Archive for the Palermo Category

Buenos Aires – Palermo Soho – Restaurants & Bars

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Palermo, Palermo Soho with tags , , , , , on November 13, 2015 by gannet39

Along with Palermo Hollywood (see separate post), Palermo Soho forms what is still sometimes called Palermo Viejo. For me it’s the biggest, and best, entertainment district in BsAs.

La Cabrera (Advanced A+), 5065 Cabrera, Palermo Soho, Tel.4832 2259, lacabrera.com.ar

For my colleagues; La Cabrera is just 25 mins and $60 in a taxi from the Hotel Sileo, so you need to meet in the lobby at 6.15.

This is my favourite steakhouse in Baires, an example of a restaurant that has got everything right, down to the last detail, as far as I’m concerned anyway. The fact that they’ve had to open an annex on the next block (La Cabrera Norte at Cabrera 5127) to cope with demand demonstrates how successful they’ve been.

I love everything about the place; the waiters in flat caps and leather aprons, the dish clothes for napkins, the food porn on the telly, the mobiles of toy cars and other amusing artworks, the pics of gorgeous female Hollywood stars in the gents (also vice versa I’m sure) and the soundtrack of accordion covers of Spandau Ballet tunes. It’s the little details like these that add so much to the experience and in my opinion it’s everything a modern parrilla should be.

Naturally a place of such quality is not particularly cheap but another great thing is that everything you order between 7 and 8pm is 40% off the asking price on the menu, including the wine. This of course is great for people who like to eat early, like the English. You should aim to arrive at about 6.45 to snag an outdoor table. The terrace was full by 7.10pm when I arrived (on a week day) so I had to sit inside. By 8pm other latecomers were queuing down the street.

While you’re waiting for you food to reach the table you’re provided with a small dish of gorgeous liver pate (B+) and a basket of different kinds of excellent bread (B+), which comes with some nice mayo (B) and delicious cherry tomatoes (A).

The half portion (still huge) of Mollejas Grilladas I had for my starter were the best I’ve ever tasted. Euphemistically known as sweetbreads (as opposed to sweetmeats), perhaps due to their sweeter taste relative to meat, they are usually just the thymus gland (found in the neck) of the cow, but here included the slightly tougher pancreas as well (A+ and B+ respectively).

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The perfectly seasoned and cooked Ojo de Bife (ribeye) was fantastic too (A+).

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Another thing I love is the multitude of little pots of extras you get with the steak which offsets the potential boredom of eating so much meat. On the tray put in front of me there were small pots of potato puree (A), pumpkin puree (A), another dish using more cherry tomatoes (A), a miniature zucchini soufflé made with parmesan and cream (A), mustard sauce (A), grilled red peppers (B+), couscous and sweet corn (B+), baby pickled onions (B+), apple sauce (B), lentils (B).

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My friendly waiter suggested a very reasonably priced Malbec by Reto www.vicentinfw.com.ar which was also excellent (A).

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To finish the Volcan de Chocolate involved a chocolate fondant with Chantilly cream studded with blueberries and ice cream and a berry sauce, which was visually stunning and tasted divine (A). This was ordered after the 8pm watershed however so it cost me $112. Given the quality I was quite happy to pay that though.

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With the bill came a tree of lollipops, as if to sweeten the blow, but it wasn’t too bad. It should have been $541 but with the 40% discount it was reduced to $324.60. The experience pressed more buttons than I knew I had. In fact I decided this could well be my favourite restaurant ever!

Don Julio (Advanced C), Guatemala 4691, Palermo Soho

According to many blogs and guides this place is also a contender for best parrilla in the city but I think many of the reviews were written before La Cabrera opened. They have got many things right but sadly the food just doesn’t score highly with me.

Arriving at 12pm without a reservation for Sunday lunch, my friend Nicky and I were surprised when we got a table outside after just a short wait of a few minutes, which had been made more tolerable anyway by a complimentary glass of fizz. The service was very efficient and polite and in no time at all we were tucking into a slab of grilled provelta (B-) and a bottle of good Malbec by Tempus (B) www.tempusalba.com.

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The Tabla de Achuras (offal platter) was ok, but the kidneys were overdone and we couldn’t finish the intestines (B-).

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My butterflied Bife de Chorizo, although usually a tough cut, was chewier than others I’d had and disappointing in flavour (C+).

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The accompanying Parrillada de Vegetales was unimpressive too and lacked any finesse (C). Another blogger who loves the place did say that the veg wasn’t great, but I didn’t listen. (Btw, his tips are to get the ribs and avoid the marrowfat peas).

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The Panqueque Dulce de Leche with vanilla ice cream rescued things a bit (B+) and the glass of 2012 Malbec Dolce from Achval Ferrer we had with it was excellent (A), but too expensive at $85 for a tiny glass.

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The final bill was $675 each, about £55, not good value as far as I was concerned.

The ambience inside is nice enough (impressive displays of wine bottles), the service is impeccable and I like the leather tablecloths but I’ll be going back to La Cabrera next time.

Cabernet (High Intermediate B+), 1757 Borges, Palermo Soho, Tel. 4831 3071, www.cabernet-restaurant.com

This is a nice spot with an open air courtyard and reasonably priced food. I came on a work outing and had the Bondiola Braseada a la Miel de Jengibre con Arroz Pilaf Oriental (roast pork loin with honey and ginger sauce with a pilaf) as I wanted a change from beef and was craving rice. It was fine (B). I also enjoyed the Bonarda from La Madrid which made a nice change from the more full-bodied Malbec (B).

