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The travel guide for Palermo and northwestern
Sicily. Sights, hotels, restaurants, shopping, tours. Come See Palermo.
most delightful restaurant is a special secret, every month of the year. Enjoy traditional Sicilian cuisine in a historic setting in the city's timeless Cala Harbor and Vucceria
Market districts, where the past meets the present. Come to Gagini.
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Restaurants in Sicily
Most of these restaurants are open evenings, and many serve
lunch too. In Sicily the luncheon hour starts around 1:00 PM, and dinner is
usually served from around 8:00. Many restaurants are closed Mondays, and
trattorias, less formal restaurants which don't always serve evening meals, are
usually closed Sundays. Pizzerias usually serve dinner but not lunch. Reservations are always advised,
and for restaurants in the country they're required. On our all-encompassing food and wine page you'll
find links to dozens of specialised culinary topics, including pages on wines, cheeses and olive oil, and translations of common
culinary terms (in Italian and Sicilian). Restaurants don't pay to be
listed here. (Read more about our critical criteria below.) Prices are for
reference only and, unless otherwise indicated, do not include wine, beer or gratuities; 10% is
the recommended tip. To clarify a few oft-misused Italian terms describing various kinds of eateries you'll encounter in Sicily:
» Palermo Restaurants Reviewed
Spinnato. Stylish but affordable café-style eatery offering tasty lunches (in a central part of the city where finding restaurants that serve lunch isn't always easy). Salads and cold plates, baked pasta with beef or aubergines (eggplant), rice balls (arancine) and even sfincione (a cheeseless Sicilian pizza). The bresaola (cured beef slices) served on a bed of fresh endive and arugula, with slices of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and seasoned with olive oil and lemon, is a timeless favourite. Outdoor service in warmer months, when the ice cream is fantastic. Get there between 12:30 and 1:00 to avoid the cowd. €20 per person. Via Principe di Belmonte 117.
Cin-Cin. It's amazing how many of Palermo's best restaurants are disguised by unpretentious facades on the city's side streets. This one is hidden down a flight of steps behind a gate on Via Manin, off Via Libertà between the Politeama opera house and the English Garden (Giardino Inglese). The setting is serene: Cin-Cin occupies a number of rooms that allow for an intimate ambience – a pleasant change from the typical noisy Palermitan restaurant. The cuisine is a very refined, aristocratic "Baroque" style. The beef fillet in brandy is exquisite, and the pasta with urchin sauce is not to be missed. Dinner averages about €40.00 per person (with wine). The wine list is large and includes many fine regional Sicilian vintages. Open evenings, all year. Please note that reservations are required. Major credit cards are welcome. Via Manin 22. RistoranteCinCin.Com
Cucina Papoff. It owes its foreign name to a Bulgarian founder of the former bakery where it is now housed. No other surprises, just traditional Sicilian fare in an elegant but relaxed setting. It's all fresh, and while many of these specialties are served in a slightly "updated" way, the basic recipes themselves haven't changed much in two or three centuries. The only "novelty" we found, and it was thoroughly delicious, was the stuffed radicchio. The gnocchi in gorgonzola (blue cheese) and pistachio sauce were great. Or try the maccu, a creamy fava bean soup flavored with wild fennel. With its high stone walls and graceful arches (in a building on a street off Via Libertà near the Politeama opera house), Papoff's decor resembles the chambers of a castle. The wine list is extensive, with some 200 Sicilian vintages. Dinner only (served beginning at 7:30), about €40.00 per person. Lunches only on request (and reservation) for groups. Major credit cards are accepted. Closed for August. Via I. La Lumia 32.
La Bufalaccia. This charming pizzeria located midway to Monreale offers a more refined atmosphere – and better pizza – than most restaurants of this kind. Evenings only, closed Monday. A pizza and drink averages €15. Corso Calatafimi 740. Reservations are suggested. LaBufalaccia.It
Il Cambusone. An interesting eatery in that it is a very rustic ambience in the middle of the city. Cuisine is very Sicilian and there is often a buffet. Open most evenings and sometimes for lunch. Meals average €35. Piazza Verdi 25 (behind Teatro Massimo).
