Palermo's 10 Best Restaurants and Osterias for Local Flavour
Few culinary traditions are as rich as that of Sicily. Built over centuries, bearing the most varied of influences and priding itself on the availability of an impressive range of ingredients and recipes, regional cuisine is one of Sicily’s most invaluable treasures. This revisited version of our previous guide presents ten of the best places to taste these flavours in the island’s capital Palermo.
Located a few steps away from the Teatro Massimo, in the historic centre of Palermo, Ristorante Ferro opens onto an ample square where guests can enjoy dining in the shadow of ancient palaces. A modern and contemporary ambience characterizes the place and the menu. The latter is in fact a modern reworking of traditional dishes prepared with fresh and seasonal produce: among the many tempting options are the risotto with spumante (sparkling wine), salmon, turnip tops and sea bass in a salt crust with potatoes and beetroot mayonnaise.
Osteria Ballarò, Palermo | Image Courtesy of Osteria Ballarò
Born with the precise intention to maintain and celebrate the richness of Sicilian culture and its culinary tradition, Osteria Ballarò developed as a complex project that stretches beyond the boundaries of mere restaurant. Located within the former stables of Palazzo Cattolica, Osteria Ballarò rigorously crafts its menu out of local Sicilian ingredients as well as some niche local products. Traditional street food like arancine and panelle can be taken away, while typical Sicilian dishes like caponata and canazzo, or a mouth-watering variety of traditional mains, can be enjoyed served on ceramic plates produced in the region, accompanied by local wines.
Al Fondaco del Conte welcomes diners into a warm ambience decorated in contemporary, understated style. The ancient structure that now houses the restaurant once served as a fondaco, or a resting place for carters in bygone times. Eggplant or swordfish and mint caponata, mussel soup and sea urchin tagliatelle and chicory and gorgonzola risotto are among the specialities served here. The adjacent Ballarò market, one of the oldest in Palermo, lends its vibe, colours, exotic flavours and alluring scents to the area, imbuing Al Fondaco del Conte with the enduring, multicultural essence of Sicily.
With its seaside location in heart of Palermo, Kursaal Kalhesa is a one-of-a-kind bar and restaurant. Comfortable silk cushions invite visitors to nestle under the vaulted ceilings, sipping a drink or browsing through the on-site bookshop and rotating art exhibitions. With a rich music programme and a schedule of literary events, Kursaal Kalhesa attracts a culture-thirsty crowd. The refined dining room of the neighbouring restaurant serves Sicilian and Middle Eastern dishes, which can also be enjoyed in the luxuriant 15th century stonewalled courtyard. Perfect for culture-lovers and old-fashioned romantics too.
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If you’re looking for a welcoming, cosy and typically Sicilian place to eat, then Andrea and Alberto Rizzo’s Osteria dei Vespri is perfect for you. Located on the square of the Cross Vespers, the restaurant nods to cosmopolitan fare, but all the dishes are prepared using fresh and local ingredients. Wines from Sicilian and Italian producers sit alongside a number of foreign options on the attentively selected wine list. Counting on the expert suggestions of the Rizzo brothers, guests can choose between the ‘Earth’ or ‘Classic’ tasting menus, and try specialities like ricotta cheese ravioli with fried zucchini, extra virgin olive oil and Nocellara tuna, or the boneless leg of duck with peppers, fresh herbs, white wine and vegetable caponata.
If you go to one place in Palermo, it has to be Pasticceria Cappello, a Sicilian mainstay. Situated in Via Colonna Rotta, in the heart of the historic centre of the city, the pasticceria first opened as a dairy in the 1940s, was then turned into a bar before finally becoming the famous family-run pastry shop you see today. Over the years, master pastry chef Salvatore and his son Giovanni havebrought to perfection the art of creating chocolate and pastry. Taste buds will be tickled by the sight of desserts like the seven layer cake, the chocolate mousse with pears flambés, the sponge cake with almonds and pistachios and the typically Sicilian cassata and cannoli.
Opened with the aim of creating a space where guests could gather surrounded by a fascinating historical ambience and feast upon excellent food, Gagini Social Restaurant sits between Piazza Marina and the vibrant old market of La Vucciria. The convivial essence of the restaurant centres around the ‘social table’, which allows diners from different corners of the world to dine together in the round. The soft glow of candlelight illuminates the 16th century stone walls, wooden doors and low arches of the venue, while on the menu modern European influences blend with classic Sicilian flavours in dishes like lemon risotto with tuna eggs, courgette pesto, and toasted almonds, or Cinisara roast beef with Sicilian ricotta.
Located on top of a headland just outside central Palermo, Villa Costanza enjoys breath-taking views over the gulf and the city. The ample terrace is immersed in greenery and hosts aperitif events in the summer, giving you the perfect excuse to sip on creative cocktails and nibble on finger food. The covered dining space is decorated in a light and modern style and offers both pizzeria and restaurant options. While pizzas are cooked in the traditional wood-fired oven, the kitchen sprinkles the typical dishes of the Italian and Mediterranean cuisine with modern and creative notes.
A’Cuncuma, with its intimate ambience and refined but unpretentious atmosphere, invites guests to nestle at one of the tables of its homely dining room and browse through its rich menu and abundant wine list. With a particular attention given to the juxtaposition of classic and innovative notes in his dishes, chef Vincenzo Pinto aims to breath new life into traditional cuisine. With an abundant tasting menu available, typical Sicilian dishes with a contemporary and creative twist are the strength of the restaurant, as are the many and carefully selected wine labels.
Lo Scrigno dei Sapori, Palermo | Image Courtesy of Lo scrigno dei sapori
Located in heart of Palermo, just a few steps away from the historic Zisa castle and its gardens, Lo Scrigno dei Sapori offers a refined environment in which to taste the fusion of international and local Sicilian dishes. Furnished in a classic style with a modern twist, with elegant upholstered chairs and soft light diffusing from candleholders, the restaurant prides itself on serving a varied menu mainly focused on fresh locally fished produce from the sea, as well as other typically Sicilian specialities. Also a pizzeria and wine bar, Lo scrigno dei Sapori is bound to please all tastes.