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Burger Joint (Elementary B), Borges 1766, Palermo Soho www.facebook/burgerjointpalermo

This is a branch of an American chain of hipster burger bars and it’s certainly doing well in BsAs as the crowds of customers demonstrate. It’s a great business concept that presses all the hipster buttons with its graffiti covered walls, collections of Star Wars characters and other plastic dolls on the walls, menus written on old bits of cardboard suspended above the service bar and a band of buskers playing on the pavement outside.

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The one thing that lets it down is the crappy bread buns they use, which is a shame because the burgers are pretty good. I had the Mexican Combo with Papas Fritas (B-) with a plastic glass of draught Pale Ale for $90 (£4.50). I guess they’re keeping things simple to keep the prices down but if they just got a few more details right, like the buns, it would be the perfect antidote to Mac D’s.

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Post Street Bar (Elementary A), Thames 1285, Palermo Soho www.poststreetbar.com

A dive bar with walls covered in graff and street art. The best thing is the large outdoor terrace they have on the first floor. My friend Damian and I put away a few pitchers of draught beer up here one hot Spring evening.

Isabel (Advanced A), 1664 Uriarte, Palermo Soho barisabel.com

This beautiful bar is at the other end of the scale from Post Bar above. It’s one long room with a list of good cocktails and an excellent sound system and a DJ with good taste (at least when I went). I’m sure it’s packed at the weekend but I went very early on a weekday just to check it out. The door to the unisex loos is invisible unless you know where it is and once inside the mirrored walls make you even more confused. A great bar but I can imagine it would be difficult to get served once it gets busy.

Victoria Brown Bar (Advanced B+), 4827 Costa Rica, Palermo Soho victoriabrownbar.com

This place is pretending to be a secret bar (a trend in BsAs) but as soon as you enter the doorman pushes a handle and the wall moves away, revealing a very large jam-packed room, and you just walk right in. There are seats around the sides and one long bar, with about five mixologists all working at full stretch. I didn’t get served as quickly as I’d like but the cocktails were decent.

Montevideo – restaurants to avoid in Barrio Palermo

Posted in Montevideo, Palermo, Uruguay with tags , , on November 4, 2015 by gannet39

El Tinkal (Intermediate C), 853 Dr Emilio Frugoni

I came here for two reasons. Firstly to sit outside on their terrace (plastic chairs and tables, nothing posh) next to the grand promenade (South America’s longest at 42km) and watch the sun set over the Rio de La Plata.

Secondly I wanted to try the Chivito, Uruguay’s national sandwich, which is typically made with sliced churrasco beef, mozzarella, tomatoes, mayo and here with added ham, lettuce and a plate of chips on the side.

20141027_205736It was pretty greasy and horrible sadly (C) despite the fact that the Chivitos at this place are supposed to be the best in town, at least according to this website. However some reviewers did suggest the cooking here might not be as good as it once was.

I also tried a traditional dessert called Martin Fierro which despite the strange name, is just a local (and not particularly nice) cheese served with membrillo (quince jelly). I’ve had really nice manchego with membrillo in Spain but again this did not impress as it was overly sweet and there was just too much of it (C).

La Cocina de Pedro (C), 1493 Avenida Gonzalo Ramirez, www.lacocinadepedro.com.uy

I really wanted to like this place with its dark (hence no pictures) and woody decor as it came well-recommended by the same website as above, but sadly the food just didn’t cut it for me. The complimentary bowl of indiscernible meat (tongue? luncheon?) that arrived with the menu was tasteless and remained untouched.

I was tempted by the starter of Rabas (tails) which in the north of Spain would be long thin slices of battered and deep-fried squid. In the end it turned out to be the usual bog-standard calamari rings which I tend to avoid in Spain. The batter certainly wasn’t a tempura as described and the portion was way too big and most of it stayed on the plate (C-).

The grilled Salmon came with a gloopy salsa of reduced balsamic and honey which tasted brackish and unpleasant, The timbale of veg was also pretty horrible (both D). Observing my unhappiness the waiter offered to change it for something else so I played safe and went for a mixed mushroom risotto. Even this though was sub-standard, with whole mushrooms the size of my mouth, and generally lacking in finesse (C-). The portion was huge once again.

Thankfully the Sauvignon Blanc was ok (B). It was one of five Uruguayan whites recommended on this blog. The waiter also cheered me up with a complementary limoncello although this would have been served warm (yuck!) had I not specified that I wanted it with ice.

I think that if you came here and ate meat from the grill your meal would be fine, but as I’d been a carnivore for the previous three nights on the trot I was really hoping for some decent seafood.

You might fare better at Es Mercat, at Colon 1550 esmercat.com.uy, very near the hotel. It’s recommended for its mariscos by the same pesky website though, so I wouldn’t count on it. It was shut every night I tried to go.

I’m going to rail more about the poor standard of non BBQ cuisine in South America in coming posts so I’ll leave it there on this occasion. Hope you fare better than I did.

Buenos Aires – Cerviche and Sushi in Palermo Hollywood

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Palermo, Palermo Hollywood with tags , on November 23, 2011 by gannet39

Palermo wallPalermo is one of my favourite barrios in Buenos Aires and is probably where I’d choose to live if I could (I wish).  It’s also one of the biggest neighbourhoods and is subdivided into smaller areas as you can see on this map.

Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho (see separate post) together form what used to be called Palermo Viejo. The area is particularly known for its nightlife and many of the best bars and clubs are here, as well as lots of good cafes and restaurants.

