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Sicily Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations


Jeanne
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Besides the capers and bottarga, which are great suggestions, the almonds and pistachio grown in Sicily are out of this world good, and to get similiar here in the US anyway, you have to pay 20 - 30 /lb! They're easy to tuck in a suitcase too. There is something about the pistachio in particular, very herbal and sweet.

I'm a big sucker for ceramicha, and I had blisters from holding my bag of stuff through 3 hrs of customs, but I love my garlic and onion holders. They're much bigger and nicer then what you can buy in the US. I have a garlic keeper I bought in Sciacca that holds 5 - 6 heads of garlic and a Nino Parrucca onion crock I bought in Palermo that makes me smile whenever I look at it.

regards,

trillium

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Oooh, Trillium, then this is for you...

I bought a lot of ceramics from them - they're based in Taormina and they ship!

Sicilian ceramics

( I have the Rosso pattern and a couple of Turks heads)

Enjoy!

Monica

mmm, how could I forget pistachios from Bronte - a must! These poor people are going to need trunks to bring back all this stuff :smile:

We need to find courage, overcome

Inaction is a weapon of mass destruction

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totally off-topic, but I know trillium will see it here...

You have to tell me about Sciacca next time I see you. The olive oil I imported for clarklewis comes from there, and from what little I could learn online, it looks like a great spot.

back to regularly scheduled, hunger-inducing memories of Sicilia...

Jim

olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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Just got back fron Sicily on Sunday.

The above are all good suggestions, but also dried herbs. If your friends are in Syracuse then they can go to the market (which they should do anyway). The market had one shop that sold dried herbs and seeds etc (wild fennel seeds are v.good) and also products like sundried tomato paste. Cheese would be good, some places will even sell shrink wrapped stuff. There is a very old, but rare dessert wine from Siracuse "Moscato di Siracusa", which is good and some of the Malvasia de Lipari are excellent.

I bought a bottle of each of these wines, plus a bottle of grappa made from Passito Malvasia de Lipari, which is very interesting. Also brought back to Edinburgh were;

- Salted and dried ricotta

- Various dried herbs and seeds

- A bag of fresh Cedri (citrons) and lemons (several unusaul types in Sicily)

- Mazipan type products, also the paste for making Latte de Madarola

- salted Capers and caper berries from Lipardi

- Various biscuits

- stock cubes

- the above mentioned dried tuna flesh (orginaly it was dolphin, the mammal, I believe)

- some sort of bortaga product which is more jammy and compressed the usual.

- eggplants and peppers

Edited by Adam Balic (log)
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Anyone yet mentioned Moscato di Pantelleria? If you are friends can only carry back one item, this is what I'd request. Though occasionally available here in the UK, this is one of the rare and undervalued dessert wines of the world. It is produced from Zibibbo grapes (a variety of Moscato) grown just an island stone's throw from North Africa. For the passito version the already sunbaked grapes are further laid out to dry on matts in the hot African wind and sun, further concentrating sugar, flavours and aroma. These raisined grapes are pressed to result in a thick, dense mosto that is fermented and the walnut-brown to nearly-black wine that results is incredibly sweet, concentrated yet intriguingly delicate, with an almost floral, orange-blossom character that is just delightful.

What else, if your friends are feeling in generous pack-horse mood? Well, why not a whole pecorino canestrato or, less heavy, a ricotta salata. The latter, aged salty ricotta, is the cheese for grating in Sicily and will be delicious over your dish of pasta alla Norma. And why not ask them if they'd mind strapping a (small) anguria to their backs? Sicilian watermelon is undoubtedly the best in the world.

Apart from that, I'd be happy with just a couple of lemons tree-picked from the fabled Conca d'Oro. The scent alone would be enough to transport me away from the blustery rains and wind of spring-time in the UK... And two lemons would be just about sufficient to make an exquisitely simple but deliciously fragrant spaghetti al limone.

MP

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We actually had flash flooding in the main street of Syracuse and had to send on day drinking bar. Not that we wouldn't have been doing that anyway, but choice is important I think. :wink:

Sheesh, I'm going to Tuscany and Umbria on Wednesday. Was hoping for some decent weather but looks like I better pack a mac. Not what the doctor ordered at all!

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I don't know if you can get it in the UK, but it's damn hard to find in the US... Donna Fugata Vigna di Gabri. I'm not a white wine drinker at all, but I loved this stuff. It was the perfect match with Sicilian seafoods. I was bringing over amari, so I didn't have legal room for any of the wine, but I have very fond memories of it. I think it really is a good wine, and not just that Sicily is a wonderful place to be eating and drinking and might make every thing taste better.

regards,

trillium

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My wife and I will be visiting Sicily end of this month and I am seeking recommendations for restaurants, pizzerias, wine bars, gelaterias, pastry shops, etc. I would particularly appreciate recommendations based on personal experience.

