Overall I preferred eating at the cheaper trattorias (€20-€30) mentioned in my previous post but here’s a trio of good mid-range places (€50-€90) that I enjoyed too; one hipster, one slow food and one trad. You’ll find them on my map. Click on the links for recipes, although you may have to run them through Google translate.
Osteria Mangia e Bevi, 18 Largo dei Cavalieri di Malta, www.osteriamangiaebevi.it
I describe this place as hipster because they attract a younger crowd and the youthful staff serve up modern presentations of local classics. It’s very popular and when I tried to get in without a reservation in the evening I was twice knocked back. I had better luck going for lunch with my friends Susan and Andrew when we managed to snag a table outside.
Proceedings began with a selection of excellent Arancinette (small Arancine) which included some made with nero di seppia (squid ink), as well as the classics al burro and al ragu. Also some tasty sliced Mangia e Bevi (grilled spring onions wrapped in pancetta), after which the restaurant is named.
I was also keen to try the Pasta Fritta (fried pasta in a sauce of aubergine, mentuccia mint, and grated cheese) which originally was a way to use up leftover pasta from the previous day. It’s a frittata that reminds many Sicilians of home. Although unsightly it tasted pretty good. Baccala Sfincione (codfish in a sauce of passata, anchovies, pine nuts and raisins) also looked a bit overdone but worked well as did the Polpette Sarde (sardine patties in tomato sauce). There’s lots more on the menu if you want to try several local dishes in one go.
Buatta Cucina Popolana, 176 Via Vittorio Emanuele, www.buattapalermo.it
This is another modern place which is keen to emphasise its slow food philosophy, using carefully prepared, locally-sourced ingredients. It was insanely popular when I was in town in September 2022, despite the pandemic reducing the number of tourists, and I had to make a couple of attempts to reserve before finally getting a table in the side alley next to the restaurant.
As usual I went for the local classics. To begin, Caciocavallo all Argentiera, fried cheese from the famous Ragusano DOP. Next Ravioli con Ricotta al Quinto Quarto (ricotta cheese ravioli with lung and spleen), an alternative take on the famous Pani ca Meusa with pasta replacing the bread. Historically the ‘fifth quarter’ of a carcass was the offal used to pay slaughterhouse workers. The main was Polletto di Linguaglossa al Carbone (organic chicken from a town near Catania, grilled over charcoal).
My only criticism was that my wine matches didn’t always arrive with the respective dishes because the staff were just too busy elsewhere, victims of their own success perhaps. Each time I had to chase them up before my food got cold. By the third course, the constant frustration had ruined my appetite and I didn’t eat it and just asked for the bill instead. To their credit, two managers came to talk to me at the same time and after apologising, comped me the whole meal, including the wine, which was generous of them. The food is good, and they are very professional, so I would go back again, but I’d probably sit nearer the kitchen to cut down on the delays.
Trattoria Ai Cascinari, 43/45 Via D’Ossuna, www.cascinari.com
This a traditional place, and out of the centre, so with a local clientele and not a tourist in sight. I came for Sunday lunch ‘At the Old Farmhouse’ and was lucky to get a table when my Covid app didn’t work, but thankfully the rules were waived in true Sicilian style. Turns out you have to renew the app every two weeks, as the next restaurant told me.
I had the Antipasti Misto which arrived at the table incrementally. First to come was some Ortaggi Panate e Fritti (breadcrumbed, deep fried veg) and Bollito all’Insalata (chunks of boiled veal with cherry tomatoes, anchovies and olives). Then a Polpette di Tonno (tuna pattie in a mint sauce) and some Panelle (chickpea fritters). Finally, a solitary Polpette di Melanzane (meatball with aubergine and pine nuts) which came in a stunning tomato sauce. And for the main, Falso Magro (‘false lean’ or veal roll stuffed with egg, cheese and prosciutto with a potato and peas in a tomato sauce) which was a new experience for me. To finish, Cassata al Forno (baked cassata) with a glass of chilled Passito sweet wine. So nothing out of this world, just good home cooking simply presented. A bit out of town but still worth the walk. Make sure you book if you go for Sunday lunch.
Moving on to the high end restaurants next!