The following places are in Palermo Hollywood, so called because of the number of TV and radio producers who moved here in the 90’s.

Place settingOsaka (Advanced A), Soler 5608. Tel. 4775 6964

I was very excited to come to this place as I’m a huge fan of Sushi and had heard a lot about Cerviche but had never tried it. Both are specialities of this restaurant which is reputed to be one of the best in Buenos Aires. Cerviche is an ancient food originating from Peru, where it was further refined by Japanese immigrants. I sat myself at the sushi bar where I could get a good view of the action and chat with the chefs.

Tools of the tradeInterestingly they use Japanese cutting and rolling techniques, and shout ‘sushi des’ when it’s ready but otherwise can’t speak a word of Japanese. I was here to treat myself and eat heartily and did so; obviously you could spend much less.

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 While looking at the menu, I had the house cocktail; Caipi Osaka  (A) made with vodka, passion fruit juice and fresh strawberries with a sugar halo, yum!

wasabi For the first round, I had the Degustacion Cevi where you choose three different preparations from a list of six. I went for the Wasabi which was white fish, sea bass I think, in Leche de Tigre (marinade of key lime juice, fish and hot pepper), fresh wasabi (the traditional Japanese horseradish that is usually mixed with soya for dipping the sushi into), curly sweet potato and chulpi (sweet maize) popcorn.

Also the hot and sour Indo (salmon with chilli jam, mango, coconut milk, scallons, togarashi (Japanese chilli) and topped with crispy quinoa).

Thirdly the Classiche, (fish, cerviche base, peppers, herbs and red onion, served with glazed sweet potato and lettuce). All three were absolutely amazing.  (A+)

The Torrontes white wine I wanted to try (Colome) had sold out but the waiter recommended another (San Pedro Yacochuya 2010) from the same grape which was perfect for the fish (A).

Teriyaki TemakiNext, Terimaki Temaki, a nori seaweed cone of fried langoustines, slices of salmon and lime, Philadelphia cheese and teriyaki sauce which was heaven in the mouth (A), especially when dipped in a little soya and wasabi.

DipsFor a bit of heat I was also given some yellow Aji chilli sauce, although the waiter described it as TNT!

VietnamitoAlso a plate of Vietnamito, salmon with chilli jam, ajies (chilli pepper variety), fish sauce and grated coconut. This is made in Teradito style, a Japanese-Peruvian method of preparation similar to Cerviche and Carpaccio but without onions and using Japanese fish cutting methods. Sadly this was my least favourite as I didn’t like the sweetness (C). Lots of other Teradito on the list to try though.

 2 Salmon  TemakiAfter this the 2 Salmon  Temaki, another cone of spicy salmon ‘tataki’ (seared with a gas torch) and avocado with ‘Osaka sauce’. Amazing again (A).

MisoshiruAnd Misoshiru (B) bean paste soup, which came in a square wide-lipped bowl. This offended my soup-drinking sensibilities as it needs to be in a small round bowl you can drink straight out of, so I sent it back to be changed. In Japan misoshiru is drunk instead of water at mealtimes.

Centolla NigiriFinally, Centolla Nigiri, two pieces of rice topped with king crab and held together with a band of nori seaweed, again very nice (A).

Chees MaracuyaFor dessert, Chees Maracuya (sic), a tasty passion fruit cheesecake with deep-fried basil leaves on the side (B).

Sadly the limocello was served only slightly chilled again as it always seem to be in Argentina (D) and I had it changed for a Grappa (B).

Cooking crewI was told I would need to reserve a couple of days earlier (and before 6pm) but instead I was on the doorstep when they opened at 8 and got in that way. As it turned out, there were empty tables anyway so maybe the hype has subsided a bit. My total spend with tip, $630,just shy of £100, but I would happily spend this again, it was easily worth the money.

After this wonderful experience I went to Congo at Honduras 5329 (open Wed to Sat from 8pm to 4am or 6am) for a Passion Fruit Caiparinhia (A) in their garden bar, which according to Time Out is one of the best outdoor drinking spaces in the city. This was my last night in Buenos Aires and perhaps my best. Really hope I can go again soon, love this town!

Bye Bye Blues at Mondello Beach

Posted in Italy, Mondello, Sicily with tags , , , , , , on September 11, 2010 by gannet39

Monte PellegrinoI’m more of a beach bunny than a culture vulture so I thought I’d check out the nearest beach to Palermo at Mondello. Wouldn’t recommend it at the weekend, or anytime school is out, every teenager in Palermo will be there and finding a peaceful spot is impossible. However, if you have a half day in the week, it’s a really nice place to go. The 806 bus runs from Piazza Sturzo every half hour and it takes about 30 mins. You can buy tickets from the bus drivers’ kiosk in the square.  Not sure what time the last bus is but I got the 806 at 11pm in the week. Best check though as it’s a long walk home!

nice creamA lot of the beach is public but there are a couple of private areas (the best one is just to the right of the ‘wedding cake’ construction halfway along the  beach) where you can get a sun bed for €8. If you’re going at the weekend, you would need to get there before 10 to stand a chance of getting a place. If you arrive before 9 (when they open) you should put your name on the waiting list to avoid being jumped in the queue. The water was lovely and clear in May but I’m told it gets more polluted towards the end of the summer.

Mondello is also the place Palermitans come for seafood, both the following places are excellent.

Al GabbianoAl Gabbiano (Intermediate A+), 1 Via Piano Gallo, Mondello Lido. (follow the main road to the far end of the bay where the old tower is, go past the boats and around the bend, the restaurant is on the right on the sea front). Tel: 091 450 313. GEM ALERT!

