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Part One of Sicily trip report and the perils of being a chowhound in Palermo

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Part One of Sicily trip report and the perils of being a chowhound in Palermo

erica | May 10, 2005 07:28 PM

We just returned from a week in Sicily, a week which turned out wonderful after a bad start. We arrived from the airport on a Sunday, May 1, a national holiday. Five minutes after checking into our hotel, I went down to the front desk to ask the (female) receptionists help in choosing and phoning restaurants for a reservation that night. Since it was a holiday, and a Sunday, my first choices, including all of the slow food spots we called, were closed. Five minutes into our discussion of where to eat, a man walks into the hotel, brandishes a knife, and proceeds to lift my wallet and the contents of the cash drawer behind the desk. After a horrific few hours and some fun with at the police station (they were charming and did give us a quick city tour in the squad car, but could do nothing to remedy the situation, of course) we decided to try Santandrea, which was recommended by Mario B. on the Babbo website. This turned out to be a good, small restaurant with traditional Palermitan dishes and some innovative items on offer. I began with a pasta dish with fava beans, artichokes and peas (all in season in early May) and followed with giant grilled gamberoni, what I would refer to as a type of crayfish.. The bf had swordfish involtini, very good. Overall I would recommend this place; no thrills but well-prepared food and friendly service in pleasant surroundings just off Piazza San Domenico.

Next day lunch was at Foccaceria San Francisco, a slow food member. The huge cauldron of unusual looking meats (I think spleen although the cook said it was lungs) looked like the thing to eat but we were not up to it, so settled for arancini and a dish of fried chick peas along with spaghetti a la Norma for me and an egglplant entree for my friend. We sat outside in the piazza along with a crowd of mostly locals. Good service and convivial atmosphere but the food was not overwhelming. Still, I recommend a visit...braver souls will try the famous spleen dish.

That night on a(n) (American) friend's recommendation we tried Aranci Blu, near the Politeama theatre. This place has no sign out front. There is a lovely outdoor area for drinks that looked like a great place to while away the time before a dinner. The menu has some interesting dishes on offer, as well as the by-now usual dishes. I cannot remember most of what we ate, except I did not care for the tuna involtini that I had as the secondo. I think it was just a poor choice, for the first courses of pasta (artichokes and peas again and one other dish) were yummy and desserts were good, too. The room is contemporary, stark white and handsome; service was scattered and the other guests were locals, many seemed to be celebrating a special ocasion. I'm sorry if I am being so vague here, I think I was in shock for the two days in Palermo.

From Palermo we drove to Agrigento where we had dinner across the street from our hotel, the Colleverde Park, at Trattoria dei Templi. This is a casual spot with solicitous service and much better than you might expect for a place smack in the tourist zone. Most of the diners were fellow tourists but the food was surprisingly good, beginning with an antipasto buffet featuring terrific caponata, artichokes, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes,and other typical Sicilian dishes. I had a main of grilled shrimp and the bf had a veal dish with eggplant and cheese. Quality of the veal was not great but overall the dish was satisfying and I would recommend the place highly for seafood and vegetable dishes especially.

Too tired now to cover Siracusa and Taormina but I will return soon!

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