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interview: caffe sicilia

Caffe Sicilia in Surry Hills, Sydney oozes a traditional Italian charm

Located in the heart of Crown Street Surry Hills, Caffe Sicilia offers an authentic Italian experience in both its ambience and menu. The setting is remincent of a typical European cafe, complete with outdoor seating overlooking the main street, low-key lighting and chequered floors. It boasts an extensive selection of hand-made pasties (including some delicious canole) and house-made pastas. Olives and tomatoes are bestowed upon most dishes, in traditional Sicilian style.

Wine sommelier Lisa Sanders, has been working in the hospitality industry for over 20 years, and has been the resident sommelier at Caffe Sicilia for the past six months. After gaining a Hospitality Management Diploma, Sanders went on to manage a number of reputable restaurants before becoming the assistant sommelier at the Marque restaurant, voted number one by the Good Food Guide two years in a row.  “I suppose [becoming a sommelier] was just a natural progression from getting into hospitality at such a young age” she says. “I was born in the Hunter Valley and I think it’s instilled within you – it’s probably in the water or in the air! I had a natural interest because people around me were constantly talking about it or drinking it… Where I grew up pointed me in this direction”.

Aside from the NSW region, Sanders has visited vineyards in Tasmania, New Zealand and Asia. “Asian wine is definitely up and coming – not many people know about it at the moment”. But she’s also keen to develop her understanding of, and exposure to other regions. “Italy and France are at the top of that to-do list”. With that said, she is already quite familiar with the Sicilian region (which is known as ‘the land of vineyards’) and enjoys its unique characteristics. “The warm climate and terrain are distinct. It’s basically on a volcanic rock, which definitely comes through in the flavour of the wine.”

Even though it’s still early days at Caffe Sicilia, Sanders notes that she’s amended the wine list slightly and is aiming to expand what’s available. “I think the original person that did the wine list was looking at targeting a richer clientele, so I think we need more of a variety that most people can afford – rather than just coming out for a special occasion and spending big dollars on just that one bottle of wine.”

The talent of a sommelier rests in finding the perfect wine to match each dish. “I try to find similar textures and similar flavours that match the meal. This is important because the wine could go over the palette quite quickly – some ingredients  are really strong and therefore overpower the wine instantly. And then sometimes the ingredients in the dish could be quite delicate, soft and supple, so you need a wine that doesn’t overpower the food” she explains.

At Sicilia, Sanders recommends the Tasca d’ Almerita Regaleali Bianco ($13/glass) with most starters, and shares her personal favourite combination – “the Rose’ infused Risotto with crab ($26), matched with the Dalzotto Pinot Rose’ ($11/glass). And for dessert, the Semi-Freddo (ice-chocolate mousse) with the Passito Pantelleria ’09 ($12/glass) dessert wine”.

The full menu and wine list is available here:

A dessert plate including the house-made canole

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