This is the sister restaurant of Biondo, the place I dissed to death in Palermo! The service was a little unfriendly again but the view and the food made up for it. Get there as soon as it opens at 7.30 (or reserve) and bag the far corner table on the terrace by the water. You get a fantastic view of Monte Pellegrino in the fading dusk, glimmering ferries leaving Palermo in the distance and the lapping of the waves is only disturbed by the occasional fishing boat chugging past. To start I had the Piato Mediterraneo which involved a raw oyster, marinaded anchovies and red prawns and a frittura of squid and larger prawns (A) for €15. The primo was Casarecce alla Cernia e Pomodorini (A), a sublime sauce of grouper and baby tomatoes on chunky pasta for €9. I washed this down with a bottle of wonderful, slightly sparkling Charme, a white from Paceo for €15. Make sure they give you an ice bucket (secchielo) to keep it chilled while you sip and meditate on the beautiful view. Total cost €48 with a Macedonia, but well worth it. A job affirming and blissful experience for me!Charme wine

Went back in 2010 and found contentment once again with four oysters (B+), Spaghetti al Gabbiano (mussels and clams in tomato sauce (A) and Zuppa di Cozze (mussels in tomato sauce with four slices of fried bread) (B+) and a bottle of Leone white wine for €46. The service (different waiters at lunch?) was much friendlier this time.

Bye Bye Blues (Advanced A++), 23 Via del Garofolo, Valdesi Mondello. (Go up Via Margherita de Savoia (the main road back to Palermo) and take first right and follow Via Pater Dei to the end, past the church. The restaurant is in front of you on Via del Garofolo. You have to ring the bell). Tel: 091 684 1415.  Opens at 8, probably best to reserve. Closed Tuesdays. GEM ALERT!

Trancio di Tonno su Cipollata con Schima di Zabione e Salsa di MarsalaThis Michelin recommended, backstreet place is on another level, one of the best seafood restaurants I have ever been to, with great staff and fantastic food. The waiters were actually running around when it got busy, and the kitchen was a frenetic hive of activity, broadcast via CCTV onto a screen in the dining room, making for fascinating foodie viewing. I felt obliged to go for the €50 Menu Degustazione (although many cheaper options are available) and a €15 bottle of the wonderful Leone IGT (Tasca d’Almerita ’08, a very famous brand). After an amuse bouche of cheese in a Trapani sauce and a goblet of vegtable soup, followed by two mini Sfincione, the Misto de Pesce Crudo arrived, consisting of raw seabass, yellowtail tuna and red prawns (B), which surprised me till I found out the head chef is Japanese. I was advised to put some Tenuta Rocchetta olive oil on it (one of the best Sicilian brands). Next came the Mosaico di Antipasti Siciliana (A/B) which included a sublime octopus in gazpacho (top combo), sardines in escabeche, and two other concoctions with bluefish and tuna. After that came the Spaghetti a la Ricci (sea urchins) (A) which I have never really appreciated in the past till I came here. The following dish was also pasta, Tagliatelle con Uova di Tonno (B) which I preferred to bottarga (dried tuna eggs as opposed to fresh in this case). The ‘secondo’ was Trancio di Tonno su Cipollata con Schima di Zabione e Salsa di Marsala (A), large flakes of tuna steak with sweet onions and egg in a marsala sauce, all nice individually but incredible when combined on the fork. Semifreddo di Ricotta con Salsa di Arance AmareThe dessert was Semifreddo di Ricotta con Salsa di Arance Amare (A), a sponge with the same cream filling as canoli, washed down with an excellent Passito di Pantelleria (Bukkuram ’05, again “one of the best”). After all that, I could only manage a couple of the lovely complementary mini biscuits. Total cost €76, but worth every cent. Go on treat yourself!

2008-2010

Don’t get stiffed in Palermo

Posted in Italy, Palermo, Sicily with tags , , , , , , on September 11, 2010 by gannet39

These reviews are from 2008/9 but many will still be relevant. Heard Cucina has gone which is a shame. Has anyone checked it recently?

Typical Palmeritan dishes include Caponata (a sweet and sour aubergine stew, served as an entree or side dish), Pasta chi Sardi (sardines with wild fennel, pine nuts and raisins), Sfincione (a street food like pizza but thicker and usually topped with anchovies, tomatoes, stewed onions and breadcrumbs), Arancita, deep-fried rice balls filled with spinach or veal, Cassata (rich ricotta cream cake with marzipan) and Canoli (ricotta cream filled cakes). Pasta alla Norma, named after a character in a Verdi opera, consists of fried aubergine in a tomato sauce. Alla Palmeritana usually means coated with breadcrumbs. The ice cream is invariably good but you might like to try Granita (shavings of fruit flavoured ice) as another cooling option.

The house red in restaurants will invariably be Nero d’Avola. It’s usually best to avoid the house white although good whites are available by the bottle. Personal favourites include Charme (pronounced ‘sharm’) and Corvo Glycine which are lightly sparkling whites, and Leone, a floral Chardonnay/Sauvignon, and Principe di Corleone all excellent with seafood. Whites from Grillo grapes can also be very good.  Others I have been recommended butwhich remain untried include Syrah, Planeta, Donna Fugata, Frappato, Firriato, Principe di Butera.

