Semplicemente buono: Die »Bellini« Ristobar

Let's face it: there is no more sincere love than that of food. And this is especially true for Italian cuisine and pasta. So for World Pasta Day, we're heading to one of our favourite restaurants: the »Bellini«.
Text Wiebke Brauer
Photo Steffen Jahn & Marko Knab • ramp.pictures

This is not just any pasta. Nor is what we’ve ordered here just any pasta alla Norma. Although the number of ingredients, it must be admitted, is quite modest: spaghetti, eggplant, tomatoes and cheese, plus a few herbs. And yet a pasta alla Norma is much more than the sum of its parts. The dish is representative of the entire wealth of Sicily’s culinary heritage, which is famous for its many treasures.

One reason for the renown of Sicilian cuisine are the various cultural influences that have been incorporated over the centuries. The Greeks brought wine, olives and ricotta, the Arabs citrus fruits, sugar and almonds. The Sicilians transformed these ingredients into delicious desserts such as the cannoli siciliani with creamy ricotta filling or the legendary granita al limone or granita alla mandorla, a kind of sorbet eaten with a brioche in the morning.

1/4Sema and Tony Zappalà have been running their Ristobar Bellini in Reutlingen since 2016. The name comes from the address Via Bellini 31, where the Zappalà family used to live in the small Sicilian town of Nicolosi. The street, in turn, is named after the composer Vincenzo Bellini, who was born in nearby Catania. As to the origin of pasta alla Norma, it is unclear whether a Sicilian chef was so impressed by Bellini’s opera Norma that he named the dish in his honor, or whether Sicilians simply held the opera in such high esteem that “una vera Norma” entered the language as a synonym for a masterpiece, including a culinary one. We tend to the latter.
2/4Sema and Tony Zappalà have been running their Ristobar Bellini in Reutlingen since 2016. The name comes from the address Via Bellini 31, where the Zappalà family used to live in the small Sicilian town of Nicolosi. The street, in turn, is named after the composer Vincenzo Bellini, who was born in nearby Catania. As to the origin of pasta alla Norma, it is unclear whether a Sicilian chef was so impressed by Bellini’s opera Norma that he named the dish in his honor, or whether Sicilians simply held the opera in such high esteem that “una vera Norma” entered the language as a synonym for a masterpiece, including a culinary one. We tend to the latter.
3/4Sema and Tony Zappalà have been running their Ristobar Bellini in Reutlingen since 2016. The name comes from the address Via Bellini 31, where the Zappalà family used to live in the small Sicilian town of Nicolosi. The street, in turn, is named after the composer Vincenzo Bellini, who was born in nearby Catania. As to the origin of pasta alla Norma, it is unclear whether a Sicilian chef was so impressed by Bellini’s opera Norma that he named the dish in his honor, or whether Sicilians simply held the opera in such high esteem that “una vera Norma” entered the language as a synonym for a masterpiece, including a culinary one. We tend to the latter.
4/4Sema and Tony Zappalà have been running their Ristobar Bellini in Reutlingen since 2016. The name comes from the address Via Bellini 31, where the Zappalà family used to live in the small Sicilian town of Nicolosi. The street, in turn, is named after the composer Vincenzo Bellini, who was born in nearby Catania. As to the origin of pasta alla Norma, it is unclear whether a Sicilian chef was so impressed by Bellini’s opera Norma that he named the dish in his honor, or whether Sicilians simply held the opera in such high esteem that “una vera Norma” entered the language as a synonym for a masterpiece, including a culinary one. We tend to the latter.

ut getting back to the pasta alla Norma: This dish is the pasta equivalent of bliss, flavored with the smoky aromas of eggplant and ricotta salata, combined with the sweetness of tomatoes that taste like a late summer’s day. All joined by fresh oregano in the sauce and basil as a tart note and a dash of green on top of the red and white. A feast for the eyes. And because you should never be satisfied with a mediocre pasta alla Norma, the only thing missing now is the right restaurant to enjoy it in.

“Bellini’s Norma is considered a masterpiece to this day. And the pasta alla Norma is an absolute must on any menu.”

Tony Zappalà

That, in turn, would be the Ristobar Bellini in Reutlingen, run by Sema and Antonino Zappalà. If anyone invented hospitality, it’s probably them. And then comes the Norma, fragrant and steaming. You sit there oblivious to all else, devouring the spaghetti forkful by forkful, thinking about Fellini’s famous observation that “la vita è una combinazione di magia e pasta” and about the amounts of serotonin that the brain is currently releasing as a result of all the carbohydrates. But then you let it go, because, after all, it’s just pasta. But what a pasta!


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