L’arte di cucinare
Master planner: Chef Michele Topor, who has long given tours of Boston’s Italian North End, expanded her territory to Sicily a dozen years ago.
Services: Topor’s twice-a-year weeklong tour” A Taste of Sicily” explores the simple yet innovative cucina povera of ordinary Sicilians as well as the baroque cuisine of the aristocracy.
Highlights: Il Ristorantino, a Palermo restaurant in the “new Sicilian” cooking style. The animated owner, Pippo Anastasio, is a well-known cooking lecturer (011-39-091-512861). La Pasticceria Grammatico Maria in Erice. Maria Grammatico, whose life story is told in the fascinating book Bitter Almonds (cowritten with Mary Taylor Simeti), sometimes gives marzipan-making demonstrations (011-39-092-3869390). Donna Fugata Aziende Vinicole, a superb winery in Marsala (011-39-092-3999555).
Privileged Access: Groups watch a shepherd make sheep’s milk ricotta cheese, breakfast on a bowl of it (sprinkled with olives), then taste other cheeses in various stages of aging. A long lunch with the extended family that owns the estate. A similar up-close experience is offered at a frantolio (olive oil producer), culminating in lunch with the owner and his family and the pressing of just-picked olives and the bottling of the oil. At another stop, AnnaMaria Domenici, a caterer and teacher, explains the Palermitana methods of cooking fish and making cassata, the renowned Sicilian sponge cake filled with ricotta and chocolate.
Details: $2,749 for one week; 617-523-6032; www.micheletopor.com.