It’s easy to spend a small fortune in the restaurants here and not get-value-for-money, or in fact get completely ripped off. Below are a few suggestions on where to go, and also where to avoid! As a general rule of thumb, the places around Via della Liberta are generally more upmarket, whereas eateries off Via Roma are cheaper. See also my reviews of Mondello if you fancy a day at the beach.

Right, 300 restaurants in the Palermo area, best get busy…

CHEAPER RESTAURANTS WITH GOOD FOOD:

Il Mirto e la Rosa (Intermediate A), 30 Via Principe di Granatelli, off Via Roma, closed Sunday.

A touristy place (recommended in several guides) but very good value with friendly service and lots of choices for vegetarians. In May it’s best to get there before 8, especially if you want to sit outside on the rather narrow terrace, although it’s quieter in June. They have set menus starting at €10, going up to €30. I like the €13 option, for which you get an Insalate Caprese (A), Fettucine Meditaranee (pasta with a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, aubergine, B) or Fettucine Norma (B) and a veal escalope (A), or a plate of veg if you prefer. The red Nero d’Avola (Rallo ’08) (€7 half bottle) is very good although you might prefer the bone dry La Segreta Bianco (Planeta ’09) (€13) or the slightly sparkling white Corvo Glycine, (€12). The panna cotta is also wonderful (A). A limoncello is a bit expensive though at €4. The only negative is the frequent attention of hawkers and accordion players. If you can’t get in here, the Cafe Royal next door also has a selection of menus starting at €10, although I don’t know what the food is like.

Ristorante Altri Tempi (Intermediate A), 65 Via Sammartino, 5 mins from the Principe. GEM ALERT!

I love this place for its attitude as much as its food, which was very good value for money. It’s old school in every way, the menu is in dialect (and English) and the dishes are very traditional, and therefore possibly a bit challenging! The terrace is a popular meeting place for middle-aged blokes, I counted nineteen men to one woman outside, but don’t let this put you off. When I asked for the antipasti, seven dishes arrived at the table! I panicked about the cost but was told it would only come to €8 in all. You can also get free refills of water and wine! The starters were; 1) Vrocculi e Carduna a Pastetta (A), deep fried cauliflower and cardoons, and also chickpea fritters. 2) Favi a Cunnigghin (A), broad beans ‘a la rabbit’ i.e. with garlic, oregano and oil. 3) Pumaroro Siccu (B), sundried tomatoes with capers and a piece of cheese. 4) Caponata (B). 5) N’zalata d’arenga (C), smoked herring with orange, lemon, celery and olive oil, (too powerful for me and I’m half Norwegian). 6) Pieces of octopus, squid, mussels (B). 7) Mussu e Carcagnolu (B), which are erm..calves feet and cartilage (described as lips on the menu), actually not too bad! I had already ordered my pasta course but wished I hadn’t as I could only manage half of the above, and I was starving when I arrived! The Pasta chi Sardi (hollow pasta with sardines, dried broad beans, wild fennel and oil) was a bit too rustic for me and I could only give it a C. When I asked for a digestivo after my strawberries and canolino, three chilled bottles of homemade liqueurs were put on the table, limoncello, finochetto (fennel) and alloro (infused laurel leaves, a herbal taste like amaro but clear), all (!) delicious. Total cost €20, amazing value.

Cucina (Intermediate A), 54 Via Principe deVillafranca (between via Agrigento and Catania), Tel. 091 626 8216

Very popular with the locals due to having good simple food at great prices. The menu is spoken and changes daily. Modern, bright and simple decor. Don’t think they do reservations so get here early if you want a table for one, there will need to be more of you to sit on the terrace outside. They don’t really need your custom and there will probably be a queue at the door so they may well ask you to leave as soon as you finish! Not a problem if you are prepared for a certain level of brusqueness.

CHEAP PLACES WITH AVERAGE FOOD:

Pizzeria Bellini (Intermediate B), Piazza Bellini (off Via Maqueda, just after Quattro Canti)
Considered by many locals to be the best pizzeria in town, I think it’s pretty good but not a patch on Da Michele or Trianon in Naples. Pizzas start at €4.

Still you can sit outside in the very pleasant square surrounded by historical architecture (the so-called ‘Fountain of Shame’ with its controversial nude statues is in the adjoining square).

fountain

of shameCasa di Brodo (Intermediate B-), 175 Corso Vittorio Emanuele, open Sunday lunch, Tel: 091 321 655

A Palmeritan institution (since 1890), it has a nice art nouveau wooden interior but a slightly fusty atmosphere despite being recently repainted. It’s famous for its broth (brodo, in this case tortellini in chicken stock with parsley and chunks of celery and carrot)) which legend has it made people feel better during an epidemic at the end of the 19th century. To be honest it’s rather tasteless (C) (Italians don’t really do soup) and they seem to be living on their reputation. However it’s good value if you go for the set menus which offer a choice of two first and second courses for both fish and meat. I went for the seafood Menu della Tradizione for €18, and opted for Ravioli alla Cernia (grouper) which was great (A) but the following Involtini di Pesce Spada (a paste of swordfish, pine nuts and raisins formed into balls and grilled on a skewer) wasn’t really my thing (C), although it’s very traditional. You get water and a quartino of house wine included in the price (the white (B-) is ok). On a second visit, I had the sausage with a side order of chips which were perfectly edible but unimpressive (C). The rather unhelpful foppish manager was unable to recommend a wine with my food (“Everything is good”, I hate that!). There is an extensive but rather unattractively presented antipasti buffet too.  It’s worth the visit but twice was enough for me. Open Sundays but closed on Mondays.