Gagini. Traditional Sicilian specialties in a delightful setting – a historical environment of stonework and arches in the former (16th-century) workshop of the Gagini family of sculptors. Here the cuisine is slightly creative yet traditional. We enjoyed the "exposed" cannolo with the cream filling served separately from the crusty shell, accompanied by ice cream. The pasta with black cuttlefish sauce was exceptional; so was the lamb. Good service and attention to detail. Outdoor service in warmer months. Reservations are suggested, especially for weekends. Open most evenings. €45 per person. Major credit cards accepted. Via Cassari 35 off the Cala and Piazza Marina near the Vucceria street market. GaginiRestaurant.Com
Corvo dei Beati Paoli. Located in Piazza Marina near the Steri Castle and the Garibaldi Gardens, this is mostly a pizzeria, and of the thirty varieties "capricciosa," topped with ham, cheese and artichokes, is the most typically Sicilian. But they also offer lamb and seafood, as well as pasta and some creative salads. Inside, the dark stone walls create a faintly rustic atmosphere, but outdoor seating is also available most of the year. (On Saturdays in summer get there early, a bit before 8, if you don't want to wait for a table.) About €15 per person for pizza (with a beverage and appetizer), €30 for meals with main courses. Dinner only. Piazza Marina 50.
Dima's Late Night Pizza and Sandwiches. Dima's isn't too special for atmosphere. Truth be told, their pizzas, though delicious, aren't necessarily superior to those served elsewhere in Palermo, a town distinguished for its pizza. What makes Dima's special --at least for a Sicilian restaurant-- is their hours. They're open from early evening until about 3 in the morning. Great for a midnight snack when your hotel's restaurant is closed. Dima's is centrally located on Via E. Amari 108 near Via Roma and the Politeama theatre. They deliver in central Palermo. Just have somebody who speaks Italian ring them up. They're usually closed Mondays.
Piazza Olivella. Hidden from the eyes of the casual tourists walking the main streets, this is one of Palermo's most popular informal spots during the warmer months --and that's most of the year. It's not one restaurant but about 15 in and around the square near the archeological museum and San Filippo Neri Church, within the rectangle formed by Via Cavour, Via Roma and Via Maqueda, near the Teatro Massimo. Instead of reviewing a particular restaurant in the small but fascinating Olivella district, we'd like to mention that about thirty dining places and bars are located in the square itself and also along Via Orologio, Via Bara all'Olivella and the surrounding streets. Open evenings beginning around 8 (with outdoor tables from early March until mid-December), many of the restaurants offer hot sandwiches with a Middle Eastern flavor (especially turkey-meat souvlaki which they call 'kebabs') and good beer lists. La Corrida, at the corner of Via Orologio, also serves pizza. The wine bars and (Italian-style) pubs are charming and reasonably affordable, with longer hours. Kebab plates and salads from about €6.00, bottled imported beers from about €4.00, Sicilian vintage wines (by the bottle) from around €10.00. It's crowded on Saturday evenings, when you should arrive just before 8 unless you want to wait for a table.
Dietro l'Angolo (in Monreale). In a town known for its many pizzerias, this restaurant, hidden down a narrow street behind the apse of Monreale's cathedral, does them exceptionally well, with chunky toppings. The meat and pasta is excellent too. The beef filet alla Marsala is delicious. In cooler months the dining room provides a comfortable atmosphere, and in warmer weather (from May through September) the upstairs terrace offers a panoramic view of Palermo and cool breezes when the city below is steaming hot. Pizza (with a beer or soft drink) from about €15 per person. Meals with main courses from an affordable €25. Lunch and dinner. Via Piave 5, Monreale.