With regard to restaurants, we prefer excellently prepared local cooking to the international style nuova cucina, unless we have very strong recommendations. At this point the only restaurant of this type that we are strongly committed to is Mulinazzo in Villafrati. We are currently leaning towards trying Duomo in Ragusa and I Tre Bicchieri in Catania and against Casa Grugno in Taormina and Il Dehor in Agrigento. Any further thoughts on these restaurants will be welcome.

We will be starting in Reggio Calabria in order to visit the museum and see the Riace bronzes, and from there going to Taormina, Siracusa, inland to Piazza Armerina, Enna, and Caltanissetta, then along the Southern Coast and up to Erice, Palermo, Monreale, and Cefalu. We will have an apartment in Siracusa for a week which we will use as a base for visiting Noto, Modica, Ragusa. Siracusa is a particular problem, as the Gambero Rosso's only rerstaurant recommendation for the entire city is Don Camillo. There must be something more.

The other place for which I would particularly appreciate recommendations is Palermo. Although I believe that Palermo is an excellent restaurant town, most of the information that I have is ambiguous. The only genuine must that I've identified so far is Focacceria San Francesco.

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We just returned from our 4th trip to Sicily at the end of March. For this trip I used the new Blue Guide by Ellen Grady (who lives in Sicily) and found it excellent for both tourist information and food /restaurant recommendations. The standout meals we had were in Trapani - at Cantina Siciliana, via Giudecca 32, tel:092328673, and in San Leone near Agrigento - at Leon d'Oro, viale Emporium 102, tel:0922414400. We also had a delightful set menu 25 Euro (with wine and water) lunch at the Murgo winery (www.murgo.it). It's on the slopes of Etna, just above the town of Santa Venerina. Food, wine and setting were all great. Contact them in advance if you want to go. We ate a dinner at Don Camillo in Siracusa and were not particularly impressed, but had a wonderful lunch at Il Cenacolo in a little open square on Ortygia. There's also a nice, very unpretentious wine bar on via Roma a couple blocks past via Minerva towards the end of the island on the right. Can't remember the name. Finally, we had another excellent lunch in Palermo at Focacceria Basile, 76 via Bara dell'Olivella, just opposite the Teatro Massimo. It has the traditional Palermo snacks and lots of antipasto dishes you can choose from. Good when you don't want a full restaurant meal.

From past trips (4 to 8 yrs ago), I'd recommend: in Palermo, Capricci di Sicilia and Osteria dei Vesperi. Near Selinunte in/near Menfi, il Vigneto. Had fabulous lunches there twice. It's in the middle of a field of artichokes so they brought us a surprise appetizer of crispy artichoke hearts. They have great fresh fish and wonderful pastas too. Below Taormina, on the waterfront opposite Isola Bella, there's a restaurant called il Pescatore that was recommended by our hotel owners and proved to be excellent for fish -of course- and is in a lovely setting. When you go to Noto, don't miss the gelato and sorbetto at Corrado Costanzo. They are sublime.

Have a wonderful trip! Wish we were going back too.

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Recollections from August, 2002: Noemi, a Bib Gourmand Michelin-rated restaurant located way up in the hills just north of Taormina, was quite special. Large portions of rustic food were served in what seemed like a never ending parade of courses, all for a very reasonable cost. But be warned, the road up to the restaurant from the seaside is winding and challenging.

I actually liked Casa Grugna in Taormina very much. Dinner was served in a little garden, quite formal and elegant -- good seafood. I also liked Don Camillo in Siracusa, where I had a very good lunch of pasta with seafood and grilled fish, so I was surprised that MMerrill was not positive. It was packed with locals, not tourists; the food was not at all fancy, but was good honest food of the region, in my opinion. Some of my best meals on my 2002 trip were in fairly non-descript informal restaurants on the islands of Lipari, Vulcano, and Filicudi, where the pasta dishes and fish were unique and delicious.

When I lived in Sicily, one of my favorite restaurants was La Botte, just south of Monreale. It appears to have disappeared from the Michelin guide, but a Google search indicates that it is still in business and the descriptions read as if the restaurant has not changed in concept -- local specialties served in an informal setting. I hate to admit it, but I was last there in 1987! At that time it had great antipasto siciliano, involtini siciliani, and paste con le sarde. It would be interesting for me to learn if anyone has eaten there recently.

