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Foodie looking for the real restaurants in Sicily

We're off to Sicily in early October and staying in the South East but also travelling around the island by car. Looking for restaurant suggestions but particularly the character ones where decor is not important but the food is! The ones used by the locals and not the tourists. I have already identified most of the Michelin Guide type ones for our "special" meals but now looking for quality, character and the real Sicily at affordable every day prices. Particularly anywhere around Comiso/ Vittoria/ Ragusa/ Modica/ Noto/ Syracuse etc but will travel for good food!

Any help much appreciated!

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  1. Ciao there!
    In Modica there seems to be a tendency towards meats rather than fish. From the Slow Food guide to Italy I would say try:
    La Rusticana- a Trattoria, Viale Medaglie d'oro 34, lunch or dinner not Sundays
    Taverna Nicastro- a Trattoria, Via Sant' Antonio 28, only dinner, closed Sun. and Mon.

    In Siracusa I would suggest seafood from La Finanziera. For starters you will find boiled octopus salad (yummy and very Italian), fried squid, and omelette with Sicilian cheeses.
    For the main meal you can get linguini with mussels and clams, ravioli with scampi, or fettucini alla siracusana (olives, capers, anchovies, and eggplant). They have catches of the day and a variety of fish based main courses. Its located on Via Epicarmo 41 and open for lunch or dinner.

    4 Replies
    1. re: coxlaur

      Many thanks- much appreciated! if you get any other inspirations anywhere else in Sicily please let me know!



      1. re: keithangus

        I had a wonderful meal in Modica at ristorante Fattoria delle Torre that was entirely centered around the local Aztec-originated chocalate -- but in addition I sampled an exquisite fava bean ravioli on my husband's plate.

        Sicilia is the land of great street food, including morning breakfast pasties. Try to get fresh-baked pastries stuffed with fresh ricotta, rolled in local almonds, etc. in caffes, and don't overlook the street vendors. While in Syracuse, slip over the bridge and visit Ortygia's morning market. Load up on olives, fresh fruits, etc.

        1. re: summerUWS2008

          Sounds great and thanks so much. Fattoria delle Torre was on my shortlist so maybe that has decided it! Can't wait!

      2. re: coxlaur

        We were in Syracuse last November ( 2010)and had lunch at La Finanzeria. It was a good, simple, tasty meal however we wanted to share our experience to give other Chowhounds some warning!!

        When we arrived our waitress gave us the menu and we decided on two seafood based pasta mains priced at between 14-16 EURO. However after overhearing us talking in English, the old matriarch in charge of the restaurant came over to our table, shooed away our waitress and told us that she couldn't make any of the very reasonably priced dishes on the standard menu and that we had to order fresh fish (45 EURO per kilogram). We asked (in Italian) why it wasn't possible however she refused to elaborate. As it was 14:00 and we didn't have time to find another restaurant we conceded we would have fish.

        However we knew something was up when while we were eating antipasti (very good) and waiting for our mains, two separate tables of customers were able to order pasta dishes from the normal menu.

        When our fish arrived was very fresh, simple and tasty; served whole and without a garnish.The highlight of the meal was the delicious cassata - the best we had in Sicily.

        Our bill for lunch was 129 EURO for two small plates of antipasti, two glasses of a mediocre white house wine and two small servings of cassata. By Sicilian standards, this is farcical :D !! We asked the matriarch to come over and explain the bill to us. She said that our two, smallish sized fish cost EURO 76. She did however decide that we had been overcharged by 2 EURO for our water and subtracted that from our total.

        At the time, we decided to pay and write it off as an experience! Later on in our Sicily trip we had an amazing three course seafood dinner matched with wines for each course at the Michelin listed Ristorante del Pescatore in Mazara del Vallo for only 117 EURO.

      3. My suggestion is to just go. We had unbelievably fresh and delicious fish dinners in many places in Sicily when we would just wander down to the docks and see which dock-side restaurants the locals were dining at.

        8 Replies
        1. re: roxlet

          We were in Sicily in June and for the places to eat, we just asked around in the towns we visited (Trapani, Favignana Island and Lipari Island).

