell it first," and I realized I wasn't in just anyone's beachfront pizza joint!
My husband, a hearty eater, ordered a big bowl of fish soup composed of various shellfish: clams, fat mussels, and shrimp in a broth delicately flavored with herbs and a bit of garlic, chunks of tender potatoes, and ringed with big, crunchy slabs of freshly toasted bread. I, still feeling ladylike, asked if I could just share it with him. The woman smilingly brought me a whole empty bowl of my own, and once I tasted the finesse with which these shellfish were handled, I was a goner! This meal was being prepared by a chef who really knew his stuff. Actually, HER stuff, as we learned when the next course came--fat, tender, triangular ravioli filled with delicate fish, and flavored with a sauce involving various green herbs, including a touch of mint, coarsely ground nuts, cheese, and olive oil. We had never tasted anything like it elsewhere, and when we sent our compliments to the chef, the smiling woman introduced herself as Antonella, the chef, as well as waitress, and whatever else was needed around the place.
For dessert, she offered Cassatella Siciliana, a tidbit somewhat different from the Sicilian cassatta, a cakelike affair that is very sweet and served cold. Antonella, on the spot, whipped up these simple, tender little turnovers filled with HOT, slightly-sweetened ricotta and dusted with powdered sugar.
Finished it up with tiny glasses of a dark, aromatic, local digestif. Woo.
We had had a meal go die for, prepared by a master chef.
If you love expertly, lovingly prepared food, do your tastebuds a favor and take a close look at the Freedom Cafe. No true foodie will ever regret the choice.
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