Chef Davide Zagami
Chef Davide Zagami is a native Sicilian. Born in the town of Catania in Sicily.
Catania is an ancient port city that sits at the foot of Mt. Etna on Sicily’s east coast. There is a square where La Pescheria, a weekday fish market, takes place. It is a wonderful noisy and rowdy spectacle. The area has many seafood restaurants.
Chef Davide’s parents operated a restaurant in Taormina for 38 years giving Chef Davide a solid background in prepping seafood for the discerning diner. The town is spectacularly perched on the side of a mountain and is one of Sicily’s most popular summer destinations with holidaying high-rollers and those wanting a taste of Sicilian dolce vita.
Chef Davide was offered a chance to travel and became a private chef to a family friend. He arrived on St. Maarten to work for Mr. Spadaro in 2000.
In 2002 he met his soulmate and wife to be, Scarlet, who hails from Santa Domingo. They were married in 2009. Behind every successful endeavour is one’s soulmate and in this case the two eventually opened their own restaurant in Simpson Bay. Sale & Pepe was successful but quite small. Chef Davide wanted to open a space that epitomizes the kind of restaurant he knows back in Sicily. He especially wanted a restaurant on the water, much like back home.
Eventually things fell into place and a new build, still in Simpson Bay, became available. Much hard work went into the design. Many countless hours were taken with pulling the dream together. The new restaurant brings the colours, scenes and food from Sicily right here onto our doorstep. In fact, the entire colour scheme is that of the Caribbean too. It is a perfect amalgamation of the two islands – shining white, yellows and blues are depicted in the tiles and waitstaff uniforms. Sale & Pepe is a delight to the eyes.
Chef Davide and Scarlet’s dream is open and ready for everyone to enjoy.
The menu at Sale & Pepe is the same with the addition of more and varied seafood than ever. Much of the seafood offered is fresh from the Caribbean Sea but there are quite a few kinds of fish that comes from the Sicilian Sea too. Like the wondrous shrimp caught deep in the waters around the island and fresh, flash frozen before being shipped here.
The tuna is sushi quality. The tuna served at Sale & Pepe brings about a story – don’t all Italian/Sicilian events have delightful stories? There are pictures lining the walls of the restaurant that show how the ancient art of catching tuna takes place.
Ancient Tuna Fishing
Favignana is a commune that includes three islands – Favignana, Marettimo and Levanzo – they sit 11 miles west of the coast of Sicily. It is in these waters that the tuna is caught. The “mattanza” is a practice of the culture and tradition of tuna fishing that in the Middle Ages was one of the biggest resources of the Island’s economy. A seemingly cruel ritual to people who do not fish but it is an impressive remnant of the thousand-year-old culture that continues to be an archaic rite in which “sacred, profane, death and respect are mixed up.” Tuna catching is still today a hard, patient, skillful job. The ancient way of catching the tuna represents the fishermen fighting against the sea to survive. “Mattanza” comes from the Latin word “mactare” meaning to kill.
Shoals of tuna arrive in the Mediterranean Sea from May to June – the fishermen “tonnaroti” drop a group of nets from a number of boats and lead by the chief fisherman the tuna are channeled into the final large net, in the center of the group of boats. The tuna are then harpooned while the crew members, on all the boats, croon a song that sounds like a prayer being intoned; a prayer that reveals the true essence of this ancient rite. The song is a sort of peace offering with a religious meaning. Some of the words are so old fashioned that today’s fishermen don’t all know the meanings. The fishermen have a profound feeling of respect for the tuna. No modern-day equipment is used in this ancient rite, all fish are loaded on to the boats using only the strength of fishermen’s arms.
The tuna are caught with much respect and served to the diner with as much respect. This ancient cultural tradition is dying out, the last “mattanza” was held in 2005. The pictures on the walls of Sale & Pepe play homage to this ancient tradition.
You will find the new location for Sale & Pepe on the Skyport Marina. It is in the new building (alongside Telem) near the Garage on the lagoon side. There is plenty of parking.
Sale & Pepe has a fine range of wines to offer.
There are also some new features at the new restaurant. One of them is the Lagoon Cocktail Bar, a fine place outdoors for a group to linger over their cocktails before or after dinner. Adjacent is an area called the Cigar Lounge – you may smoke to your hearts content in this area.
The bar offers a large variety of drinks and well as wines and Champagne. Every Friday evening there is a musician playing at the Lounge, what better place to gather for some lovely aperitifs.
Many Chefs have small idiosyncrasies peculiar to their life-style.
We asked Chef Davide about his:
What music do you enjoy while prepping in the kitchen?
I love Classic Italian music; I prepare classic Sicilian/Italian food; the music and food go well together.
What do you cook at home for the family?
Oh! I don’t really cook at home although my children love Spaghetti Bolognese (who does not?) If we eat we will put out a cheese and cold meat platter – anti-pasta, if you will!
What can’t you do without in your kitchen?
Sharp knives, I must always have my sharp knives at hand – Oh, and yes beautiful Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Sicily.
What would you like to pass on to those who want to make a career as a chef?
Do not forget to learn and follow the culinary basics, the old-fashioned way, of preparing food. These are tried and true, follow them and you can not go wrong. Use the best and freshest ingredients you can get ahold of. Be selective when planning a dish.
My father was a chef, growing up in his kitchens taught me a lot about the culinary basics to our cuisine. I am honoured to be following in his footsteps.
It is hard to say what is best on the menu. The Octopus is excellent, the Mushroom Risotto perfectly cooked and so flavoursome, the Tuna done in many ways – but raw and cooked in lemon juice is excellent – Meat, Fish, Pastas, and Desserts are all wonderful.
You can find Sale & Pepe on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/saleandpepemarina/