Siracusa Eats: the Famous Borderi Panini
It’s my second full day in Sicily, and I decided to hop down from Catania for a day trip to Siracusa (or Syracuse, if you prefer the anglicized version).
I’d read in a couple sources about “the sandwich guy at the market,” drawing long lines with no menu except for whatever sandwich he decides to make for you.
While my tolerance for lines has decreased with age, my love for inexpensive, casual eats hasn’t, so I decided to pay a visit!
Siracusa’s market an outdoor market, basically lining a pedestrian street in the city.
Towards the end closest to the water is the only stall with a line…
… it must be Caseificio Borderi, or the Borderi Dairy as the call themselves in English!
Their story is that a guy named Pasquale Borderi had an olive oil business that eventually expanded to include cheese in its offerings. Pasquale’s son Andrea, the guy in the picture below, became interested in cheese and started to study it, eventually becoming a master cheese maker.
So he started his artisan cheese factory (caseificio means cheese factory in Italian), and I guess to promote his cheeses he also makes sandwiches featuring them at his stall in the market.
The line is actually not that long; it just takes a long time to get through it because 1) besides the marinated vegetables, all of the vegetables are prepared by hand from scratch, and 2) Andrea and the staff are continuously engaging with the customers! In the photo above, he was addressing the customers in the sit down part of the operation. Below he’s turned his attention back to the customers in line.
While we waited, they hand our samples: here’s a pecorino aged 14 months, with peppercorns.
Below, they are preparing a plate of their signature product, a baked ricotta. First they smeared the plate with smashed garlic, then they drizzled olive oil, then they placed the cubed ricotta, and finally you can see the assistant on the left shaking a bag of dried oregano branches, letting the leaves filter down!
There were also interruptions for singing and dancing whenever a customer bought cheese!
Finally, after about 50 minutes, I arrived at the front. Andrea Mamés the sandwiches in batches, basically first asking how many sandwiches each party wanted and then making about 6 sandwiches or so at a time depending on how the groups split. Each batch might have slight between them, and within each batch there were slight differences.
For my group, he started by cutting the ends off of the bread, then spread them with a sweet eggplant jam and gave them to us to taste. I’d never had such a thing! But the texture of eggplant lent itself well to the jam’s texture.
So now I’ll go step-by-step with the making of my sandwich.
Wow, check out this masterpiece! The making of the sandwich took about 10 minutes, so about an hour passed from when I first got in line. But the time really flew with the entertainment and samples. Kind of like a food tour, but all in one place, and for just 6€!
So how was it? The sandwich was delicious. I loved all of the vegetables inside, with the different textures including the crunch of the celery to the crispy lettuce.
If I had to come up with a criticism, I would actually decrease the amount of cheese a bit, because there was a lot of it, and I kind of wanted more flavor coming from the vegetables. BUT they are a cheese factory, after all, so I can understand how cheese would play a starring role!
As far as sandwiches go, I would say that my favorite still has to be the one I got in Florence at All’Antico Vinaio a few years ago. But I will always remember the kind and joking Andrea Borderi and his masterpiece of a sandwich as up there among the best.