1. Cazzilli: name a bodypart
The name cazzilli is very straightforward. Little pricks, because that is what they look like. The rest of the world calls them croquette. And prudish Sicilians may mangle that into crocchè.
Cazzilli go together with panelle, fried chickpea dough. Order them in a sandwich. With a squeeze of lemon and a some salt. A quick lunch, a late snack or just because.
The best cazzilli come from itinerant carts roving the city.
2. Puttanesca: name a profession
The name makes all the difference. This Southern Italian dish is so unobtrusive it hurts. Tomato, olives, capers and garlic. With a different name it would just be tasty. But puttanesca translates as whorish. That’s when things light up. There is no clear explanation for the name. Some romantics claim the tomato red refers to lipstick, the black of olives to stockings. And the gray of capers to veils that hardly covered anything. Others trace it back to the quick dishes clients in cheap bordellos had.
Less imaginative is the fact that some silly ingredients, puttanate, are thrown together.
3. Nunnata: name an infanticide
Nunnata or neonata. New born fish is not a good name, nor for an ingredient, even less for a dish. And it gets worse. The infanticide is illegal. Baby sardines -and other fat fish- mustn’t be fished. Nor sold, fried and enjoyed.
The alternative comes all the way from China: ice fish. It is one of the rare cases one says the product is Chinese while it actually is local.
Mix the mush with grated cheese, an egg, some parsley and breadcrumb. Fry and relish.
Sant’Agata was born in Catania. Although a petty local rivalry runs between Palermo and Catania, she’s venerated in both cities. She was only 21 years old when she perished. Probably because giving the cold shoulder to the Roman prefect, she ended up on a stake. After her breast was cut off with pincers.
The flames did not burn Agata’s red veil. Hence forward people in Catania brought it out whenever Mount Etna menaced to erupt.
She is celebrated on the fifth of January. And all year round you can find a sweet called ‘minne di Sant’Agata‘, Agata’s bosoms.
5. Frittella and Milanse
Sometimes the name is simply misleading. Frittella, a classic spring dish, is all but fried. Peas, broad beans and artichokes stew together.
Pasta alla Milanese is even more confusing. It is the nickname for pasta with sardines…without sardines. There is no sea in Milano, hence the name.
And on that same line there is falsomagro, ‘false lean meat’. And indeed far from lean the name may have different origins. Maybe the original French name got lost in translation. Or maybe it was just tongue in cheek.