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In Palermo I totally recommend Ai Cascinari for traditional palermitan food - fabulous. Other places of particular note were Franco Il Pescaturi outside of Palermo in Porticello for the ultimate in fresh seafood, Fattoria delle Torre in Modica with traditional Sicilian foods served imaginatively and creatively and La Foglia in Ortygia with very tasty food in a funky (in a good way) atmosphere. If you like chocolate, get yourself to La Dolceria Buonajuto in Modica for some unique and delicious special chocolates.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Salve! My wife and I honeymooned in Sicily a year and a half ago. So good to be reminded of it.

If you are in Erice, I'm sure you'll hit Maria Grammatica's sweet shop - not to be missed. I don't have a sweet tooth, but I honestly couldn't get enough of the stuff. We weren't crazy about the food at the Hotel Moderno, despite it's reputation. We had some great cous cous at Monte San Giuliano; the terrace is a lovely place to dine.

In Siracusa, you MUST go to La Foglia. We liked it much more than Don Camillo. Don Camillo is excellent and had a very impressive wine list, but it was a bit more formal and less original. La Foglia certainly had more character. The dishes are meticulously researched to express 'true' Sicilian cuisine, although there are elaborations on the menu as well. The interior is eccentric but in good taste: hand-made menus, elegantly junky furniture and decorations on the walls. Just down the street from Don Camillo. It's not vegetarian, although some web sites seem to think so. See the menu in the link above.

Also in Ortygia, I don't know the name, but there's a nice, casual wine bar near the main palazzo - behind church, on the outside ring of the palazzo.

Ian

Edited for: P.S. make sure you get arancini when you go to the Antica Focacceria San Francisco in Palermo.

Edited by ianeccleston (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

I appreciate the replies from: mmerrill, vigna, docsconz and ianeccleston, all of whom have provided interesting and actionable recommendations. I have printed the thread, and will report back.

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I am sicilian and i live in Malta.I have just returned from a week in Catania and my suggestion is to skip enoteca tre bicchieri to try instead either il Carato or le Cantine del Katane Palace. both have fantastic chefs excellent wine lists and offer typical sicilian cuisine but prepared in a more inventive, light a original way. close to Mulinazzo in term of style. another must is La locanda del vinattiere located in valverde this is the link locanda del vinattiere

however you can find good info on the other two restaurants on the gambero rosso website.

Palermo best restaurant is bye bye blues

in ragusa a place worth the visit is Don Serafino.

if you visit the roman villa in Piazza Armerina you could try Al Fogher

enjoy your trip

kind regards

roberto

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  • 2 months later...

July 2004

We got the morning flight from London Stansted and arrived into the mid-day heat of Palermo in late July. We caught a cab from the airport and went straight to lunch at Ai Cascinari. However we were a little early and with half an hour to kill we walked the block and found the most amazing market stalls selling some of the freshest produce I’ve ever seen including these bell peppers that were 3–4 times the size of the apples next to them.

peppers.JPG

At the same stall, we found these Zucchini that were over a metre long. The stallholder seemed only too keen to pose with it. Has anyone ever eaten these?

zuccini.JPG

And so on to …

Ai Cascinari

Via d’Ossuna 43 – 45,

Palermo

I’d read reviews here on eG as well as the Sicily Special in The Art of Eating and was very keen to try their “fast, fresh, cheap, good traditional Palermitan food”. We were the first ones in the restaurant for Pranzo but were made very welcome by the owner and chose to sit in the lighter, front room.

We started with an Antipasti Misto of Agnello con Pomodoro e Olive, Vegetable Fritti, a ‘fried bread’ meatball (any ideas?) in Salsa di Pomodoro and some small battered fish. For the Primo course we had a Spaghetti Nero (black pasta made with squid ink) with a ‘ragu’ made with chopped squid, onions and herbs – fantastic! And a Fettuccine con pesto (below), which was beautiful – freshly made pasta with a pesto that we could heard (and smell) them making as we walked in.

pesto%20pasta.JPG

For Secondo I had pesce spada, which was served with potatoes and coriander …

pesce%20spada.JPG

The pesce spada was hammered very thin and was perfectly tender with a sauce that did not overpower the flavour of the fish.

Our experience at Ai Cascinari was the perfect start to our trip to Sicilia. The food was very fresh and whole meal came to just over 60 euros including wine. We left the restaurant and made our way to the Stazione Maritima to catch the Aliscafi to the Aeolian Island of Salina.

We arrived in Salina in just over 3 hours from Palermo. We were staying at Hotel Signum in Malfa on the north side of the Island. The Hotel is owned and run by Clara, who runs the hotel and Michele who does the cooking. The food at Hotel Signum is typically Aeolian and incorporates fresh ingredients found in or around the Island. Fresh fish such as swordfish and squid as well as the speciality bottarga are combined with tomatoes, lemons and capers all of which grow in abundance around the island.

