For the ancient Greeks and Romans, la sirenetta (“the mermaid”) was the devious temptress wooing sailors off course, leading them to their deaths. La Gelateria Sirenetta of San Vito Lo Capo – a favorite seaside town west of Palermo – spins spells, too: here, enticing gelati and granite woo bathing-suited beach-goers to the seaside tables under palm trees.
On our last visit, granita di limone for Pino (as always). But a quandary for me in choosing which of the crushed-ice Sicilian triumphs: granita of watermelon, mint, mulberry, or almond (to name a few)? I opted for granita di pistachio, grinning waiter Corrado conceding me a mezza-porzione: he’d seen gelateria co-owner Sebastiana (teaming with sister Maria) offering me tiny plastic-spoon tastes of their gelato front-runners, cassata and cannoli – and a gelato of crushed local almonds.
At the next table, a smiling young palermitana reveled in la granita di caffè e cioccolato and another young couple opted for le coppe della Sirenetta: fresh fruit dollops ice cream of choice in the gelateria’s signature temptation, “the mermaid’s cup.”
As we left, we stopped to chat with elderly, bushy-haired Signor Gabriele in royal blue shirt, lounging in his chair against the white stucco wall of the gelateria entryway. In dialetto siciliano, he recounted to Pino his life hauling in fishing nets at the side of his San Vito fisherman papa’, before he wrapped up those nets to start making gelati with his wife, Paola.
Signor Gabriele and his wife Paola – in black dress, ubiquitous (in Sicily) gold chain – had been chatting there with cane-hugging elderly friend Caterina that morning when we’d stopped in. I’d asked them if they were “locals” and if all the filled veranda tables meant this was a gelateria buona…?
“Il migliore di San Vito Lo Capo!” beaming Paola had exclaimed. And after we sat down at an adjacent table, Signora Paola told us with a mischievous grin why she knew it was “the best”: “our daughters run this gelateria now – and we started it years ago.”
Every one of our Sicily adventures includes San Vito Lo Capo – and now la Sirenetta will be wooing us, too.