Boutique Travel - November 17, 2021

A Visit to Sicily and N'orma

By Stacy Suaya

Andreina, one of the owners of N’orma, a two-room baglio in Sicily, writes down every dish she serves to her guests during their stay - all to ensure that they never eat the same thing twice. After staying at N’Orma myself in September, I am happy to assert that her cooking – its meticulousness an extension of the whole ecosystem of N’orma – is so good, and the dishes so numerous, that just one chance to taste them is a rare luxury.

To wit, each morning at the complimentary breakfast, we would receive about 12 different dishes to share, all floating out of the kitchen with a cadence and flourish typically seen in ballet. On any given day, there might be fruit and vegetable juices and centrifuges, fresh fruit and yogurt, leavened sweets and cakes, cheese and salami, a vegetable salad, an egg prepared in a different way each time, stuffed focaccia, crispy potatoes, arancini, pancakes, pizza, omelettes, frittata and caponata.

The breakfast is served on a long cement table, overlooking the olive groves with the sounds of birdsong, and the beautiful tableware is also part of the performance. Follow it up with a few laps in the pool, and a shower in the outdoor shower adjacent to your room, and you’re ready to choose your adventure for the day: to explore, or relax?

We decided to do a bit of both, venturing out one day to see two of the UNESCO-recognized Baroque cities of the Val di Noto: Ragusa (a 15-minute drive from N’Orma) and Modica (a 35-minute drive).

First, we drove the beautiful country roads to the vertiginous city of Ragusa, near the Hyblaean Mountains. Here, we parked and walked around, ducking in and out of churches and enjoying the dramatic views.

We continued on to Modica, a city situated in the cinematic landscape of the Iblei mountains, dipping into deep valleys. We walked around and stopped into the Cathedral of San Giorgio with its rust-hued Baroque facade. Modica is also particularly famous for its chocolate, produced in a method originating with Sicily’s Spanish overlords. We picked up a bar in a local cafe: it was rich, dark and grainy, as it is traditionally made without cocoa butter.

On our second day during our stay at N'orma, we ventured to the beaches. N'orma is about 35 minutes by car to the coast, including Santa Croce di Camerina, Punta Secca, Marina di Ragusa and Donnalucata. We chose Donnalucata, an old fishing village with a quiet promenade and a golden beach.

Our three dinners at N'orma were also memorable. The property is near the village of Chiaramonte Gulfi, called "The Balcony of Sicily" for its views. Here, we dined on Quattro Formaggi at the local and rustic Nettari e Portate pizzeria, and had a more formal dinner at Ristorante Majore, with its narrow, cobblestone alley seating and the buttermilk-colored, linen-covered tables. This spot, also in Chiaramonte Gulfi, is traditional and romantic.

But some of the best moments of our trip were reading on the rooftop of N'Orma, ordering Nero D'Avola to the beautifully-designed room (the hotel has been featured in Elle Decor and Monocle, among many other publications), and touring the home of Andreina and her husband Maurizio (and of course, their dog, Insisto). Andreina is a creative powerhouse - not only is she an exquisite cook, but she knits sweaters, makes handicrafts, and handled N'Orma's Scandi-German-inspired interiors – the lighting fixtures by Davide Groppi alone are a revelation.

To bring things full circle, of course the most memorable moment of the trip was my 40th birthday dinner, which of course, I opted to be cooked at N'orma. From the the pasta pomodoro, to the best dessert I've ever had in my life – panna cotta with a cherry glaze – of course, it was the food that stole the show in the end.

To visit N'orma, click here. To have dinner on-site (we highly recommend it), please let Andreina know at least two days in advance of your arrival.

Photographs by: Stacy Suaya, N'Orma and K. Adam Bloom