Food highlights during the week included, Arancini di pesci – which were baked instead of deep fried, insalata do pomadoro e caperi, Involtini di pesce spada ripieni con gamberoni, spaghetti con bottarga and risotto di pesce (below).

pesce%20risotto.JPG

The hotel also has a comprehensive wine list of Sicilian wines, including those from Hauner, which were produced on the island. I chose to work my way through the wines of Planeta and Tenute Rapitala’. Two days in to our visit, it turned out that the Conte Hugues Bernard de la Gatinais (who owns and runs Tentute Rapitala’) was actually staying at the hotel, so I got the chance to pick his brains about his wines. He is French, with a Sicilian wife, and prefers to make wines in the French style using Sicilian grapes such as Catarratto in conjunction with more ‘international’ grapes such as Chardonnay and Viognier. He tends to shy away from ‘over-oaking’ his wines in favour of a combination of aged oak and stainless steel fermentation.

My favourite of his wines was the ‘Casalj’, which was a combination of Catarratto (70%) and Chardonnay (30%) which worked extremely well with the fresh fish and seafood dishes that we had. We also had the 2003 ‘Piano Maltese’ which is a Catarratto (80%) and Chadonnay (20%) wine but to my taste the Casalj worked slightly better with the Island food we were eating.

casalj.JPG

Tenute Rapitala’ also make a 100% Syrah wine - Solinero (below) which is aged in French Oak for 12 months which we enjoyed with antipasti before our meal.

solinero.JPG

After 5 days we left Salina and made our way back to Palermo via Milazzo this time because of bad weather.

Back in Palermo we couldn’t leave without a visit to Antica Focacceria San Francesco.

Antica Focacceria San Francesco.

Via Paternosta 58,

Palazzo San Francesco

Palermo

I’d read so much about this place on eG, in The Art of Eating, in Fred Plotkin’s – ‘Italy for the gourmet traveller’ and even in cookbooks (Sicilian Home Cooking – Wanda and Giovanna Tornabene) that I just had to go. So we made reservations for dinner at 8.

The place opens at 7.45 and was filling up with a long queue forming as we got there at 8.

We started with the mixed antipasti, which included the (in) famous Spleen and Lung with Ricotta Focacca – Guastelle or Guasteddu. In the picture below it’s the ‘bun’ in the front of the picture. These were accompanied by Arancini, Panelle (chickpea fritters) and Sfinioni (pizza slices with onion and tomatoes).

antica.JPG

We followed this course with a primo course of Sicilian sausage and spicy pomodoro sauce with pasta and then shared a porcini pizza all accompanied by a bottle of Duca di Salparuta – Triskelé, which was the perfect end to our trip to Sicilia and the Aeolian Islands.

Thanks to everyone on this forum for their recommendations.

Edited by Alexander Forryan (log)

"Wine without friends, is like life without a witness"

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Alexander,

very nice post and great pictures. Thanks. I'm curious about what you thought of Focacceria S.Francesco and the focaccia you had, I've only eaten there once but I'd love to go back and have another "focaccia maritata".

The zucchini in the first pic look very much like giant cucumbers I have often eaten in Calabria. Could be a local Sicilian zucchini though.

Edited by albiston (log)
Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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The zucchini in the first pic look very much like giant cucumbers I have often eaten in Calabria. Could be a local Sicilian zucchini though.

There has been some discussion on these previously {Link}, they are neither cucumber or zucchini, rather gourds. Quite common in Sicily.

Alexander - nice post, I was in Lipari earlier in the year and it was very nice to be reminded.

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Great post! The pics of Ai Caiscinari and Foccacceria San Francesco really brought back memories. Ai Caiscinari was the highlight of a great food trip.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Thanks for the pictures! One of the things I miss more from Italy are the markets, the noise and the colour around them. Not to mention the fish...

About the gourd, I read the link. A sicilian lady from Palermo told me that for the zuccata she uses a winter variety called zucchina centenaria, she said use the gourd from the picture in the summer, only if it's not too tender.

About the usage of the word "cocuzza" or "cucuzza", now it's in the italian dictionary, and it means only zucchine.

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Thanks for the pictures! One of the things I miss more from Italy are the markets, the noise and the colour around them. Not to mention the fish...

About the gourd, I read the link. A sicilian lady from Palermo told me that for the zuccata she uses a winter variety called zucchina centenaria, she said use the gourd from the picture in the summer, only if it's not too tender.

About the usage of the word "cocuzza" or "cucuzza", now it's in the italian dictionary, and it means only zucchine.

I think that "zucchini centenaria" is Sechium edule, which are the fruit of a vine, but not really related to zucchini/gourds etc. I Australia they would be called "chokos" and I think they are from Mexico originally.

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