by Giuseppe Savarino
I meet him on a sunny morning, in his holiday home in Noto. From the window, in the distance, you can see a winter sea with a leaden color that contrasts with a clear blue sky. An alternation of chiaroscuro typical of the Val di Noto, where light and shadow return the treasures of Sicilian Baroque to view. I am struck by the eclectic, fake casual decor. The grandmother’s sideboard, the minimal table, the calatina ceramics. In scattered order, dark brown heads stand on the walnut shelves and on the coffee table, the inevitable cookery and pastry books. Antonio Bonanno is an innate passion that has made its way over time, fueled by his own will. He was not born a child of art, nor in a family particularly fond of sweets. This is how, since he was a child, he stole the first rudiments to move in the kitchen from his grandmother and mother, he began his unstoppable adventure in search of flavor and aesthetics. Yes, because for Antonio the desserts must not only be good, but also beautiful to the limit of maniacality. Bake Off was a bolt from the blue, something unexpected, says Antonio: «It was the right occasion to express my two great passions together, pastry and the desire to try my hand at television programs on food. The idea of participating in a reality show had been in my head for some time. So I applied to the casting of the lucky program and with great surprise some time later the news arrived, my audition had been chosen among thousands of participants, it was an indescribable emotion».
A television experience that gave him visibility and a clearer vision. «Bake Off was an important test for me, not only to measure my skills in the kitchen but also to test myself on television and understand how well founded my dream of being on TV talking about sweets could be». Having the privilege of being in contact with top-level professionals such as Benedetta Parodi, Clelia D’onofrio, Ernst Knam and Damiano Carrara was a full immersion in technique, culture and knowledge of the subject. Among the judges in particular I was struck by the story of Damiano, because at times his first steps were very similar to mine. Now he is an established professional whom I see as a point of reference. Antonio never made any secret of his dream of becoming a television pastry chef. «I’m an extrovert, at times self-centered, which facilitated the comparison with the cameras. In the confessional I had no filters in saying things. In hindsight, perhaps I could have moderated some of my outbursts, but always saying what I think is part of my character». An irrepressible spontaneity that was sometimes mistaken for presumption on TV and on social media and some harsh criticism was not long in coming. After all, Antonio was born in Nicolosi, in the province of Catania, on the slopes of Etna, under that unpredictable and at the same time spectacular volcano that most likely influenced its character.
Antonio approaches the table on which one of his creations rest: «Sicilian cassata revisited with crunchy cannolo wafer, a delicate ricotta mousse, a thin layer of dark chocolate cream interspersed with sponge cake with orange liqueur bath and an orange gelee with a touch of pink pepper. I love my land. In Bake Off I wanted to celebrate the treasures of Sicilian pastry, and this is an example. A Sicilianity very appreciated also by its numerous followers who every day ask for advice, techniques and small secrets to create sweets with an extra gear. Meanwhile, I sink the fork into the cassata, perceiving its sophisticated layers and textures, tasting it, narrowing my eyes and I think that soon we will still hear about this volcanic Sicilian talent.