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Or Pizza. Whichever you prefer. Me, being the wife of Pete, I like Pete-zah.

Pete and I had a blast in Sicily making the other … and this is the story ....

Close to our apartment in Sicily was a delightful restaurant called Ristorante Porta Messina. It was, no surprise, right by Porta Messina, the northernmost of the stone gates that bracket Corso Umberto I, the main drag of Taormina.

Corso Umberto is a lovely pedestrian-only (mostly) shopping and eating mecca that spans about a kilometer atop the crag that is Taormina. Although there are many side streets and other roads, this is the one that is the heart of Taormina, and certainly a fascinating and fun place to spend time (and money).

We were initiated to Ristorante Porta Messina on our second night in Sicily, when we did a food and wine walking tour, and that night we had some amazing seafood here. The mussels were to die for … I tried the rest of our time in Sicily to find ones as good and did not succeed, but we ate there again on our last night, and I had them again then. They were the local version of mussels au gratin ….simply delectable.

But I digress.

The food and wine tour was fantastic, so we decided as a group to do a pizza making class at Ristorante Porta Messina later in our stay. What a wonderful idea that was!

By the time we got to pizza, we had seen some ruins, the delightful little island close by (Isola Bella), the mountainous town above Taormina (Castlemola) and lots of other historical and cultural things.

The pizza class was just pure fun.

The class began with food – we were served cappuccino, fruit and biscotti, and, without too much pause, directed to wash our hands as it was time to begin. Our first task was to make bread from dough that was already made for us. Our “chef,” Luca, told us that we couldn’t make the dough, as it had to rise overnight, so they had made it for us. We had a hugely enjoyable time making it into various rolls – some even recognizable as such.

What followed was wine … they served us wine while each of us had a chance to put the “rolls” into the brick wood-fired oven. Sounds like a dangerous combination, but we managed. I couldn’t believe how many rolls that oven would hold! And it was fun putting them in – the paddle used for that purpose, which you can see pizza makers in the U.S. wielding like a spatula, actually weighs a LOT. We all had our doubts about how the rolls were going to turn out, but the kind cooks at Ristorante Porta Messina put them all in the oven nonetheless.

Then it was time for pasta making, and this we did from scratch. Each of us got flour and water and attempted to make dough … causing a great deal of merriment and some frustration! Once we had an acceptable dough, Luca directed us to wrap tiny bits of it around – and I was amazed at this – a wooden stick like those used in for kebabs. Sicilian macaroni is a small dab of dough with a small hole through it, but not really curved … this is what we were making, though not much of it would’ve pleased an exacting Sicilian!

As we finished that, the pizza making ingredients were coming out … and we each got to make pizza crust, using flour, water, yeast and oil plus arm power to knead it. Pete-zah said “we beat it, and it gave up!” Kneading it was fun, and trying to make usable dough was challenging.

Once meeting Luca’s exacting standards for amateur pizza makers, we spread our crust on a pizza plate and took it into the kitchen for toppings, then got to put it into that same brick oven to bake. I chose a minimalist approach, topping mine only with capers, fresh mozzarella and sauce, although lots of other veggies, cheeses and meats were available.

It was truly delicious!

We got to eat our own pizzas, accompanied by our rolls and our pasta (with the restaurant’s excellent sauce) and several other dishes, plus wine, next. It was a wonderful feast, all the more savory because we had had a hand in making it. The misshapen rolls and odd macaroni tasted great to us (not sure anyone else would have been interested or impressed by them anyhow) and we savored every bite! What a neat thing to do in Sicily!

Pete-zah and I think it was one of the highlights of our stay.

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