If you go down the side alley next to Casa del Brodo, you enter a fascinating maze of ancient back streets. On the left as you go straight is a bizarre statue of a king holding a huge snake.

snake king

If you turn right from here you come to Piazza Garofolo which has a beautiful but derelict fountain and some pretty spectacular urban decay. I think this area was bombed in WW2 and seems never to have been rebuilt. Some of the houses look too dangerous to live in but are still inhabited.

garraffello

La Cambusa (Intermediate B), Piazza Marina (at the sea end of Corso Vittorio Emanuele)

Located next to the Giardino Garibaldi, near the La Cala yacht marina; this is a pleasant spot where you can sit outside in the square at a candlelit table. It’s been around a while (mentioned in my pre-euro Lonely Planet) and seems quite popular with locals. Not really worth a deliberate trek from town but if you are in the area it’s nice enough. I had Spaghetti alla Vongole Verace, Bisteca di Vitello alla Brace, Patate Fritte, water, a mezzo of house white and an ice cold limoncello (all B, except the chips C) for €29.50. There’s a cool little bar three doors down playing funk and reggae.

Hostaria de Ciccio (Intermediate B), Via Firenze 8 (off via Roma at the station end)

Many years ago (pre euro) Lonely Planet described this place as one of Palermo’s favourite cheap eating spots. They only had four customers when I went but the food was ok. The Zuppa di Cozze was a B, and the Spaghetti allo Scoglio a rather oily C. The house draught white (C) was €6 a mezzo as is the red. The strawberries were lovely. Total cost €31 with a limoncello and water. They have a €16 Menu Turistico and 6 tables outside, 2 large rooms inside. Closed Sunday.

Cambusone (Intermediate B), 25/27 Piazza Verdi, I missed it the first time I walked round the square but if you have Via Maqueda behind you, it’s in the far left corner of the square, behind the Theatre Massimo.

This is a popular place with locals, mentioned in Italian guides. It’s basically one big room with lots of paintings of bygone days adorning the walls. The waiters look like night club security but are actually quite friendly. The menu is fixed with three options for the second course. To start you can select from the huge buffet, about 40 types of anti-pasti. The pasta is ok, but my spaghetti with pesto and crunchy almonds (B-) was a bit oily. The waiter had problems with the minimal pairs ‘swordfish’ and ‘shellfish’ and I ended up with the former when I wanted the prawns everyone else was eating. Unfortunately it scored a D and sent it back and what I wanted instead. The full bottle of Nero d’Avola was very young and only got a C. Total cost €30 with water and dessert, which was good value but some of the food could be a bit better.

Osteria lo Bianco (Elementary C),104 Via Emerico Amari

If you are on a really tight budget and not too fussy what you eat then this place, with its sticky plastic tablecloths, may be an option. Primis are only €4 and secondos €6. I had Spaghetti all Acciuga Rosa (C), basically pasta with tomato puree, garlic and raisins, which arrived suspiciously quickly. I followed this with Arrosto Panato (C) which I was told differed from Cotolet Milanese by being roasted rather than fried, but it tasted deep fried to me. The first sip of wine was shudder inducing but went down reasonably well after that (you can’t really complain for €2 for a mezzo) and the limoncello an unheard of €1.50. Total cost €17 with salad and bread. There is a ‘buffet’ with about four items on it, including boiled spuds. I scored the food C for edible as opposed to D for inedible. Probably best to go for simple stuff like a veal steak and boiled greens. Go late and point at other people’s food! Nice lady serving.

Al Duar (Intermediate B/C), 28 Via Marino Stabile

You can get couscous in a lot of places in Palermo but I thought I would try out this long-standing Tunisian place and it was definitely worth it for the money paid. They do Italian dishes too but the best and most cost effective option is to get the four-course Menu Completo Tunisimo. The first course is Gilbena (B, a veal stew with peas and potatoes), Mescuita (C, a puree of grillend peppers and onion used as a condiment) and Merghes sausage which I added to the couscous later. Second course is Brik (B), a kind of crispy pancake with potato, tuna, egg and parsley) and Cebtia (C), a fried rissole of potato, veg and parsley which failed to impress. The third course was the couscous itself, I chose the meat version with vitello (B) and the accompanying semoule (C) which was made with the stock rather than being simply steamed which I prefer. Ask for harissa to whip into the couscous stock if you like it hot. If there’s two of you, you get a fourth course of Safoud, a spit of veal and veg, but you will probably be too full to eat it! Finally there was a fruit macedonia. All this with a half liter of water and a quartino of house red (C) for €17, cheap and very, very filling.

There’s a friendly and very comfy gay-run bar next door to the above. The Spanish brandy was a bit pricey at €6, though local drinks will be cheaper. There is a Phillipino restaurant next to this (always empty) , and a Chinese place at number 87 (although there’s a posher Chinese at 56 Principe de Belmonte).

M.R.S. di Tharsan, 3 Via Torre Arsa, (Intermediate B/C), just off Via della Liberta.

A Tamil restaurant selling Indian dishes. The interior looks very atmospheric although probably too warm, but you can sit outside on the street too. The starters I had pandered to the local taste for deep fried rustici, three balls of channa dahl, lentils, rice, with hot sauces, that were ok but nothing special. I opted for a thali of four curries, a delicious dahl and a nice fish curry but these were offset by a disappointingly flavourless chicken curry ,a rather bitter aubergine concoction and a very soft popadom. The beers were a reasonable €2. With fruit and a grappa it came to a very cheap €20. Good if you know what to order.