» Taormina Restaurants Reviewed
Gran Duca. Located in a Baroque palazzo built upon medieval foundations, Gran Duca is something of an institution in Taormina. The facade is rather deceptive because hardly anything is at street level. Steps lead you from the entrance down toward the terraces overlooking the Ionian Sea and nearby valley. The seafod is exceptional, though everything they serve here could be described this way. The wine list is more than ample, though at times pricey for certain local vintages. The service is excellent and a meal usually runs to about €40.00 per person. Lunch and dinner. Major credit cards are accepted. Corso Umberto 172.
La Buca. This delightful restaurant offers an intimate setting and an outdoor terrace with the sea and mountains as a backdrop. Menu is remarkably varied. Lunch and dinner. Major credit cards are accepted. Around €35 per person. Corso Umberto 140.
Dracena. Though open only in the warmer months, this charming venue, with its garden enclosed by a typically Italianate stone wall, offers a romantic serenity. The menu is surprisingly wide, encompassing everything from swordfish to beef fillet and all kinds of pastas and salads. €30.00 per person, open for lunch and dinner from May through October. Major credit cards are accepted. Via Amari 4.
Gambero Rosso. We discovered this pizzeria (they also serve beef, lamb and seafood) one cold February evening when many of Taormina's restaurants, and half the hotels, were closed for the season. It offered a cozy atmosphere and the pizza and pasta were both fantastic. The name means "red shrimp" (in Italian the phrase often connotes superior cuisine and gracious living), just one of the menu's more enticing choices. Outdoor dining in summer. Around €25.00. Via Naumachia 11.
Borgo Antico. Located in Castelmola, the district above Taormina, this restaurant is open in summer. The views from the outdoor terrace are incomparable --Etna, the Ionian and more. Menu is varied but the pasta with wild fennel and shrimp is a specialty. Lunch and dinner. Around €35.00. Via Madonna della Scala 4, Castelmola.
Zammarà. Offering local specialties like Pasta alla Norma, caponata, stuffed swordfish or beef rolls and great wines, this restaurant is traditional in almost every way. Part of it is set upon excavations of an ancient Roman site, visible through a floor of thick glass. There's a folksy, relaxed atmosphere and in summer there's service in the garden. €35.00 per person, noon or evenings. Via Fratelli Bandiera 15.
» Catania Restaurants Reviewed
Al Gabbiano. The name refers to seagulls, but none of the dishes served here are based on winged creatures. Instead, fresh seafood and fish is the norm in this restaurant located in the very centre of Old Catania. €30.00 per person. Open for dinner. Closed in August. Via Giordano Bruno 128.
Metro. Cuisine served here is best described as traditional with an original touch, something creative to complement the place's elegant decor. €40.00, for lunch or dinner. Major credit cards are accepted. Via Crociferi 76.
» Siracusa Restaurants Reviewed
Trattoria La Foglia. Named for its decorative motif, The Leaf serves a number of vegetarian dishes as well as fantastic seafood. Housed in a vaguely rustic, historic building in Ortygia near the Arethusa fountain, it's not too formal, perhaps even a bit on the eccentric side (slightly "bohemian"), and antiques dominate the cozy decor. Each place setting is unique and features antique glasses. The vegetarian soups (maccu, broccoli, greens) are excellent. A typical pasta is giant, ricotta-filled ravioli in delicious sauces - vegetable, meat, seafood, swordfish. The menu includes several meat specialties and lots of fish and seafood, including an unusually good grilled squid served with caponata (aubergine) salad. Don't pass up the house wine. Served chilled, it is a sweetish local "rosé," actually very light amber in colour, typical of the traditional wines of this part of Sicily. €40.00 per person, noon or evenings. Cash payment only. (Credit cards are not accepted.) Via Capodieci 29.
Trattoria Kalliope. Located in the Ortygia historical district, Kalliope offers a variety of dishes in a charming, traditional setting, though seafood reigns supreme. The pasta is home-made and the outdoor terrace is open in summer. €35.00 per person, lunch and dinner. Via del Consiglio Reginale 26.
