A roadside cafe on the A46 may not seem like the place to be for authentic Italian cuisine, but for the past nine years, Six Hills Cafe has been wowing patrons with its food, from pizzas to pastry shops.
The cafe, run by owner and chef Carmelo Percolla, was named âBest Coffeeâ at the 2019 Italian Awards, when Carmelo also reached the final for the âCuoco (Chef) of the Yearâ category at the award ceremony. price.
Six Hills, near Seagrave, was also a finalist in the ‘Best Coffee’ category in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
I visited the cafe a few years ago and really enjoyed a pizza night there, so with Six Hills now offering a monthly Sicilian Sunday lunch, I couldn’t wait to come back and try it.
With seats available for the August event, I booked a table for myself and my mom.
Without wanting to be rude, the Six Hills Cafe is nothing special from the outside. Just off the A46 you might think it’s a standard bog transport cafe. However, this is definitely not the case.
Enter and you will be sure to be impressed by the newly renovated surroundings, the warm welcome and the aromas that emanate from the cuisine.
The cafe was taken over in 2012 by Carmelo, who aimed to build on its strong Sicilian heritage and decades of working in gourmet restaurants to provide diners with an impressive experience.
The cafe was renovated last year during the lockdown and is very different from before. The previously dark color scheme and furnishings have been replaced with light, bright colors and contemporary details.
With pictures of Sicily on the walls and traditional music in the background, the atmosphere is pleasant.
An outdoor dining area was also added during last year’s renovation. Unfortunately, it was not warm enough to sit outside when we visited, but we were happy enough to enjoy the surroundings inside.
The cafe serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday, as well as pizza nights on Fridays and Saturdays. In addition, since the end of 2019 (with the exception of lockdown periods), it opens on the first Sunday of the month to serve a Sicilian Sunday lunch, with the menu changing each month.
The idea is that diners can share a hearty and traditional tasting menu (at Â£ 35 per person), using family recipes from Carmelo and Sicilian products, such as peppers and eggplants, mutton ricotta and pistachios ( which have a Protected Designation of Origin) from Bronte, a small village on Mount Etna.
You can check the menu online before booking, so you know exactly what you’re getting. You can also choose between two sessions – at 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. – and we’ve chosen the first one.
After being warmly greeted and shown to our table, we ordered our drinks – opting for a few Sicilian soft drinks (a blood orange and a lemon) which were fruity and refreshing.
For those who love alcohol, there are Sicilian craft beers that are shipped exclusively for Six Hill by a brewer in the hometown of Carmelo, Catania, as well as wines from vineyards on the south coast of the island and around the volcano.
A basket of homemade bread appeared on our table and started the meal well. The bread, made from 100% Sicilian durum wheat, had a nice chewy center and a crispy crust, and I liked dipping it in extra virgin olive oil – bottles of which can be found on each of the tables.
An impressive selection of starters soon followed. This was composed of a Pammiciana di mulinciani (aubergines parmigiana) I pipi ammuddicati (peppers, capers and breadcrumbs) I rocculi affucati (broccoli in red wine) cavuluciuri n’pastedda (cauliflower paste) and an aranci nsalata (orange and onion salad).
My mother and I really enjoyed the hearty baked eggplant parmigiana, which included layers of potatoes, eggs and eggplant in passata, and I was especially won over by the dish of peppers, with slices of Grilled peppers mixed with breadcrumbs, salted capers, garlic and a drizzle of delicious olive oil.
Broccoli and cauliflower, those Sunday lunch favorites, have made an appearance – but cooked very differently than they would be for an English roast dinner! Here we had broccoli cooked (or rather drowned according to the name of the dish) in a rich red wine, and breaded cauliflower florets – the latter being our favorite of the two.
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten orange and onion in one bite, but the orange and onion salad, which also included raisins, provided a refreshing contrast to the heavier dishes.
The selection of starters was followed by a beef cannelloni pasta dish – which was my favorite part of the meal. The pasta was cooked beautifully, retaining a bit of bite, the slowly cooked pieces of beef were wonderfully succulent, and the stew (made from Carmelo’s grandmother’s recipe) had a delicious flavor – perhaps in part to because of the pinch of brandy that I discovered it later contained! According to the chef, this was historically used to keep meat fresh, before the invention of refrigerators.
We then had a main course of I cutuletti di pollo (chicken straw marinated in vinegar and breadcrumbs). After being marinated in white wine vinegar for 24 hours, the chicken had been coated in breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic and pecorino cheese – giving it a delicious flavor.
The side salad was delicious and fresh, consisting of lettuce leaves, cucumber, tomato and red onion, seasoned with olive oil and oregano.
The dessert was a nguantera (an array of miniature desserts). This included cannoncini – crispy and buttery puff pastry horns filled with pistachio cream, cannoli – tubes of fried dough, filled with sweet ricotta, and rum baba – cupcakes soaked in syrup of rum and garnished with cream and a piece of strawberry.
We also had a surprise addition of homemade Sicilian ice cream, in vanilla and pistachio varieties.
While we weren’t quick enough to eat it all before it melted (due to a lack of additives, we were told), the bite we tried was good – especially vanilla, we thought.
I really enjoyed the rum soaked wet rum baba, and mom was impressed with the cannoncini, but at this point we were too full to eat more.
This was not a problem though, as we were able to get the remaining boxed desserts to take home. A few hours later I enjoyed the sweet ricotta-filled cannoli and my boys finished the rest!
It was a lovely way to spend a few hours on a Sunday and eat some delicious food – of which there was certainly a lot!
As much as I love a roast dinner, this Sicilian feast made a nice change.
The owners and other staff were all very friendly and efficient and it was good that the chef came and talked to all of his customers.
While you can’t completely forget the cars passing along the busy A46, once you are inside this roadside cafe there is a lovely relaxing environment.
The price is the bit that I struggled with, as Â£ 35 per person for food alone is quite a lot to spend – although I appreciate that there was a generous amount of good quality food, including one much of it came from Sicily.
One thing to note is that you can only pay in cash or by bank transfer. My advice would be to be hungry and go with a lot of money!
Our rating: 4/5
Food hygiene score: 5/5