Our story begins as a fairytale, surrounded by a sprinkle of Sicilian flours. This is the magic of authentic wheat, this is the aroma of the bread baked at Forno Biancuccia. We are in Catania and everything comes about thanks to Valeria Messina, a lawyer who has decided to put away the gown to follow her passion, turning hobby into her job. Sicilian Secrets interviewed her.
Q: From being a lawyer to opening a bakery: how did the decision to change your life come about?
A: I used to make bread at home for me and my family when, little by little, some friends and relatives started asking me to bake some bread for them too. In this way I realized that the choice of making bread at home using Sicilian flours and using traditional bread-making processes had potential. I wasn’t the only one interested in this kind of bread! I understood that in Catania there was a market segment interested in this product and that there was therefore enough space to turn my passion into a real job.
Q: How did you approach the art of baking?
A: I started making bread for my daughters since we have always paid attention to healthy lifestyle. When I used to go to the bakery and asked where the wheat used to make bread came from, I was ironically answered: ‘Flour is flour’. Hence the choice of using local raw materials, therefore exclusively ancient grains available in local markets such as the bio-organic market in Catania. As I said, I started baking it at home keeping in mind what my grandmother used to tell me: she taught us how to eat well following the seasonality of raw materials!
Q: After the pandemic, many people preferred to leave their job at the office to get closer nature and traditions. Do you feel part of this movement?
A: The bread I bake is an agricultural product. When you are able to trace the entire supply chain, you bring out respect for nature but also for those who collect the wheat, for the miller. It is also the attention paid to the transformation process that makes the difference. More than a movement, I would say that I feel like a piece of a portion of humanity that is getting closer to what we are, a part of this nature that we must have regard for.
Q: What is the bond that connects you, your work and Sicily?
A: The wheat! Sicily is a generous mother and here the wheat grows thanks to a good climate. I studied in Rome, then in Perugia. Then I was back to Sicily because I married a man from Catania, so I started working here. But it is when I discovered the beauty of the grains that I understood why I was born in this place, the wheat connects me to this land.
Q: Can you introduce us to the ‘masterpiece’ of Valeria Messina and therefore of Forno Biancuccia?
A: Our traditional bread, the one we bake every day, is the bread that most represents me and our bakery. We use 100% wholemeal flour (perciasacchi, russello and tumminia) that we knead with sourdough starter. Sometimes we add seeds, nuts, olives or dried tomatoes. But the basic dough is also popular.
Q: Professionally speaking, make a wish for the future…
A: Now I enjoy this dream that is the birth of Forno Biancuccia, something that until five years ago I thought was not possible. Now there are eight people working on it! The city welcomes us and loves us, reciprocates our sacrifices. Who knows what and if there will be more in the future!