          Every single meal we had (whether planned, grabbed from the bakery, reccommended or something we stumbled upon) was absolutely brilliant. I second Roxlet's idea to just go and see what you find! I found Sicilian food unpretentious, simple, cooked with a few main ingredients which meant that everywhere we went something rather nice turned up, as all the seafood and ingredients were local and fresh.

          Most memorable experiences are: Amici del Mare in Favignana town, right on the harbour, and a workers' restaurant in Palermo. Foccaceria del Massimo, (Via Bara al Ollivela). So simple and cheap - we paid ten euros for mains, starters, drinks *and* a giant slice of watermelon. That was ten euros for two people.

          In Trapani, we stumbled accross Cantina Siciliana (via Giudecca), a slow food movement taverna. Al Solito Posto (via Orlandini) was another reccomended taverna but we couldn't get a table, as it was packed with locals.

          And the Colicchia pasticceria (just off the main promenade) serves the best granitas in all of Sicily!

          In nearby medieval Erice, we had cakes at Mama Grammatico's pasticceria (mindblowing cannolli and I don't even like sweets so much!). The trip to Erice was a terrifying cable car trip from Trapani but the cannoli was worth it! You can get there by car as well and I strongly reccommend a trip to the Western coast if you have time - the atmosphere is completely different and you see hardly any tourists in Trapani.

          Oh and in my experience, wherever we got a gelato or a vino bianco di casa - we were not disapointed! Even the most unassuming looking taverna had delicious and light wine.

          1. re: Lost Traveller

            I have to second Cantina Siciliana in Trapani. We had a really delicious fish couscous there. Simple but very good. The next time we ordered fish couscous (in Siracusa) it came as a huge, overblown concoction which was impressive but seemed to miss the point. We loved Trapani altogether. There's a very small market near at the end of the main drag that has wonderful stuff - salted capers, bottarga, canned tuna - I loaded my luggage with edibles from there.

            1. re: Nyleve

              will try hard to get to Trapani- sounds very tempting! Thanks

              1. re: keithangus

                Trapani was one of the few places in Sicily I found cassateddi -- which is a pastry my dad, whose parents came from Sicily, used to make. Essentially, it is a cannoli ravioli -- a turnover that is filled with cannoli cream, fried and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Just one of the most delicious things you can imagine...

                1. re: keithangus

                  Do try! It is lovely and quiet there and the only things to do are to eat, drink and look at the sea which for me was just perfect. :) And the Egadi islands are a 20 min hydrofoil away, and another world entirely.

                  There are lovely places to stay there too, we stayed at Ai Lumi B & B and in Chiavi di San Francesco. (They both have websites). I found that some of the places we stayed in, such as these two, actually made our trip, as the places were so well integrated with the city and the lovely design made them seem like a crucial part of the visit, not just somewhere to sleep!

                  Enjoy! I wish I was going to Sicily in October.

                  1. re: Lost Traveller

                    We stayed at Ai Lumi also! It was charming and their lunch buffet was a great bargain. It was early afternoon and we'd been driving all morning. Had no energy to go and find somewhere to eat. The buffet was great. Can't recall the price but it was definitely worthwhile.

              2. re: Lost Traveller

                Thanks so much- my stomach is starting to get very excited!

                1. re: Lost Traveller

                  Erice's cannoli is the best I've had anywhere. Simply surreal. To this day I compare all the cannoli I have to that place. The trip from Trapani is hardly terrifying, however; we stayed at a lovely B&B in Erice and made the trek a few times back and forth in the rain and fog and it was fine. Sure, it was twisty but nothing like other roads we've been on. Well worth it. A gorgeous little place.

              3. i would second the recommendation for La Finanziera; exccellent place with extreme high quality fish and pasta. we spent 9 days or so in February a year ago driving counter-clockwise from Palermo to Taromina; the slow food osterie d'Italia never let us down; not once; get the old one in english or buy a new one in italian when you arrive.

