Siracusa Eats: the Famous Borderi Panini

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.

Slicing the bread.

Drizzling the bread with olive oil. My roommate also puts his oil in squeeze bottles!

Sprinkling some hard grated cheese.

Oh wait, I think it’s break time again!

Here he’s giving us samples of a firm, marinated cheese.

Now he’s put that cheese on one end of the bread.

On the other end, he’s put what I think was the caponata.

It’s a salad of fried eggplant, peppers, and celery.

In the middle, he put marinated mushrooms. The English couple next to me created all sorts of havoc by ordering one of their sandwiches without mushrooms!

Then Andrea reached behind him and grabbed a bunch of lettuce, radicchio, and parsley, and roughly chopped them.

Putting them on the sandwiches..

Another drizzle of olive oil.

Selecting the right tomatoes.

Chopping the tomatoes. Here you can also see the assortment of prepared vegetables he had on hand. I love what Italians can do with simple vegetables!

Next game a cool operation. First he smashed a few cloves of garlic with a determined smack. Then he rubbed the garlic into his cutting board, and then discarded the garlic.

On top of his cutting costs, he pushed his chopped tomatoes around.

Then he cut some basil.

Finally he pushed the basil into the tomatoes and swirled the lot around the garlicky cutting board again.

Tomato and basil mixture ready for the sandwiches.

Another sprinkling of cheese.

More olive oil.

Then out came the fresh mozzarella . I saw that in some batches he sliced the cheese, while in others he tore it into shreds.

I guess they’re different kinds of cheeses, and we got the shredded one.

Then we got little piles of mashed potato on top!

And the final variation that separated each panino was the meat element. There were stacks of thinly sliced meat separated by butcher paper, and it was just luck of the draw. Some got prosciutto, with each slice rolled around ricotta and chunks of mozzarella and maybe potato salad, and the the little rolls arranged like slugs on top of the sandwich. There were also slices of salami that were also wrapped around cheeses. I was lucky, in that I got cooked ham - my favorite Italian cold cut! - wrapped around that special baked ricotta - also one of my favorites! This became a giant log that was placed on top of the sandwich.

Cutting and bagging the finished product.

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.

Trip Report: Iberia Regional CRJ1000 Economy Class VLC-SVQ-VLC

Trip Report: Iberia Regional CRJ1000 Economy Class VLC-SVQ-VLC