A Food Lover's Guide To Palermo
The blistering sun ripens some of the nation’s—and probably the world’s—best tomatoes, and the seafood from coastal cities like Palermo, the island’s capital, is second to none. Here's how to taste Palermo like a pro.
You can't say you've been to Sicily until you've had a cannoli, and this smart little pastry shop does a delightful version with which to accompany your morning cappuccino. Even if you're not into having a delightfully fried tube of cream-filled pastry for breakfast, there are plenty of other flaky, carby gems, such as croissants replete with gianduia, and deliciously sticky baba au rum that you can take with you out to an alfresco table.
Pasticceria Sarcone, Via Sammartino 57, Palermo, Sicily, Italy; +39 091 977 4818
Although Sicily isn’t just about seafood, at this contemporary Slow Food-approved trattoria, it is. Traditional coastal recipes that are front and centre, and the Corona family, who’ve been in the restaurant business for decades, works directly with fishermen to bring in the catch of the day. You can be assured that whatever you’re eating—be it a prawn crudo or a sardine pasta—is proudly ocean-to-table.
Corona Trattoria, Via Guglielmo Marconi 9, Palermo, Sicily, Italy; +39 091 335139; coronatrattoria.com
The beautifully restored seafront palace Palazzo Butera, originally built in the 17th Century, is now home to a multidisciplinary cultural centre and the newly-opened private art collection of Francesca and Massimo Valsecchi, cementing the island’s role as a serious player on the European cultural circuit. But it’s not just an art destination—the Palazzo’s elegant, modern bistro, Le Cattive, opened by the Tasca d’Almerita family who have been making wine on the island for eight generations, offers a true taste of Sicily, making full use of the island’s best products like olive oil, octopus and tomatoes.
La Cattive, Palazzo Butera, Piazza Santo Spirito, Via Butera 18, Palermo, Sicily, Italy; +39 091 6198374
This vintage enoteca is hugely popular with the locals, and it's not hard to see why—family-owned and now helmed by the enthusiastic Vera Bonnano, the fourth generation, there are thousands of wines from all over the world, but the main draw is the extensive range of Sicilian wines from niche, artisanal producers. Stop in for an apero, or stay for light dinner—there’s a full kitchen that serves light local plates, such as Sicily’s famous bottarga, and tenerumi (zucchini leaf) soup.
Enoteca Picone, Via Guglielmo Marconi 36, Palermo, Sicily, Italy; +39 091 331300; enotecapicone.com
Tony Lo Coco became a chef by accident when the chef of his catering company walked out on him. He’d been cooking at home all his life, but at I Pupi, the tiny 24-seater he opened with his wife in Bagheria, twenty minutes from the centre of Palermo, he’s not replicating mama’s recipes. His plates are decidedly contemporary, yet intelligently plays on what it means to be Palermitan. In his “street food” tasting menu, he serves his version of the beloved street food, stigghiola, lamb’s intestine stuffed with herbs and grilled, where the intestine is replaced with tuna, and has made him one of the brightest stars in the city.
I Pupi, Via del Cavaliere 59, Bagheria, Sicily, Italy; +39 091 902579; ipupiristorante.it
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Palermo’s most essential market takes up several streets in the centre of town, and it’s no tourist destination—the streets are boisterous and chaotic—but all the better to catch a glimpse of real life. There are mountains of just-harvested produce from around the island, bursting with colour, as well as fish, herbs, cheeses and household items. Grab an arancina (a super-sized version of arancini, the fried risotto balls popular all around Italy), or sit for a few slices of pecorino and take in this thousand-year-old market.
Ballarò Market, Via Ballaro, Palermo, Sicily, Italy
This article first appeared on hk.asiatatler.com.