In this post I review eight restaurants and bars, half of which I recommend and half I don’t! In addition please also see my earlier posts on La Pescheria (for fish restaurants) and on Street Food and Cafes & Patisseries. You’ll find all these places and more on my Google map.
Mé Cumpari Turiddu (B+), 36/38 Piazza Turi Ferro, www.mecumparituriddu.it
‘My friend Turiddu’ was the buzz restaurant when I was in town in 2019, and justifiably so. They specialise in Slow Food cuisine using only traditional Sicilian products.
…but then I realised it was wrapped around a salad (unmentioned on the menu) and encrusted with pistachios.
I’ve had donkey a couple of times before and liked it but his was strangely tasteless (C).
I ordered the Spatola (scabbardfish) but instead a Macaroni arrived (made with Agrigento cheese again and Nebrodi black pork). I tasted it thinking it was for me, and it was really good (B+) but once I remembered I hadn’t ordered it, I reluctantly sent it back to save stomach space.
After this I had the Spatola Rolls with Lemon Flavoured Bread, Smashed Potato and Vegetables “Stimparata” (‘stamped’ or crushed). I’d never seen scabbardfish on a menu before despite often seeing it in the market so I had to try it. It was great (B+).
To drink, local Zibibbo (B), Pantelleria sweet dessert wine (A) and finally a shot of a local Amaro recommended by the manager, also very good (B+).
Mé Cumpari Turiddu is also a delicatessen so you can buy many of the Slow Food products they serve in the restaurant. Generally the waiters were nice and friendly although there were a couple of snooty ones. I’d definitely go back though, there are so many other things on the menu I’d like to try.
And just around the corner…
Razmataz (Intermediate B+?), 17/19Via Montesano
This attractive old bar is a pleasant spot for an aperitivo or digestivo but it gets quite busy so you’ll need to book if you want a table outside. It doubles as a café in the morning, and I’m told it’s a popular lunch spot amongst the locals. I haven’t tried the food but it looked good.
Giuseppe’s Restaurant (Elementary B+), 53 Via Penninello
My AirBnB host Leo brought me to eat here as I was staying at his place on the same street. Giuseppe is a young independent chef not long out of catering college. They taught him well because he served up a beautifully presented and completely seasonal lunch for three of us for €20 a head, which was very good value.
I don’t think the restaurant has a name and you wouldn’t probably wouldn’t know it was there unless you lived on this street. It’s the last ground floor unit on the left, just before you go up the stairs to Via Crociferi (see my Baroque Architecture post).
Ostello (Intermediate B?), 6 Piazza Curro
When I first came to this bar in 2004, it was called Agora Hostel. Back then it was a late night bar with a large seating area outside. They did great Mojitos and served food inside too but I didn’t get round to trying it.
There is another reason to come here though. If you go down to the cellar, all the way through the restaurant and two levels down, you will see that there’s a stream running through a small cave in the cellar. The cave was formed by a volcanic erruption and the stream is the River Amenano which also provides the nearby fish market with water. It’s said the Romans once used the cave as a bath house. You can even book a table for two in this unique and eerie spot, but bring warm clothes as it gets a bit chilly down there.
Etnea Roof Bar & Restaurant (High Intermediate B), 218 Via Etnea, www.unahotels.it
I’m told the roof terrace here is one of the best places to view Etna when it is errupting (minor erruptions happen regularly). It’s quite a posh spot that I can imagine is very busy in the peak season. Sadly I didn’t get to see a lava show but they do mix a decent Negroni.
Vermut (Elementary B+), 39 Via Gemmellaro
This is another cool little bar that both my AirBnB hosts recommended. It’s very popular, for food as well as drink, and as the name suggests, they have the ingredients for a decent Negroni. The clientele spills out onto the street and they’ve even put cushions on the kerbs on the side street so people can sit down comfortably.
From Vermut, if you continue straight along Via Gemmellaro it becomes Via Santa Filomena. In 2019, this street was the most happening area for new bars and restaurants and it has been pedestrianised for this purpose. Unfortunately, not all these new places are as good as they should be…
SOME PLACES TO AVOID!
Fud (Intermediate C), 35 Via Santa Filomena, www.fud.it
I really wanted to like this hipster burger bar but sadly the food scored a C with me. Strange as it’s hugely popular, and was the most-reviewed restaurant on TripAdvisor in 2019. So maybe I just chose badly and it was a blip.
Fud’s philosophy is to serve ‘Sicilian fast food’ made with high-quality, locally sourced ingredients. Most of their patties are made from Sicilian beef but they also sell chicken, buffalo and Nebrodi black pork burgers. I had the Shek Burger made with 200g of Chiaramonte Gulfi donkey meat (top quality) which came with a salad, smoked buffalo mozzarella and pan-fried mushrooms. The burger was okay (B) but the badly-cooked chips and slimy mushrooms, as well as the nasty BBQ sauce, killed my appetite and I couldn’t finish it (D). I’m sure the other burgers are fine, but my advice is choose your accompaniments carefully.
Ristorante Il Cantiniere (High Intermediate C) 153 Viale della Libertà, ilcantiniererestaurant.blogspot.com
This big, modern enoteca was a bit of a trek outside the centre (I did it after an architecture walk, please see my coming Liberty Stile post) but it was recommended by a good foodie friend from the UK so I tracked it down.
The huge wine library is very impressive. God knows how many bottles they have here but it must be several thousand.
I ordered a big plate of local cheeses and charcuterie to go with some local wines with the help of a friendly waitress. I texted my AirBnB host Leo while I was waiting for my food and happened to mention where I was. His immediate reply was ‘Get out of there, it’s owned by the Mafia!’ I certainly wouldn’t have gone if I’d known but now I’d ordered, I wasn’t going to waste all that food!
It was okay (B/C) but nothing special. And the surpising thing was that all three of the wines I tried were really mediocre (all Cs). It’s just a wild supposition but maybe they’re laundering their ill-gotten gains by selling poor quality food and wine at higher prices than they should be.
Anyway regardless of the food and drink, this is one to avoid please in solidarity with ordinary Sicilian people who hate the Mafia. It’s no big loss.
Sicilia in Bocca (Intermediate A), 16 Piazza Pietro Lupo
I came to ‘Sicily in Mouth’ in 2008 and had a really nice meal with my friend Mark. It was very popular at the time but we got in without a reservation. I can’t remember what we had but it was then a great place for seafood and local specialities and there was an extensive antipasti buffet too. The waiters weren’t unfriendly as such but they were a little brusque at times and spoke very quickly in Sicilian dialect!
When I was prepping my 2019 trip I read on Wikitravel that there were now two Sicilia in Bocca restaurants and one should be avoided due to it’s bad attitude towards foreigners and poor quality food. When I got into town I asked Leo my AirBnB host about it and he seemed to think that both SIBs were owned and run by the same people and that they were good once but had gone downhill after the new management and head chef had taken over. So another one that’s probably best swerved.
You’ll find all these bars and restaurants on my Google map, along with many I didn’t get time to try. There’s a key top left.
Time for some architecture walks now to wear off some of that food!