Bread of heaven? Almost. They make the best bread in the world, those Sicilians sure know how to make bread. Don't take my word for it, go and taste it for yourself and come back and tell me if it's not the best. Going to Sicily from Los Angeles will be easier, come June 1, 2008. Alitalia will fly direct between Los Angeles and Rome, then it's just another 1 and 1/2 hours from Rome and you're in Catania, Sicily. Or you can take the night train from Rome, sleep on the train and be there when you wake up in the morning.
I found out why Sicilian bread tastes so good. It is the durum wheat that is only grown in Sicily. It is the same durum wheat that made the 'bread' for the 'bread and circuses' in Rome. Sicily was the bread basket for the rest of Italy or at least for Rome in the olden days.
On a flight from Catania to Rome, I was with some US military personnel (we maintain a small military presence in Sicily), one of them, a woman who's been stationed there for 5 years, mentioned that she gained 25 lbs while living in Sicily, she loved the bread too, she was being reassigned back to the US. On that same flight was Tom Ricks, a former newspaper columnist and author (his recent book, Fiasco is about about our military adventure in Iraq). We chatted, I'm curious about why Americans are in Sicily. He was there for a writing conference. We've seen large groups of retirees and we know they're visiting the island, maybe they went to Corleone, thinking they'll see some mafia people. I've not been to Corleone, I heard they didn't shoot the 'Godfather' there, it was another village. It's just the name 'Corleone' that they used.
One thing I noticed about the bread shops in Sicily, they're only opened in the late afternoon and well into the night, maybe these are the ones that cater to the restaurants. In Catania we had a favorite restaurant because we like the selection of bread rolls they put out, we are always finishing the bread basket and needing replenishment every 15 minutes. One can really put on a lot of weight living in the 'bread basket' of Italy. Walking past these bread shops is such a treat, to smell the scent of fresh bread wafting out the door. I did buy some rolls to take with me on the flight home. I remember munching on a stale grisini while on transit in Rome and the last of my stale rolls while on transit in Paris. Now the bread of Sicily lives on in my memories....