Ristorante Moon India (Elementary C), 35 Via Marino Stabile

Actually Bangladeshi rather than Indian, with a rather grumpy owner but his family are nice. Great samosas to start and the tandoori mixed grill (4 pieces of chicken and a rather non-descript seekh kebab) was delicious with yoghurt. The Chicken Jalfrezi and Tarka Dahl were very disappointing though, and the naan too doughy, however total cost with two Moretti beers (dirt cheap at €3 for 660ml) was €15. Fixed veggie menu for €7 includes samosas, saag paneer, tarka dahl, rice, naan, and rice pud.

MEDIUM RANGE PLACES WITH GOOD FOOD:

Antica Focacceria di San Francesco (Intermediate A), 58 Via A Paternostro

One of the oldest eating places in Palermo, since 1834, with a not particularly interesting Stile Liberty (Italian Art Nouveau) interior.

San Francesco

You can choose to eat off plastic inside or off porcelain on the nice terrace in the square outside as I did. Set menus from €6 to €12, salads for around €6, pizza and foccacia too. I had the rustici (rice balls, bechamel croquettes, chick pea fritters, pizza, caponata) followed by Analleti al Forno (pasta rings baked with tomatoes, mince, peas and parmesan), all delicious. A mezzo of draught house red was €4. You can choose desserts from a tray brought to your table.

The large cauldron in front of you as you go inside contains milza (veal innards, specifically lungs and spleen) an ancient Palermitan snack, served in a panino with shavings of caciocallo cheese and tasting rather like liver, actually rather nice.

milza

2016 update: The owner of Antica Focacceria di San Francesco recently featured on Gino D’Acampo’s ‘Italian Escapes’ as he’s famous for bravely refusing to pay the mafia their ‘pizzo’ or protection bribe. The anti-mafia campaign Addiopizzo got its start here. For that reason alone they should be supported.

La Dispena dei Monsu (Intermediate B), Via Principe

A nice place with an atmospheric off-street terrace, candlelit so not good for reading, and a soulful selection of cool sounds on the CD player. The food is good, a modern take on traditional classics. The main menu is reasonable but many dishes weren’t available and the daily specials are pricier. The crostini with baby tomatoes and oregano (€2) were rather brittle. The Tagliatelle con Pesto e Mandorle was crunchy but you couldn’t taste the almonds. The Lacerto (veal) in Agglace al Frebbiano (onion sauce) was delicious whilst the accompanying contorno of apple caponata was interesting but there was too much off it. Wine is only sold by the glass, but I wasn’t too impressed by the €18 Cos (Azienda Agricola ’06) which the waiter recommended. Total cost €39 with water and cover.

Piccolo Napoli (Intermediate B), 4 Piazzetta Mulino al Vento (at the beginning of a side street on the right of Corso Domenica Scina as you walk down to the Borgo Vecchio).

A mid-range place in the Borgo Vecchio, recommended by Gambero Rosso and a local fixture for over sixty years. The location and interior decor is nothing special but the service was friendly. Every table was full when I arrived but I managed to get one after a few minutes wait. After some delicious olives (A) and a plate of Caponata (B), I had the Spaghetti alla Marinara (A) which wasn’t much to look at, being mainly cubed squid with the odd prawn, but the pasta had been finished perfectly in the stock and it tasted wonderful. The following grilled prawns were big and juicy but a bit disappointing (B) for this Norwegian (must remember cold water prawns have much more taste and order something else next time I’m in the south). The accompanying €13 bottle of Leone was already my favourite local white wine (A) and went perfectly with the seafood. Total cost €62 (the prawns were €18 and I had two limoncellos) as it was my first night and I was treating myself, but you can eat more cheaply here.

Ristorante/Pizzeria Le Volte (Intermediate B+), 12 Via Agrigento, open Sundays.

A good quality place recommended by the hotel, I went a couple of times till I found cheaper places. The Busiati al Pesto di Pistacchi di Bronte (pasta twists in a pistacchio and bacon sauce) was original (B) and the Risotto al Nero di Seppia con Salsa di Fasolari (risotto in squid ink with chargrilled clams) was very good (A). Wasn’t so keen on the Scontatissimo Involtino alla Siciliana which was balls of veal mince grilled on a skewer, with mash and mushrooms (C). Ask the price when given suggestions, the fish with cherry tomatoes ended up costing €22.50 alone. House half bottles of Nero d’Avola (Desio ’06) cost €7. I wasn’t too impressed by the local Bianco d’Alcamo at €10 for a full bottle. Open Sundays.

There’s a Japanese sushi place called Tribeca at the posh end of Via Marino Stabile at #134, full of beautiful people but a bit too expensive for me.

EXPENSIVE PLACES WITH GOOD FOOD:

Officina del Gusto Bye Bye Blues (Advanced A+), 316 Corso Vittorio Emanuele (where it meets Via Maqueda at Cuatro Canto), Tel. 091 6111568, http://www.officinabyebyeblues.com GEM ALERT!

This is a satellite restaurant of the fantastic original in Mondello (see below), one of my favourite restaurants in Italy. You can sit outside or in. Nina and I went for the €40 Menu de Degustation and weren’t disappointed. After an amuse bouche of mussels and clams in a courgette sauce and a mini sfincione (like pizza but different dough?) the main event started with amberjack fish in a pea soup (A) followed by rolls of squid and a lemon sponge in lemon sauce (B), spaghetti in a ragu of tuna and tomato (A), tagliolini cooked in squid ink (A+) and fish croquettes (B-), finishing with homemade ice cream in a bavarese cream sauce (A). The white wine (Schietto ’08) made of Grillo grapes from the Spadafora IGT was fantastic (A+) and a bargain at €14. I had a Passito sweet wine with dessert and an Amaro di Capo digestivo too. It’s fantastic value for what you get, beautifully presented dishes without compare in terms of taste. They also sell deli items, both local and international.

