Although Sicilian cuisine displays many similarities to that of the Italian mainland, Spanish, Greek and Arab influences are often apparent. Here are the restaurants that we most enjoyed on our recent trip.
Trattoria Piccolo Napoli
A local favorite since it opened in 1951, this family-run seafood restaurant is mostly supplied by the owners’ two fishing boats — which explains the spectacular freshness of the catch-of-the-day menu. Start with pasta with sardine sauce, a Palermitan specialty, then enjoy some locally caught prawns or a grilled fish.
Piazzetta Mulino a Vento 4, Palermo. Tel. (39) 091-320431.
Located in the heart of Palermo, this attractive, well-run restaurant with cordial service is widely considered to serve the best food in the city. An outstanding recent dinner began with tastings of several pastas, including cuttlefish ravioli stuffed with potatoes and Sicilian saffron, and main courses of roasted tuna with basil mayonnaise, and pork saltimbocca.
Piazza Croce dei Vespri 6, Palermo. Tel. (39) 091-617-1631.
Ristorante La Vela
The only seaside restaurant in Pantelleria, this popular trattoria is better at lunch than at dinner. Start with a pasta Pantesca, with a sauce of tomatoes, onions, garlic and capers, then choose a grilled fish — the tuna, swordfish and amberjack are reliably excellent — with an insalata Pantesca composed of potatoes, tomatoes, capers and olives dressed in olive oil and fresh oregano. Reservations are essential; service is often slow, so relax and enjoy the views.
Contrada Scauri Scalo, Pantelleria. Tel. (39) 0923-916566.
This pretty and fashionable restaurant has a large terrace with wonderful views. Start with the swordfish caponata, then try the delicious seafood couscous, which reflects the Arab occupation of Sicily from the ninth to the 11th centuries.
Porto 5, Pantelleria. Tel. (39) 0923-918115.
This stylish restaurant has a lovely walled terrace, which affords fine views while protecting diners from the wind. The owner takes great pride in sourcing the best of Pantellerian and Sicilian produce for dishes such as fritto misto; spaghetti with bottarga (dried pressed tuna eggs), pistachios and lemon; and grilled squid or stewed octopus. The wine not to miss is the superb SP68 Bianco 2012 from Sicily’s Occhipinti vineyards.
Localita Punta Karace, Pantelleria. Tel. (39) 0923-691108.