Taormina lies on the east coast of Sicily, an ancient town whose origins predate even the coming of the Greeks to Southern Italy. While exploring this town’s rich history, you can choose to eat anywhere from Michelin-starred restaurants to local trattorias. Here’s the ten best to try.
La Capinera is run by one of Sicily’s finest chefs, Pietro D’Agostino. From the restaurant, located just north of Taormina, you can look out across the Ionian Sea. La Capinera is listed in countless restaurant guides and has a reputation as one of Italy’s finest restaurants. They hold a Michelin Star and on the menu you’ll find starters of mixed raw seafood served with local lemons, Mozia salt and olive oil or locally grown pumpkin soup with steamed fish, buffalo mozzarella and candied fruit. Move on to a main of wild duck and caramelised chestnuts and orange, or fillet of beef with foie gras.
Enjoy fresh seafood at Trattoria Don Ciccio | Courtesy of Trattoria Don Ciccio
At Trattoria Don Ciccio you can sit out on the terrace and watch the daily comings-and-goings of Taormina. It’s located just up from the duomo in the center of town. Trattoria in Italian means a place to eat that’s a little less formal than a ristorante, and a little more formal than an osteria. At Trattoria Don Ciccio they keep things simple. The menu includes options like calamari, mussels and octopus served with salad and bruschetta; rigatoni with clams, parmigiana and aubergine; local tuna cheese with onion marmalade, all served with a glass of Prosecco.
Balcony view from Ristorante al Duomo | Courtesy of Ristorante al Duomo
In the ancient heart of Taormina is the Cathedral Church of St Nicola of Bari, and directly opposite is the Ristorante al Duomo. The chef Gaetano Messina serves up traditional Sicilian cuisine using local ingredients to prepare dishes like macco di fave di leonforte and spaghetti di grano duro alla bottarga. The local Sicilian wines come recommended by many to accompany the traditional desserts served, such as cannoli alla ricotta.
Casa Giolì is a delightful place to dine in the middle of Taormina. The restaurant also functions as an exhibition space for sculpture, photography and paintings, so the interior is constantly changing. The open kitchen lets you watch the chefs prepare your dinner. All the pasta and breads are made fresh using Sicilian wheat, and the fish on the menu like cuttlefish, tuna and amberjack is caught locally too.
Beautiful display at Osteria RossoDiVino | Courtesy of Osteria RossoDivino
An Italian osteria is traditionally a place serving simple, local food and wine. Osteria RossoDiVino opened up in the middle of Taormina in 2012, in a building constructed for the Duke of Santo Stefano in the 14th century. They serve up food and drink a little more refined than the name might suggest, with a wine list featuring well over one hundred carefully sourced local vintages. The menu, featuring fresh seafood and meat, changes daily, and the waiters will happily explain the dishes to you.
Ristorante Le Naumachie takes its name from the curious naumachie built by the Romans. These are 100-meter (328-foot) high walls that once supported huge reservoirs of water used to irrigate the fields surrounding ancient Taormina. The restaurant opened in 2006 in the center of town and has been profiled in The Times for the quality of the cuisine. Chef Francesco Aversa comes from a long line of Sicilian cooks and brings together traditional flavors with a contemporary vision. On the menu you can find dishes like swordfish ravioli, red tuna tartare, guinea fowl with demi-glace of honey brandy, and lamb with a pecorino crust.
Al Saraceno boasts one of the finest settings on the island. It’s built into the side of a mountain just north of central Taormina, below the ancient church of Madonna della Rocca and an ancient Arab castle. From the restaurant you can see the Ionian Sea and enjoy a classic Sicilian menu with pizzas made in a firewood oven. On the menu you can choose from fish courses like sea bass, sardines, tuna, prawns, as well as meats prepped Sicilian-style like pork, lamb and beef.
The most fashionable place in town, just off the historic Corso Umberto that runs through Taormina is La Giara. Originally it was a nightclub that opened in 1953 and was frequented by the likes of Ava Gardner, Sophia Loren, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. By the 1980s it had become a restaurant with a rooftop terrace that showcased magnificent views out towards the brooding presence of Mount Etna and the Bay of Naxos. Today the menu holds antipasti of raw tuna and scallops with thyme and lemon, then primi and secondi of tagliatelle with crab, amberjack and pistachio, or swordfish with aubergine and balsamic vinegar.
Two Michelin-starred Principe Cerami is located in the San Domenico Hotel. It takes its name from the local aristocrat who turned what had been a Dominican monastery into a hotel in 1868. Michelin describes the cuisine of chef Massimi Mantarro as ‘magical.’ You’ll need to book well in advance to get a table and wear something smart for the dining room. But it’s said to be well worth the effort, with antipasti dishes including Hereford beef fillet brought over from Ireland, served with salted capers and Sicilian almonds, and main courses such as red sea bream, cooked and raw, with mille-feuille vegetables.
Close to the exquisite San Domenico Palace Hotel is the Osteria Nero D’Avola. The osteria was mentioned in a New York Times article on best things to see and best places to eat in Taormina. There’s an emphasis on showcasing the flavors of Sicily and you’ll probably find the chef Turi Siligato out of the kitchen and explaining where he has sourced each of the ingredients he’s used in your dinner.