La Scuderia (Advanced A-), 9 Viale del Fante, just a few doors towards town from the stadium.

Recommended by a local businesswoman, this is the place to take your industry contacts to impress them. The food is good but pricey, you are basically paying for the service (I prefer to pour my own wine). The Pasta alla Norma (B) was pretty but I had better elsewhere, the seared tuna steak also. There’s a great wine list but bottles start at around €15. Three courses with wine cost €54, wouldn’t go again.

EXPENSIVE PLACES WITH BAD FOOD:

Ristorante Pizzeria Biondo (Intermediate C), 15 Via G.Carducci, 15 mins from the Hotel Principe.

Recommended by both hotels I stayed at, but with overpriced and often badly made food. The waiter I got was brusque and unhelpful, though the others were ok. It might be better on a different night but I wouldn’t go again. The Antipasti della Casa included some lovely grilled sweet peppers and caponata but the rustici and mushrooms were horrible. The Agnello Siciliana (roast lamb with rosemary) was tough and the burnt roast potatoes were going soggy in the gravy, an insult for €18. The house Nero d’Avola (Campo Reale ’08) was good (B+). Got some free, very dry fig rolls and amaretti at the end. Had to make them switch off the music because the speakers were so bad on the small terrace. Total cost, with an amaro, €49, a rip off as far as I was concerned.

Trattoria ai Normanni (Intermediate D), 25 Piazza Vittoria

Listed in several Italian and English guides this place is taking advantage of it’s lovely setting in a Norman square near the cathedral to rip off unsuspecting tourists, look at the outside by all means but don’t go in! The service was pleasant enough but the small portions of food were badly cooked (I sent back my €10 Spaghetti alla Pescatora but was so hungry I had to eat my burnt Controfilletto ai Ferri alla Palermitana with iceberg lettuce). The prices look ok on paper but the house Nero (admittedly quite good) was an extortionate €5 for a quartino, and they wanted to charge the same for a digestivo. My starter of Vari Antipasti varied between A for the deep fried calmaretti, B for the marinaded anchovies and Polpo alla Greca (octopus with olives, capers and basil) and C for the worst chick pea fritters so far and piece of fish with raw garlic. My replacement primo Casarecce Salsiccia e Pomodoro was ok. I was going to score them a C but then the bill arrived…

Ristorante Pizzeria Peppino (Intermediate C), 49 Pizza Castelnuovo, at the end of Via dell Liberta

Red chequed tablecloths in a tunnel like room. Owner was rather pushy. Had a very doughy pizza for €5 and paid nearly the same for water and cover. Other food (and places) probably better.

BARS:

Acanto Blu (Intermediate A/B?), 10 Via TorreArsa , just off Liberta

This place has an atmospheric courtyard with palm trees and a South American feel. They do food (prices look reasonable) but I have only had drinks here. It was also the only bar I found that had fresh limes and could consequently do a half-decent caiparinha, although the sugar is a bit coarse. Cocktails are €5/6. A nice place for an apertivo or a digestivo. Opens 6.30.

Via dell Orologio, along with the next parallel street and the square at the end, is a good spot for bars and light night drinking. I liked the Moroccan vibe of Caffeteria il Siciliano at 37 Via dell Orologio which has outdoor floor cushions in the adjoining alleyway.

OTHER USEFUL INFO:

Filippo’s at 219 Via M. Stabile, is a great salumeria (“the best” according to the IH rep) for stuff to take home, or for self catering. He’s brusque at first but lightens up if you work on him and show some knowledge.

Vucchiria marketAnother good place for take home treats is Antica Drogheria (spelling?) at 45-51 via Porta Carini, in the Capo street market. Antonello, the shop manager (his auntie owns it), is a great salesman and an excellent English speaker (and wannabe teacher!). He proudly showed me an article on his shop in the Sunday Times magazine and was over the moon when I countered with his accolade in the Easyjet in-flight brochure. Many of the products (pesto in particular) are homemade by his family. I went for the extra-virgin olive oil, super-dense and best for salads, and the giant capers (total cost €15).courgette varieties

The Hotel Principe has a gym and internet (€4 p/h or €10 for 24 hours).

There’s a Carrefour supermarket in the basement of Oviesse at 30 Via della Liberta.

There is an upmarket internet place at 41 Piazza Sturzo (€3 an hour).There are cheaper Bangladeshi-run internet places opposite each other on Via E. Ximenes, the friendliest being at 37a, both cost €2 an hour.
sharkThis is in the Borgo Vecchio, a vibrant multi-cultural slum, with lots of street food and market stalls where you can see whole tuna and swordfish being chopped and sold.

If you’re staying at the Hotel Plaza Opera (great staff, top breakfast) you can get an hour of free internet if you ask (they don’t advertise it). It’s €4 for an hour otherwise. You also get a free welcome glass of Prosecco if you give the barman the small gold disk by your bed.

There’s another Internet place at 3a Via Sammartimo (€1 per 20 mins).

The stalls in Piazza Verdi sell international newspapers.

Huge Feltrinelli bookshop at 133 Via Cavour.

There is a public swimming pool near the stadium, but you need some kind of pass to use it. The staff said there is another at Via Belgio but I didn’t have time to check it out.

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