As mentioned before, my best dining experiences were at the cheaper (€20-€30) and mid-range trattorias (€50+) but I had a few good meals at higher end ristoranti as well (€100+). Below I review my three favourites. You’ll find everywhere mentioned on my map.
Pizzo e Pizzo, 1 Via XII Gennaio, www.facebook.com/pizzoepizzo
Pizzo e Pizzo is the best salumeria in Palermo (see my coming post on delis), as recommended to me by Vincenzo, a Palermitano wine importer. You can try before you buy by having lunch in the deli, or more expensively, their restaurant next door, which is where I went for my final treat before flying home. I noticed on another occasion that the management of Bye Bye Blues had a lunch reservation here and, as they were my favourite Michelin restaurant in Mondello (see coming post), I knew I was in the right place.
The cheese and ham selection I began with was superb (especially the orange marmalade!) but the best thing was the spaghetti with shaved white truffles that had been flown in from Alba in Piedmont in the north of Italy. It broke the last of my budget at €50 just for that plate, but I have no regrets as they are the finest truffles on earth. The matching wines were superb as well and I got to finish with two of my favourite Sicilian drinks; Ben Rye passito and blood orange amaro Amara. A beautiful send off.
Gagini, 35 Via dei Cassari, www.gaginirestaurant.com
I also really enjoyed my experience at Gagini near the Vucciria market. It’s considered one of the best places to try ‘natural’ wines in Sicily (vino biologico) so I went for the four dish set menu (€70) with wine matching (€40). The food was on point with great flavours, unusual ingredients and beautiful presentation. I’m not particularly a fan of the natural wine craze, some can taste awful, but all the wines I had here were great. I was particularly happy to try a glass from Guccione, a producer much venerated by Vincenzo, my wine importer contact. The restaurant is named for the famous 15th-century sculptor Antonio Gagini (see these posts on architecture) who had his workshop in the building.
Osteria dei Vespri, 6 Piazza Croce dei Vespri, www.osteriadeivespri.it
Another highly acclaimed restaurant, further recommended by Vincenzo again. It’s located on the lower floor of the beautiful Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi palace where the ballroom scene in Il Gattopardo was filmed (from 2:16 here). They have a terrace out front which must come into it’s own on summer evenings, but I chose the air-conditioned interior as I was there for lunch.
Again I went for the set menu with wine matching. After the usual unremarkable amuse bouche, I began with a Millefeuille of eggplant, smoked provola from Madonie , tomato sauce, fresh basil, parmesan wafer and black olive powder (B). The standout dish for flavour was the Frascatole with cucuzza (long courgette), tenerumi (cucuzza leaves), oyster, mussels, clams and salmon roe. Usually made with polenta, this Trapanese version of Frascatole ‘was created by mistake when maize flour was used instead of couscous’ or some such (A). The Calamarata pasta with ndjua, aubergine, caciocavallo from Ragusa with basil mousse and wild fennel was also delicious and visually stunning (A). However the tuna crusted with poppy seeds, coconut milk, fresh mint and toasted pine nuts had too much pink pepper in the mix for me (C). The final wafer with Nebrodi hazelnuts, ricotta from Gangi, 70% Guanaja chocolate by Valrhona and a sour syrup of Frappato wine was nice (B).
Drinkswise, the Sicilian fizz to start was nice and the Nero d’Avola was good too. The final blood orange amaro was interesting. The rest were just okay. Service was okay too.The food was beautifully presented but didn’t quite have the flavours I was hoping for, which edged them into third place on my posh restaurant list.
Bars and cocktail spots next!