Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Chocolate Heaven in Modica

"Another tempting call is the Chocolate of Modica ..... It has an incomparable taste, because when you taste it you have the impression to have reached the absolute, and any other kind of chocolate, even the most renowned - looks like its adulteration, its corruption" Quote by the famous Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia from his book La Contea di Modica

Modica is a wonderful city of late Baroque period in the heart of the Noto valley, the town dominates with its opulent architecture from a historic era of palaces and ancient churches and was rewarded with being declared a UNESCO world heritage site. It is known as the town of one hundred churches but it is also famous for something else .... Chocolate.

The towns famous chocolate production has been crafted in Modica since the 1600's and follows an Aztec recipe. Chocolate can be eaten at the height of summer without it melting in your hands!!!!! This is possible thanks to the cold processing of the cocoa solids that does not blend with the sugar. The look and taste of this chocolate is recognised internationally.

We can thank the Spaniards who in the New World discovered Xocoatl which is a product that the ancient Aztecs extracted from cocoa seeds through grinding it on Metate which is a flat oblong stone on which grain and cocoa are ground using a smaller stone. After grinding, the Aztecs mixed it with spices and let it harden ready to eat. When Sicily was under Spanish rule the product was brought to the island.

What makes the chocolate of Modica so different is the way it is processed by a technique called the cold technique. This process has been passed down for centuries and is still used today.

Chocolate and sugar are mixed together at around 40 degrees celsius, this temperature does not allow the sugar to melt which gives the chocolate a final grainy consistency.

In addition to the plain flavour other flavours were added, initially only vanilla and cinnamon but nowadays there are many different flavours to choose from to tickle your taste buds.

Located in Modica Bassa (Lower Modica) opposite the beautiful Church of San Pietro you will find Antica Dolceria Bonajuto which is Sicily's oldest chocolate factory, who have been producing chocolate for over 150 years.

Last October we had the pleasure of visiting this gorgeous historic shop and tasting their delicious chocolate.

Located along an alleyway on Corso Umberto I on entering the shop you are surrounded by old wooden cabinets full of products, memorabilia, old photos and newspaper cuttings and are welcomed by the most wonderful aroma of sweetness.

On the shop counter there are small ceramic dishes with pieces of chocolate for you to taste before you buy. There are so many flavours to choose from ranging from the most plainest palate to the most demanding and adventurous palate.There was plain chocolate with cocoa solids ranging from 70% to 100%, orange, lemon, nutmeg, ginger, white pepper, salt, cardamom, coffee and even chilli pepper just to name a few. I have been told that the cocoa changes the flavour of the ingredient not the ingredient that changes the cocoa.

We eagerly tasted the chocolate.

So what does chocolate from Modica taste like?

We sampled several flavours and each one is like a taste explosion in your mouth. The taste is vivid and intensely full of the different flavours. The texture is slightly coarse because of the cocoa itself and spread through it feels like there is a fine sand of sugar in your mouth. The sugar is the last part of the chocolate to melt on your tongue so the aftertaste is sweet, although after trying the coffee flavoured bar it is almost as if you have eaten a cup of espresso.

Aside from chocolate there are other delights to buy such as almond cookies, marzipan pastries, candied peel, nougat and a delicious chocolate liqueur.

Behind the shop counter you can see the chocolatiers at the back shaking the tin moulds that the chocolate is poured into to cool. This process is called 'Battitura' which translated into English means beating.

Our dog Daisy was fascinated by the chocolate shop and its fragrance but unfortunately for her chocolate is toxic to dogs so she just made friends with the staff and attempted to help behind the counter much to their amusement.

You can indulge your inner Willy Wonka and book a tour to experience behind the scenes where you can participate in helping "beating" the tin moulds and which also includes tasting of typical Sicilian sweets. The tour is bookable online with a minimum of eight people. Bonajuto have a beautiful informative website full of the history of the Bonajuto Family and their chocolate, visit

A delicacy from Modica is 'Mpanatigghi which are half moon shaped cookies made from ingredients including almonds, cinnamom, chocolate and ground beef, yes you read it right BEEF. They are a must try when in Modica. It is said that the origin of these cookies started during lent when you are not supposed to eat meat so the nuns in the Sicilian convents hid the ground beef in with the almonds and chocolate.

When eating in Modica it is not unusual for chocolate to be added to meat dishes and the popular Sicilian dish caponata might just be served with a fine grating of chocolate on top.

For chocolate lovers there is an annual festival in Modica called Chocobarocco, this name collaborates the two forms of art to which the town is famous for, the Baroque architecture and chocolate itself.

So what is my favourite Modica chocolate flavour ... well that would definitely be orange, Sicilian orange of course.

Modica is an amazing city full of wonderful architectural sites, why not combine your visit with a stop at the nearby UNESCO towns of Ragusa, Noto and Scicli.

Modica is approximately a two hours drive from Taormina.

If you enjoyed this Blog post then you will love my previous post:
"Modica ... Churches and Chocolate"
Explore this beautiful town with me and our dog Daisy.

Also search my Blog archive for my posts about Ragusa, Noto and Scicli

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Previous Blog post: "Modica ... Churches and Chocolate"

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