Open just four months, Sweet Sicily in Gilroy has already garnered a cult following for its authentic Italian fare.

“This is the closest you can get to homemade, the way I was brought up,” says Matteo Ferrigno, a regular at the Italian coffee bar and bistro.

Italian is spoken freely. Chefs are in and out of the kitchen. There’s a lot of commotion. The place is modeled after an Italian-style bar, where patrons make a quick stop to grab a breakfast or step up to the counter to knock back an espresso. While Sweet Sicily serves food, manager Giuseppe Campagna says with conviction, “This is a not a restaurant, it’s more of a bistro.”

It’s true, there are no traditional wait staff, no tables with white linens and wine glasses. However, the quality makes most guests forget all of that.

I spoke with chef and owner Saverio D’Anna, and while our conversation was a blend of English, pantomime and what little Italian I could fudge from my knowledge of Spanish, it was a pleasant, warm-hearted exchange.

Coming to the U.S. in November 2015, D’Anna, along with his former partner, Leonardo La Placa, knew they had their location when they arrived at the quaint unassuming storefront in Gilroy’s Hecker Pass Plaza. Sweet Sicily hustled to open by February, but preparing for a grand opening was nothing new for D’Anna.

Despite no formal training, D’Anna owned and operated a family business, the Bar Albatros, in his hometown of Palermo, where he began apprenticing in his father’s kitchen at 22. He has been fortunate to learn among such influential figures as Italian culinary master Francesco Paolo Cascino; the father of modern pastry, Chef Paco Torreblanca; French gourmet chef and recently appointed head of the new Chocolate Academy in Dubai, Philippe Marand; and one of the most recognized Italian chefs in the world, Nino Graziano, holder of two Michelin stars.

As a four-time finalist in the Grand Prix of International Pastry and three-time finalist in World Chocolate Masters, D’Anna has also received high accolades.

Standing at the bar enjoying a quick caffé, Matteo Ferrigno says he likes the atmosphere. “I feel like we’re in Europe,” he says. “And they make 100 percent authentic Italian Sicilian food.”

Some of the ingredients D’Anna uses are imported, such as their ricotta, which arrives at SFO in refrigerated cargo straight from Italy. This ricotta finds its way chiefly into their cannoli.

Everything served here is made fresh daily. They do sell some Italian staples like lasagna ($12.50) and ravioli ($18), but also have hot, made-to-order pasta dishes like Carbonara ($12), or their signature Sweet Sicily ($14), which includes mushrooms, pork, onions and garlic in a white wine tomato cream sauce served over a bed of fettuccini. D’Anna says they change up their menu every few weeks to keep things exciting.

Sweet Sicily has brought a small piece of Italy to the South Valley, and as the business name suggests, the menu is classic Sicilian cuisine.

“New Italian cuisine is good for the eyes,”  D’Anna says, “but classic Italian cuisine is good for the belly.”

Sweet Sicily
$$, Italian
1280 First St, Gilroy

Correction: A previous version of this story noted a prior ownership structure. regrets the error.