When it comes to comfort food nothing can beat pizza. Pizza is love, is life, is perfection. But not every pizza is the same, specially here. Even though Chinese pizza can be delicious too it has nothing to do with the original Italian style one, as the dough is way thicker and usually sweet, not to talk about the toppings. Surely you can have American style instead and go to Pizza Hut or similar, but for me, being used to the purely Mediterranean flavors, there’s nothing like a thin, crunchy crust, perfectly cooked and lightly smoked in a brick oven, something that you can rarely find in Wuhan. In many occasions since I got here I’ve found myself craving “real” pizza with the only chance of getting a sad substitute. But my struggle has finally come to an end! As there is one place in Wuhan where you can fill your stomach and your soul with real Italian flavors: La Sicilia.
Located in the beautiful Lihuangpi Road (黎黄陂路), in Hankou, La Sicilia offers a good European substitute for both longing westerners and food-adventurers willing to try new things. Even from the outside you can already see what makes this restaurant stand out from all the others, a beautiful black brick oven that makes the kind of pizza that will transport you immediately to Italy. The two-floored restaurant’s cosy and simple design makes it the kind of place where you can almost feel at home. The limited size of the restaurant though doesn’t allow for much privacy, so maybe it wouldn’t be perfect for a romantic date (unless your special one is an Italian food lover, then it’s totally worth it). La Sicilia will provide you with a long list of different pizzas to choose from (from the simple Margherita to the fancy Prosciutto di Parma, passing through all kinds of sauces, meats and fish, and even Tropical Fruit and Durian), all around 80-100¥; but if you are not feeling like eating pizza or your budged doesn’t allow it, there also six different kinds of pastas, and a choice of salad or snacks, everything much more affordable.
Waiting for the food was a journey in of itself. Sitting in the corner of a long leather couch near the entrance, I was faced with an open window letting in just enough sunlight to warm my skin. In the background, the laughter and chatter of people taking photos in the beautiful entrance of the restaurant and the street, mixed with the sweet, slow music playing in the stereo in a provided a comforting murmur.
The wait wasn’t too long as soon I had a fresh mozzarella and tomato salad in front of me, ready to be devoured. Topped with just enough arugula to spice up a bit the classic combination, this salad offered a nice quantity of buffalo mozzarella cheese compared with others where there’s almost only tomato. The cheese is not like the Italian mozzarella, it’s denser and with a slight variation in the taste, but it’s still a good quality and flavourful one and it won’t disappoint you. The salad is dressed simply with a pinch of salt and pepper and –important- a good quality olive oil that leaves that special aroma so necessary in Mediterranean food. The tomato, however, was a bit hard, an issue that deeply concerns the owner of the restaurant, that right now is completely focused in getting local, more mature supplies.
A few minutes later a glorious smell flooded my senses; my pizza was ready. I must say that it was love at first sight, with only a look I knew the taste would be as I expected it to be. For the first time in too long I saw a pizza that made me travel straight home. The crust was almost as thin as the original Italian ones, and it had been baked properly in the only brick oven I’ve seen in Wuhan up until now –a huge attraction for Chinese people, that usually think it’s just a decoration element–. Sawyer, the owner of the restaurant, smiled at me when he brought it, knowing it was a well-done job. “Enjoy!”. And then, magic happened.
The chosen pizza was Prosciutto di Parma, a special one as the main ingredients (the prosciutto and the arugula) are not baked with the crust, but added later on to preserve their freshness and pure flavour, which makes it essential that they are good quality. The crust was perfectly baked, thin, crunchy and soft in the right places, and with that characteristic flavour only a brick oven can give. The portion is enough to fill you up given that it’s thinner than what we usually see around here and the proportion between all the ingredients is really good. No stingy dishes up in La Sicilia! Good amount of cheese, sauce and, specially, prosciutto and arugula. Delicious!
If your taste is more classic and you’d prefer a warm pizza, worry not. La Sicilia offers many other options that will satisfy your desires, as they are all made with the same care and precision. Pizza is a serious topic here so every tiny detail is deeply discussed between Sawyer and his pizza chef before putting it up in the menu. The sauce, for example, is not the same in every pizza, as some of them (like the Prosciutto di Parma and the Napoli) could be eclipsed by a too strong tomato sauce, so they use a lighter version of the original one to get a perfect result. Also, if you feel like eating something special, the Smoked Chicken pizza is probably the only one in Wuhan with pesto on it.
Then it came the pasta, Spagetti al nero di seppia. Now, this one is only suited for adventurers! The combination of flavours was explosive, the squid, shrimps and clams went perfectly with that point of just enough spicy sauce and with the ink pasta, with a cherry tomato here and there to add that bit of freshness. The look was equally good, so leave aside the fear for black coloured pasta and jump into the pool with this one. If you like fish, you’ll love it! However, if you don’t feel like adventure there are many other more classic options that are equally good, like pesto, carbonara and Bolognese to name a few.
Even though the portion was not small, if you order only pasta you may end up a bit hungry, so maybe getting a snack or a salad along with it would be a good idea.
With such delicacies, La Sicilia doesn’t offer the chance of dessert, but that’s a really minor inconvenient given the experience they’ll provide you with. Even if their menu has many dishes –all Italian centred–, the true specialization of this restaurant is –obviously– pizza, and with every bite you can feel the love and effort that Sawyer, the owner of the place, has put into it. La Sicilia is the result of a love story between a Wuhanese kid and pizza, and as the kid grew up his interest for this culinary art only grew stronger, going from Chinese pizza to American (although learned in Australia) until finally getting to the Italian one. All in all, La Sicilia is a trip for the senses worth it in every way.