After hours: Bar Turrisi
Stars and Stripes August 21, 2009
Years ago a friend told me of his idea to open a bar and restaurant that would rival Hooters but target the ladies. I don’t know if his dream was ever realized, but Bar Turrisi, nestled in the hilltop village of Castelmola just north of the resort town of Taormina in Sicily, might have beaten him to it.
If you’re easily offended or put off by phallic symbols while eating, this isn’t the place for you. Everything from the hand railings, chairs, bathroom faucets, mirrors and even the menu celebrates the male form in stunning, if inflated, detail. It may leave some of the male patrons feeling a bit inadequate, and some women with unrealistic expectations.
But if you’re up (so to speak) for a good laugh and a plate of authentic Sicilian cuisine accompanied by sweet almond wine, Bar Turrisi will put a smile on your face, and not too much of a dent in your wallet.
The menu offers a good selection of pastas and pizzas, along with appetizers, sandwiches and a wide choice of dessert items. The bar is fully stocked, and there is a wide selection of mixed drink specials. Try the Kamasutra, Aphrodisiac or other such concoction with far more risqué names. The same goes for the dessert items.
The unique almond wine is a house specialty and a must-try. It is distinctly Sicilian. Bottles are available for sale in the bar, and their shape make them an icebreaker, if nothing else. They are available in one size only — large.
Almonds are a huge part of the island’s agricultural output, and the restaurant prepares several items, including almond cakes and the icy confection known as granita.
The cafe/restaurant/bar is a family-run business, opened in 1947 at the end of World War II. But the unique décor came about in 1975 when the son of the original owner wanted to use the restaurant to celebrate the fertility of Sicilian culture, and his family. "Having had three sons within five years, there was one particular symbol that could represent it all," reads the entertaining history on the bar’s Web site.
There are three levels to the restaurant, with outdoor dining on the terrace or rooftop. Each room is uniquely decorated with a hodgepodge of ceramics, wooden carved statues, old books, wall hangings, plants and the like.
The atmosphere is most casual, as one would imagine. It’s the only place I’ve been where customers take cameras into the bathroom to get a shot of the fixtures. The place stays open well into the early morning hours, closing by about 3 a.m.
It’s a great place to unwind; just don’t go there if you’re too uptight.
Location: Pio IX Street, Castelmola, Sicily.
Directions: From Taormina, just follow the signs and the road to Castelmola. The street leads into the cathedral square in the center of the tiny town. There is a large parking area by the bus stop (there’s only one bus stop). Once you’ve parked, go up the stairs — they wind around the hilltop, and equal about five flights. Walk through the town center, and there are plenty of signs to show the way.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. — give or take an hour or two. The cafe opens first, the bar closes last, and food is served throughout the day.
Food and drinks: Great homemade Sicilian pastas, pizzas and appetizers, plus sandwiches and salads. Great mixed drinks and desserts.
Menu: It’s in Italian, but the staff speaks enough English to tell you what’s what.
Prices: You can get a full meal, with appetizers, mixed drink or two, and dessert for around 25 euros, depending on how hungry or thirsty you are. Most items cost between 5 and 15 euros.
Clientele: Locals, tourists and curiosity-seekers, all dressed casually.
Web site: www.turrisibar.it includes a menu, shopping section and an interactive section for customer photos. It has an English-language option.