It’s rare to read about places that have not been ruined by “human progress,” as we used to call industrialization and urbanization. The little island of Pantelleria, south of the much bigger Sicily, must be one of the rare, untouched jewels of nature in the Mediterranean Basin.
I know of Pantelleria from when I worked in the food industry. The company I worked for had a client in Japan that was looking for Italian capers. I found a cultivator — a cooperative from Pantelleria. I remember that the Japanese partner only wanted to buy the best — that is, the smallest existing capers, measuring eight millimeters. But not even the whole island could produce a large-enough quantity of that type of capers for the the big, demanding Japanese company. In Japan, capers are served with all kinds of dishes involving raw fish.
So in the end — despite my desire to see the place — I did not get to travel to Pantelleria for work. And I never went to Pantelleria for vacation, either, because wealthy people like Giorgio Armani and politicians like Romano Prodi anchor there regularly during the summer. But when I read this little piece on the grapes used to make passito, a special dessert wine produced on Pantelleria, I wondered where the capers had gone. They were not mentioned once in the piece, and yet…
So here are the capers that grow on Pantelleria, and that have made the island famous. Or was it passito? It definitely was not the presence of Giorgio Armani that made that island so unique and Mediterranean.