I was in Palermo in January and these were my best finds...
Piazza SantAndrea 4. Not the nicest area to be walking around in the dark but the food and presentation were really good someone in the kitchen obviously takes pride in what they send out. (Just off a road off a road off via roma near corso vittorio emmanuele) It might be worth booking this in advance as I suspect when there are more people about it might be hard to get in. The food is certainly good enough for this place to be hard to get in to. firstname.lastname@example.org or +39 091 334999.
Via E. Amari 64. (Harbour end rather than via della liberta end) Supermarket/wine shop/deli that has a hot food counter and also makes fresh pizzas. Will also sell you a plate of ham/cheese etc based on weights. You can pick up a beer/cold drink from the fridge and they will give you a ticket with the right prices marked. Very cheap lunch. But really, really good. Lots of Palermitans go there for lunch and between 1 and 2:30 its pretty crazy, best plan is to get someone to scout out a table and someone else to sort out food, otherwise you wont be able to sit down best bet is to get there slightly early or slightly late that way its a bit more relaxed. The place seems to open at the normal sort of shop time in the morning and unlike most places does not close between 1 and 4. The bread was fresh, the prosciutto crudo fantastic and the pizza divine. A find worth advertising as its not in any of the books we had.
Dont bother to go to ai vecchietti (sp?) as it really isnt worth it go back to the santandrea which is incidentally closed on Sundays.
Palermo is a major port town with gorgeous food markets, especially la Vucciria market. It is an experience to go to the market although it is hard to buy anything unless you plan to cook a meal, it is still worth a visit. A Moorish influence is evident in both the architecture and the food of Palermo, so the restaurants have a very different feel here than even the rest of Sicily.
Ai Mandarini serves stunning seafood. At just 30 seats, Osteria dei Vespri, right off of Piazza Croce, is as tiny as it is delicious. I never visit Palermo without going there at least twice. It is casual, friendly, in a magical setting and they serve a combination of traditional sicilian food in a modern way. Great wine list and specials. Il Ristorantino, despite its diminutive name, is anything but small. They serve excellent fish and creative antipasti in a quiet residential setting that you might have otherwise passed by. Do not miss Santandrea, just off the piazzetta of the same name, steps away from the Vucciria market. Their wine list is among the best in Sicily, and this would be the place to have your first taste of pasta con le sarde and understand the hullabaloo about something so perfect, so poetic, so right...
25 kilometers out of town, in Villafrati is a place that certainly merits the voyage called il Mulinazzo. Let the chef rip on a tasting menu (degustazione), as it will be worth the entire trip, and a return... This was one of the most memorable meals that I have ever had. It is slightly formal and out of the way but what an authentic experience. This place won best restaurant of the year in Italy two years ago.
Il Mulinazzo is gone!!! :-(
We drove all the way out there and there was a different restaurant there. We decided not to try it, and went back to the city to eat at Santandrea. Couldn't get in. Wound up at some touristyish place on Vittorio Emanuale. Not the most Palermitan experience, but the Pasta alla Norma was terrific.
We were in Palermo last month for one night before flying home. Had an excellent meal at Cin Cin, a lovely restaurant near the harbor, just off the main shopping boulevard. I had made reservations in advance, and didn't realize that there were 2 4 course prix fix meals: meat and fish. I had the fish - caponnata with octopus (which I had always been squeamish to try, but it was delicious), swordfish rolls, pasta with seafood, and lemon mousse for dessert. My husband and daughter had the meat - a ricotta zucchini pumpkin souffle, pasta with a pesto made with 3 kinds of nuts, filet mignon with potatoes, and a hazelnut semi freddo for dessert. Very reasonably priced (I think it was about 30 or 35 euros a person), and good house wines by the glass. Vincenzo Clemente, the owner, was charming and attentive. Our son is not the most adventurous eater, and he customized his dinner selection - our son voted it the best dinner of our 10 day trip! I agree, and would certainly recommend this restaurant without hesitation!
We had a great meal at Sant'Andrea, but the atmosphere in the piazza is less than ideal. Hopefully, it's not enough to spoil your experience. If you read Peter Robb's MIdnight in Sicily (a great book to read before you go to Sicily), it details the owner's commitment to food and Palermo.
Very close to Sant'Andrea is I Grilli (it's basically behind the San Domenico church). It's on the second floor and you have to be buzzed in, but don't let that scare you. It is run by a very friendly family and the atmosphere and food are excellent. The price is comprable to Sant'Andrea.
If you're lokking for an upscale meal, go to Nuova Citta and check out Sotto Sopra for a modern interpretation of Sicilian classics. The seafood was superb, and the menu is changed daily.
I want to thank everyone here for recommending Santandrea.
We had dinner there last night, and the food was excellent.
Every couple of years I try the Cuttlefish pasta in ink, and have never liked it.
Always fishy or even bitter.
But here at San'tAndrea it was divine!!!
The tuna was perfect, and the rack of lamb coated with nuts, and baked, (although called a cutlet on the menu) was melt in the mouth.
So thank you to the people here for recommending it.
La Muciara di Nello El Greco
+39 091 957868
Via Roma, 105
Santa Flavia - loc. Porticello PA
It's a bit outside Palermo and has wonderful fish. I was taken to Charleston last summer, and it was great -- very old school -- but I was with a local notable. We went to Sant'Andrea when it was new and thought it was awful, but that was years ago and clearly it has improved.
The great one was Il Mulinazzo, and it does indeed seem to be gone, both a mystery (to me, at least) and a misfortune.
There's a little place in the Vucciria market called something like Il Maestro del Brodo. I haven't been there but I've seen it from the outside and it was highly recommended by a friend here in Rome. Otherwise, I haven't had great experiences in Palermo, leaving me with the impression that the best Sicilian food -- which is very, very good -- is not being served in the restaurants. I've had better luck around Catania, but that is undoubtedly because of local company.