Rick Stein in Palermo

The story begins with an email “we are coming to Palermo to shoot Rick Stein’s long weekends. We like what you do and we would like to meet you and maybe feature you in the episode”. My first reaction was ”who the hell is Rick Stein?!”. However, that wasn’t important coz the thing that caught my attention was “BBC2”, more than enough.So I googled “Rick Stein”. A series of photographs came up, a classy gentleman in pink shirt showing a shy smile straight to the camera. Ok,so that’s the guy…He looks nice.

The day of the shooting arrived. The minivan with the BBC crew parked in front of my vespa. I recognized the pink shirt guy right away, “so, finally, you are Rick!”, he smiled back “Yes, he looks nice” I thought. Shooting started with a hardcore Palermitan street food, the “frittola” (veal gristles). Rick loved it, I loved shooting with him. Nothing was planned. The director David simply said “just let Rick know what this stuff is and…you know…follow the flow”. I did it, Rick did it (of course he did!). 
Cool, shooting went on in the fish market and that was the moment when I realised that Rick is a chef not a showman. His eyes couldn’t stop turning and twisting around the fish benches “what’s that Marco? what’s this Marco? How you cook this? how you cook that?”. Rick’s finger pointed at the capone fish a mediterranean fish normally fishes in autumn. No matter if the cameras were on or off, I and Rick kept discussing about fish and recipes. I explained Rick some local recipes and unveiled some secrets of the market. “I might send some of my cooks to Palermo so that you can tell them about these stories and recipes” he said. He never did it, but c’mon! I don’t think he keeps a photograph of me in his wallet! I know you want know more about Rick Stein’s experience in Palermo. I joined the crew for three days, two days as episode’s character and one full long day as local fixer, so I will not bother you with other stories, I will give you what you want instead!
Here it is…Rick Stein’s favorite foods and restaurants in Palermo!

Bisso bistrot – piazza Quattro Canti
We had just finished shooting at the Quattro Canti when hunger poked our bellies. If you hang around the Quattro Canti, you can’t miss having lunch at Bisso. Of course we did not miss this opportunity! Rick had pasta chi vruoccoli arriminati, a typical Palermitan dish. A couple of glasses of wine and the mood was set for…siesta! But siesta comes after lunch, what happened during that lunch. Rick called the waiter and said “how do you manage to make this size of pasta?”. He got no answer but an invitation to step in the kitchen and talk to the chef. So, Rick entered the kitchen to learn the secrets of that pasta making. I told you, Rick is a chef more than a showman.

Easy, pane e panelle. It’s a typical street food specialty from Palermo. Chick-pea fritters served in a soft roll called vastedda. He simply loved it. In the Palermo episode you see Rick cooking the panelle at the Duchess’. We do recommend to take a class with her if you come to Palermo, it’s not just about cooking, Nicoletta is a lovely interesting woman.
I know, you are lazy, you don’t wanna cook, you just want to eat, don0’t you? Well, during the shooting I and Rick shared a pane and panelle and a beer in one of my favourite spots in town. An anonymous place where you probably wouldn’t stop unless you are hanging around with a real Palermitan friend. You wanna meet a real palermitan friend?…join a Streaty tour in Palermo!

Forst, needless to say. This was probably the very first crucial tip I gave Rick during his stay in Palermo “Rick, when in Palermo, forget Moretti or Peroni beers, those are for average commercial men. Palermitans, real Palermitans only drink Forst beer”. Then you probably think this is a local beer. Not only it is not but it’s actually brewed on the opposite side of Italy, Trentino Alto Adige, almost Germany!.So Why was Rick forced to try and keep drinking Forst? Coz Forst own an historical beer bottling factory in Palermo which makes it the most distributed and the cheapest in town. In my opinion, Forst is also the best Italian lager beer. Probably you dont trust my opinion, then trust Rick’s! He loved it! In the episode you see Rick sitting in Vucciria and having a ice cold Forst!

BBC production chose for him a great location in an elegant palace downtown. Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa, same hotel that hosted Paul Hollywood and his crew one week later for the shooting of City Bakes – Palermo. I also joined City Bakes shooting as Paul’s street food friend in town. Paul Vs Rick in Palermo. Who wins? Read our article.

Surfing the web, I realised that Rick’s haters think he is a drunk man. If they say so, it’s probably because on the screen you always see Rick sipping wine. In Italy that is not being drunk, it means being an Italian chef. Ask an Italian how to cook whatever dish, you know what he will reply? “pour me a glass of wine and I will show you”. Let me tell you one more thing. We actually had the feeling that Rick Stein looks a bit childish on the screen, whereas, in presence, he seems to be much more charismatic, elegant and self confident. Well…I spent only three days with him, so, this is just my impression.

When the Palermo episode was released, I became a superstar in my own town! Ehhehe! How fun! I couldn’t expect such a thing! English and Australian tourists were stopping me in the streets “I know you, you were in Rick Stein’s show, Marco right? Can we have a picture together?”. You cannot imagine how hard being a celebrity is! Ehehhehe! 🙂 only I and Rick can understand this! Ehhehe!

Rick Stein’s show had a fabulous impact on the way British and Australians see Sicily. You can’t imagine how many people emailed us saying that they had decided to come to Sicily because of Rick’s episode in Palermo. It’s so impressive to see how a TV show can hijack travel destinations. This is one of the reasons why we always help TV productions shooting in Sicily.

But the most important reason is that it gives you the chance to meet special people, like Rick, David, Arezoo and all the BBC2 crew. On behalf of all Sicilians, Thanks guys! you all deserved Streaty Food Passport 😉

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