City in the Summer Syndrome

In the immortal words of the Rosie Perez character in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, "Mookie, it's too hot to ****." Not to mention eat.

Appetites shrink and once-appetizing solids melt in the kind of heat we've been experiencing in New York these past weeks. It's just not food weather. And yet you've got to eat something, because you're cranky and hungry. It's the classic City in the Summer Syndrome: nagging hunger, no appetite, and no break in the heatwave in sight. You can't not eat, but what do you want to eat?

But there's a city where the summers are much hotter and much longer--and where they've perfected the ideal heatwave breakfast. Catania is Sicily's easternmost city, a port town at the foot of the Mount Etna volcano, with a coastline of craggy black volcanic rock and tropical-looking city parks. And average July temperatures in the 90s.

But breakfast in Catania is improbably delightful. On any given summer morning at any one of the city's cool marble cafe counters, along with patrons knocking back just a swig of espresso, you'll also find a few dunking a little roll in a small plastic cup of cream-colored...smoothie?

It's actually an almond granita, the consummately Sicilian mixture of blended ice, almond milk, fresh almonds and a touch of sugar. It's flecked with the brown skin of the grated raw almonds, which even more than the milk is what gives the granita its creaminess--and just a hint of bitter, like a good cup of roasted coffee. The roll is a barely-sweetened brioche, soft and fresh, and only as big as your palm.

The liquidy granita is cool and light. Thirst-quenching with a touch of creamy. The brioche roll is soft and chewy, and neither too large, nor too filling. The combination is cool enough to persuade you to try it, just sweet enough to convince you to finish, and just soothing enough to make you forget the heat.

And the dilemma of what to have for lunch later.

CHILL OUT Even if you're not in Sicily, you can still cool off Catania-style with a homemade almond granita (above) using Ronald Ashri's recipe posted at his blog Via Ritiro N.7 (brioche by La Marjolaine Bakery). - JF



One of my favorite summer treats is Carpaccio: I melt.


Ah, bella Sicilia!! You have hit upon one of my very favorite things about Catania, the granita/brioche is indeed the most perfect breakfast I've ever known. Did you try the gelsi? It's mulberry and it's simply exquisite. Now I am wishing to return soon.


I made this last night in my sauna-like apartment and it was amazingly delicious, filling and naturally gluten-free!
Thank You! :)


if you love this, be sure to try the spanish delicacy, ajo blanco, aka cold almond soup
milky, savory and utterly delicious


I've never had a brioche or a granita but it sounds and looks reeeaaalllyyy good. Does anyone know of any restuarants around town that might serve something similar?


It's just grounded ice with syrup after all ;)

I live in the North but it's very hot all the same in july-august. Can't stand anything anymore. I wonder why people come to Italy in summer.


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