I've eaten hundreds of meals since, of course, but I still daydream about the food I had in Sicily last year: boiled octopus that cut like butter; pasta with tuna, wild fennel, currants and pine nuts; the famous fish couscous of Trapani; pastries stuffed with bitter and sweet almonds. Not to mention the delicious fried delicacies sold in the streets around Palermo's La Vucciria market. So when I heard that Celestino Drago was turning the former Jackson's into a restaurant celebrating the cooking of his native Sicily, I was ecstatic. In Los Angeles, where northern Italian restaurants predominate, the vibrant food of the south of Italy has received short shrift.
Sicilian cuisine is a tapestry of flavors woven from each of the cultures that have conquered the island over the centuries--the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans. The enchanting island surrounded by turquoise seas is rich in first-rate ingredients, from bottarga (pressed and salted tuna roe), flavorful swordfish and tuna, and sweet lemons and blood oranges to briny olives, green-gold olive oils and capers from the tiny nearby island of Pantelleria.
Drago, who owns several restaurants, including Drago in Santa Monica, has named his Sicilian venture L'Arancino, or "little orange." He's painted the walls of the West Hollywood location yellow and white, upholstered the banquettes in olive green and decorated the dining room with paintings of oranges. Fresh flowers grace the small bar, and one of those colorful Sicilian wooden carts sits on the counter in front of the open kitchen.