Very different from our Italian-American tradition for Christmas Eve, which is to have a large, family meal often featuring fish, the tradition my cousins in Bagheria, Sicily follow for “La Vigilia,” is to have sfincione Bagherese along with pan-fried cardoon (artichoke thistle) and maybe a small serving of pasta. Pictured is my cousin Evelina’s favorite bakery for sfincione, Panificio Ragusa, which is down a side street in Bagheria.
Sfincione from Bagheria is a very special thing. And Panificio Ragusa, which sports an antique wood-burning oven that is heated by burning olive branches, makes a sfincione that is hard to forget. Fresh ricotta, anchovies, onions, and breadcrumbs are masterfully baked into a thick, spongy bread (Sfince means sponge in Sicilian; Sfincione means big sponge.).