A Most Compelling Reason to Visit Santa Venerina, Sicily
Santa Venerina is a village in Catania province of Sicily. You are unlikely to find much information on Santa Venerina in any of the travel guides. Except that any travel literature worth its salt would not leave out a mention of Pasticceria Russo in its section on Catania province. For a very good reason, that is.
Santa Venerina looks like a village that God forgot. Driving into Santa Venerina for the first time, you can be forgiven for suspecting that the satellite navigation system got it completely wrong and for thinking that the venerable pasticceria simply cannot exist in such a village. I certainly did. The only hint that you have indeed arrived at the correct village is the popularity of the name Russo amongst the locals. There are at least three commercial entities called Russo, one of them being funeral directors.
Once you find P Russo and step inside, it is like going through a magic door, into a parallel universe, from the world that God forgot to the world that time mercifully forgot. The interior of the shop probably has not changed noticeably since they first moved into the premises albeit the main dining area is currently going through a refurbishment. The family is friendly without being intrusive or overbearing, and it is obvious that they take pride and joy in their work.
Sicily is the world capital of granita, but even in Sicily, there is granita and there is granita. Russo’s is the latter. The pistacchio version was divine. That said, they are happy to give you a tasting portion of all the flavours that strike your fancy, so it is easy enough to spot, and if you prefer, mix, the ones you want to order. Roll it around in your mouth, one spoonful at a time, whilst marvelling at the colourful and surprisingly realistic marzipan pasta reale on display.
Definitely worth a detour, since 1880.