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Palermo

Palermo a Tavola

The Best Restaurants in Palermo

Palermo, capital of Sicily and queen of “in my opinion” and “no, this is where you go for the best arancina.” Precisely for this reason, it’s impossible to draw up a list that puts all thoughts and palates in agreement, but the following bakeries, trattorias and rosticerias are undoubtedly some of the best the city has to offer. Palermo has lots of great food, but it’s not easy to find: you need the knowledge of a local to pick the right spots. Here, the places where locals head for exceptional street food (usually fried and greasy, in the best way) and comforting, local cuisine.    

THE BEST STREET FOOD IN PALERMO

GrazianoSfincione, which loosely translates to “thick sponge”, is a soft, thick-crusted pizza, topped with (usually) tomato sauce, onions, anchovies, grated caciocavallo cheese and oregano. Graziano has been churning out some of the best sfincione in Palermo since 1957. You will not regret the ride to reach this place on the way to the sea. 

Must Order: The biggest piece of sfincione.

I Segreti del Chiostro – A monastery and pasticceria in which traditional recipes are unchanged. 

Must Order: Sicilian cannolo.

ARANCINE

Arancine, fried rice balls filled with several different ingredients, are one of the most classic Sicilian street foods. In Palermo, the word is feminine (arancina) because the round shape of the crispy treats is more similar to that of an orange, while in the regions around Catania, the maculine (arancino) is used, probably because their triangular shape resembles that of the nearby Mount Etna volcano. Start with the most traditional flavors: arancina al burro (with butter, mozzarella and prosciutto) and arancina a carne (with meat)–the best ones should have the right rice to filling ratio and should be fried to order. 

Bar Vabres – In the Botanical Gardens, the fifty-year-old Bar Vabres is a secret gem of the Palermitane.

Must Order: Arancina a carne; coffee from the specialty line, a partnership between Alessio Vabres and Etna Roaster.

Caffetteria Rizzuto – A spot in the city center without the hectic feeling of being in the city center. Meet Giuseppe, order a coffee and eat as if someone at home was cooking for you. 

Must Order: Arancina a burro (though this literally translates to “with butter”, the traditional recipe hides in its crunchy casket a wonderfully melted ensemble of stringy mozzarella and roasted prosciutto).

Bar Turistico at Arenella – Arancine facing the sea in one of the oldest harbors of the city. 

Must Order: ANY arancina, also because you probably won’t have the benefit of choosing. The arancine come out freshly fried in a random order, take whichever has most recently hit the case!

PANE CA MEUZA

A dish for strong stomachs, pane ca meuza–a small bread loaf (traditionally covered in giuggiulena, sesame seeds), cut in two and filled with veal spleen–can be schietto (seasoned with just lemon) or maritato (with the addition of ricotta and caciocavallo cheese).

Porta Carbone – Facing the sea right at the Cala, this spot is open from 8 A.M. to midnight. The walls are covered with postcards of clients from around the world who haven’t forgotten the fantastic panini from Porta Carbone! 

Must Order: Pane ca meuza, maritato.

Corso dei Mille – This is not the name of an actual restaurant, simply because this spot has no sign, no doors, no chairs, no tables. Yet, it’s one of the best places for pane ca meuza in Palermo. On Corso dei Mille, look for a Piaggio Ape car with a blue awning and a nice man. 

Must Order: Again, just pane ca meuza: the bread is particularly good because it is made by an old baker just around the corner fresh every morning! 

PANELLA AND CROCCHÈ

Another of the famous, fried street foods of Palermo is panella, chickpea flour fritters, accompanied by crocché, fried potato croquettes. 

Friggitoria Chiluzzo – The undisputed king of everything fried.

Must Order: Sandwich with panelle e crocché. Add a splash of lemon to brighten the flavors! 

I Cuochini – A hidden place behind the doors of an old building where every fried bite is miniature. Don’t be afraid of the greasiness, it lubricates the mood!

Must Order: Panelle; i pezzi di rosticceria (“little pieces”): pasticcini con carne (bread filled with meat sauce), calzone, crocché di latte (fried milk).

THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN PALERMO

At this point, assuming that you have managed to refrain from eating street food all day, there will come a time when you will also want (or need) to sit with your legs under the table. 

SIMPLE TRATTORIAS

Bisso Bistrot – A restaurant in an old bookshop in the middle of the city on Piazza Quattro Canti, one of the most fascinating squares of the city. The cuisine is simple, classic and very good.

Must Order: Eggplant rolls!

Trattoria Da Pino – THE Palermitan restaurant for typical, home cooked dishes. Better experienced than written about. Sit at a shared table and make friends. 

Must Order: The swordfish rolls are special and the glazed pasta is not to be missed.

Courtesy of Restaurant Gagini

FISH RESTAURANTS

Corona Trattoria – Family-owned restaurant par excellence in Palermo. Orazio and his dad will always welcome you with a smile and fresh, seasonal ingredients, prepared with care. The sommelier picks the best Sicilian wine to accompany your meal. 

Must Order: Pasta with sea urchins when in season!

Aja Mola – A contemporary place with incredible fish and natural wines.

Must Order: Lobster soup (purists, don’t turn up your nose!)

Osteria MercedeA classic, blue-and-white-colored spot for fresh seafood and generous pasta plates. There is no menu because the offerings always change.

APERITIVO 

Bocum – Great for a glass of wine and a selection of tapas. 

Must Order: Croutons with grilled, pickled mussels.

Cicala – the place where the oste makes the game. Ask for Filippo, the owner and leave the choice of wine to him.

Must Order: Milk croquettes.

MICHELIN

Gagini – A stylish, yet cozy restaurant (with rotating art exhibits) that serves tasting menus and à la carte options with a modern take on classic Sicilian dishes. Chef Mauricio Zillo will surprise you with dishes that smell of Sicily and have eyes towards the world!

Must Order: Tasting menu, available in 4, 5, 6, and 8 course options. 

Courtesy of Restaurant Ajamola

Graziano

I Segreti del Chiostro

Bar Vabres

Caffetteria Rizzuto

Bar Turistico

Porta Carbone

Corso dei Mille

Friggitoria Chiluzzo

I Cuochini

Bisso Bistrot

Trattoria Da Pino

Corona Trattoria

Aja Mola

Osteria Mercede

Bocum

CiCala

Gagini