Don Camillo. This restaurant, with its arched ceilings of stone, was built around a medieval structure. As to the cuisine, we especially enjoyed the vegetable appetizers, including things like caponata (aubergine salad), but everything was delicious. The pasta with neonati or "mucco" (tiny baby herring) is exceptional. €35.00 per person, for noon or evenings. Via della Maestranza 96 in Ortygia.
Don Carmelo Pizzeria. You'll find this pizzeria on one of Ortygia's narrow, sloping Greek streets. While some of the appetizers, seafood and meat specialties are good, it's the pizza that shines here, made in a wood stove built of stone. €25.00 per person, for noon or evenings. (Closed Wednesdays.) Via Claudio Arezzo 7 in Ortygia.
» Erice Restaurants Reviewed
La Pentolaccia. Rustic, informal spot in an old stone building. Seafood couscous is a specialty. The stuffed meat roll (they call it "falsomagro") is good, too. €30.00 per person for lunch or dinner. Via G. Guarnotti 17.
Monte San Giuliano. Located next to Grammatico's pastry shop (a temptation in itself), San Giuliano has an extensive and affordable menu with occasional, seasonal dishes-of-the-day. The stuffed eggplant (aubergine) rolls are exceptional. As a change (from pasta), try the couscous. €25.00 per person for lunch or dinner. Vicolo San Rocco 7.
» Cefalù Restaurants Reviewed
Trappitu. Located on a historic street, with a seaside terrace overlooking the rocky shore, this charming restaurant offers a number of Sicilian specialties and (in evenings) pizza. Good seppia (cuttlefish). Ambience is slightly rustic. The word "trappitu" is Sicilian for an olive mill stone, and one stands in the middle of the main dining room. €25.00 per person for lunch or dinner. Via Bordonaro 96.
Vecchia Marina. Boasting a rustic seaside atmosphere and (in summer) an open terrace in a historic building a few steps from the medieval wash house, the Vecchia Marina offers grilled seafood, creative pasta dishes and uncommon hospitality. €25 per person for lunch or dinner. Cash payment only. Credit cards are not accepted. (Closed late November through January.) Via Vittorio Emanuele 73.
Al Porticciolo. With its delightful atmosphere, indoors or out, this restaurant along the shore offers all kinds of seafood specialties and lots of pasta dishes. €25 per person for lunch or dinner. (Closed late November through January.) Via Bordonaro 66.
» Farther Afield – Restaurants in the Country
Tarantola. Set in the midst of rolling hills and vineyards, this charming winery estate in Sicily's scenic wine country off Strada Provinciale (SP) 10 between Alcamo and Camporeale serves lunches and dinners based on the local cuisine accompanied (as you might expect) by their own wine. The menu varies by season. A meal without wine runs to around €25. Reservations are required: GorgodelDrago.It tel +39 329 271 3073.
Villa Miraglia. This rustic alpine lodge on the SS 289 in the highest region of the Nebrodi Mountains is literally in the middle of a dense beech forest. Among their specialities are lamb, goat and the boarish Nebrodian Black Swine. As a point of reference, Cesarò is the nearest town. A meal without wine averages €25. Open days are seasonal (in February there's a metre of snow in this area). Reservations are required: VillaMiraglia.It tel +39 095 697 397.
The Joy of Sicilian Dining
How We Select Restaurants: The principal criteria are quality of food and service, appealing atmosphere, convenient location and, believe it or not, value for cost. Compared to other guides that review or rank restaurants, our reviews are generally more reader-oriented, reflecting real opinions, not just those of "critics." We're not slaves to conformity. And our evaluations are democratic because two or more of our writers dine incognito at each restaurant reviewed. They're not influenced by the opinions of other reviewers, and our staff are familiar with Sicilian cuisine. That's why our reviews may differ from those of certain "professional" restaurant critics, who (like many wine critics) are too often "guns for hire" whose opinions are easily coloured by external factors. Yes, we review a few restaurants which also advertise on this site, but they became advertisers after being reviewed - years later in some cases. Enjoy your meal.
©2012 Best of Sicily
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