In my quest to be more useful to readers of this blog, here’s a quick rundown of restaurants that we liked. If you’re hungry by the end of it (or halfway through!), then you know what your stomach is telling you: visit Sicily!
This seaside town should be one of your top alternatives to Taormina, primarily because of Ristorante Il Covo Marino. I felt like I was being promised amazing seafood all the time in Sicily, but only Il Covo Marino actually blew me away. It’s one of our favorites of the entire trip: so good we went back a second time (which we never did for any other restaurant).
The entire menu undersells how spectacular everything is. Don’t miss the mixed starter, with six kinds of seafood; the giant bowl of mussels with red wine vinegar and oregano; and the spaghetti with sea urchin, all silky and al dente. Dessert, a chocolate lava cake oozing with pistachio cream, is to die for. Service is genuinely warm and friendly.
Italian-African fusion restaurant Ginger was our other big favorite of the trip. With a young, female Senegalese chef behind the concept, our dinner at Ginger was like no other.
Antipasti like arancini di couscous show how traditional Sicilian cuisine are complemented by African ingredients and flavorings. Our secondo of octopus marinated in anise, then grilled, was so good we fought over it (I won). And the granita of watermelon with cardamom and ginger was the perfect end to a colorful flavorful meal.
Also worth mentioning: aperitivi at L’Ambasciata di Sicilia, on a pretty little terrace just off the main commercial street of Via Atenea.
Pizzeria Paper Moon in Cassabile, beside the beach town of Fontane Bianche, was our first and cheapest dinner out in Sicily. Pizzas are huge and delicious, with the perfect crust that comes from the expert use of a wood-fired oven. Such a warm welcome from these people.
High above chaotic, touristy Taormina, Castelmola is one of the most beautiful villages in Sicily. La Taverna dell’Etna serves traditional Sicilian specialties; the view of the mountains from its terrace is a visual treat.
For coffee, drinks, or a granita, pop into Bar Turrisi for a laugh—its four floors are dripping with penis-themed decor.
Modern bottega FUD does big yummy burgers with choice Sicilian ingredients and artisanal flair. The too-cute spelling of everything on the menu pissed me off big time, but I’m a copywriter.
Trust Pasticceria Salva (c. 1897) to do traditional snacks well: arancini, sweets, cookies, cakes, granite, gelati, and coffee. The tartufo di gelato is the bomb!
This cute village by the seaside is an evening and weekend hotspot for locals. Touristy but pretty Piazza Regina Margherita is packed with restaurants and bars. We liked Suruq for aperitivi and Taverna La Cialoma for dinner (we booked a table on the terrace beside the sea). Prices are on the higher side.
Campisi Conserve beside Ristorante Campisi is a gold mine of Sicilian specialty food products: bottarga di tuna, dried ciliegino tomatoes, crushed pistachios, and more. Hoard as much as you can… we did!
Our last dinner in Sicily was at Trattoria Il Barcaiolo, a tiny, adorable seaside restaurant with excellent food. Truly a hidden gem, we would never have found it if not for the recommendation of the property manager at our B&B. Reservations are a must.
Lido il Caravella is a nice little beach bar with loungers for rent, snacks, lunch, and very friendly and attentive service. Expect to pay a premium for a good spot on the beach, but nothing like the highway robbery of the private beaches at Isola Bella next door. Great shakerato (iced coffee).
Modica is famous for chocolate! Try and buy at Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, Sicily’s oldest chocolate factory. Sample the aranciata, a big tangle of chocolate-covered candied orange peel (with a citrus version, the cedrata); the ‘mpanatigghi, biscotti filled with chocolate and beef, and the chocolate with chili, vanila, or cinnamon. Best souvenirs ever.
Osteria dei Sapori Perduti is a family-owned osteria that cooks traditional recipes beyond the standard Sicilian menu offerings. Dishes are affordable and tasty, the atmosphere is warm and cozy with lots of adorable family pictures.
Walk up to Locanda del Colonello for fresh, modern interpretations of Sicilian specialties. Their light yet flavorful dishes are a nice change after one too many heavy traditional meals.
Not that I ever got sick of it, but sometimes we felt like a break from the usual array of pasta and seafood. So Il Libertyno, with its casual, modern dishes (rabbit burger, hello!), craft beers, and young, hip crowd was a nice change.
Highly recommended, but we didn’t have the time to try:Trattoria di Crocifisso da Baglieri and Ristorante Il Liberty.
Presenting Sicilian concepts and ingredients with Baroque flair, Ristorante Duomo is everything you’d expect of a two Michelin star restaurant. We had a delightful three-course gourmet lunch with wine (I could have sworn it was five courses) for €59 per person.
If we hadn’t had Tala with us, we’d certainly have gone for dinner, with degustacion menus starting at €125 per person. You only live once, right?
On a hot afternoon, cool off at Gelateria DiVini with their unique gelato flavors, including a whole range of wine flavored gelato.
In Ortigia, Don Camillo served us a generous five-course “tasting” dinner that turned out to be more like five full courses, including a silky, mouthwatering, perfectly al dente spaghetti with sea urchin. We were groaning by the end of it, but I unlocked my stomach’s the secret compartment for dessert because it was just that good.
Other places highly recommended by our B&B host, a Syracuse local: Red Moon (also for spaghetti with sea urchin), L’ancora, Sicilia in Tavola, Trattoria il Cenacolo, and Ristorante Retroscena.
Please don’t eat in Taormina. You will most likely end up falling into an overpriced tourist trap. See the Greek amphitheater and get the f*ck out of there.
If you can survive on just granite, Bam Bar is a good place to have them, with their extensive menu and snappy (as in fast, not cranky) service. If you must eat, book a table at Al Giardino on the outskirts of the city, for a delicious meal with great value.
Now you know where to eat in Sicily. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as we explored only the eastern and southern coast of Sicily (Palermo and Marsala, I’m coming back for you!). But it’s a start. If I’m able to lead you to memorable meals and away from overpriced tourist traps *coughTaorminacough* then I will be happy. Buon appetito!