                1. Be sure to read the wonderous book "Salt" and learn about the anchovy industry in Trapani, where you should be able to find some really good authentic dining specializing in this amazing anchovy liquor for its dishes.

                  1. Be sure to read the wonderous book "Salt" and learn about the anchovy industry in Trapani, where you will able to find some really good authentic dining specializing in this amazing anchovy liquor for its dishes. Agree with all the suggestions for Trapani.

                    The storefronts full of gorgeous marzipan creations make Sicily a worthy foodie destination if for no other reason.

                    1. My husband and I are also traveling to Sicily in October. What have you come up with for your "special" meals? I've been doing some research and I'd love to hear what you came up with. We are staying in Ortigia and doing day trips in southeastern Sicily. The other replies to your post were helpful too.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ellen23

                        Sorry probably too late as we're just back from Sicily. Generally meals were all excellent but one real highlight- Da Angelo in Sinagra. Tucked away in stunning mountains and not exactly easy to find ( ask when you get to Sinagra) it's a real experience not to be missed! Not for the faint hearted or anyone looking to cut down on the quantities this is not for lovers of nouvelle cuisine! The spectacular anti pasti for two was enough to feed a family of four, the wonderful pasta, great grilled meat including suino nero, lemon ice cream, a plateful of local cheeses and a bottle of wine all for 30 euros a head- oh and then a complimentary hazlenut liqueur. Needless to say we didn't eat the next day but lived on the memory for the next few days. Just leave the choice to the boss and enjoy!

                        The other highlight was Spizzulio in Agrigento. A great wine shop/ wine bar. Simple local food , great wine and above all a really friendly owner passionate and knowledgeable about his local wine and produce. You will not be disappointed!

                      2. We are going the 2nd week in November would love to hear about your dining experiences. We are going to Palermo Erice Trapani Marsala and Syracusa.Thanks!

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Jgo777

                          Just back from a week based in Syracusa. Someone on this board had recommended the Gran Cafe in the square in front of the Duomo. It is the kind of place we would never pick to eat, just maybe have a beer or coffee because of it's stunning location, assuming the food would be bad. We ate there twice, and the food and service were excellent. Thanks!
                          We also ate twice at a tiny place near our hotel. It is called Red Moon, and it is on the waterfront on the porto picolo (sp?) side, where Delfina's used to be. Very casual, full of locals; we were the only English-speaking people both nights. The owner takes you up front to pick your fish, which is incredibly fresh. We had swordfish, langostinos and calamari, all grilled. I have never had such fresh seafood! We love calamari, but can only get frozen where we live. This had a richness and sweetness that was almost lobster-like. The swordfish was delicious too; not the dry, cardboard textured stuff that makes me never order it. I don't think there is any carne/meat on the menu, but we shared a pasta first, then the seafood and a green salad, and found that enough for us.

                          1. re: Albertagirl

                            Albertagirl--glad you enjoyed the Gran Caffe del Duomo. We stumbled upon it looking for a place to watch a USA World Cup game (they were showing the game on a big TV inside), not expecting much in the way of food, especially given the primo location.

                            We heard about the Red Moon from a local we met at the Gran Caffe, but we were never able to find it. I wish we had.

                            1. re: cmm2

                              Was it you that had recommended the Gran Caffe originally? If so, thanks! We had a car, so didn't use taxis much, but I don't believe they would be they that reliable. They will cheerfully drive you around and around, then present you with a whopping bill. Even when we were just going from Ortiga to our hotel/B&B, which was at best a 5 minute ride, it was 7ish euros, and he didn't have any change, so he got 10 euros. Tell the cab it is on the Porto picolo side, and I think the nearest cross street is Santa Lucia somethingor other. Syracusa is a small city, and these cabbies have probably lived there all their lives, and do know where these places are.

                              1. re: Albertagirl

                                Last month in Trapani - Calvino's Pizzeria is wild! Piping hot pies and a rabbitt warren set of rooms packed with locals who seemed to love the place. On the main pedestrian corso. Had a wonderful lunch at La Bettolcaccia (just around the corner from Calvino, off that pedestrian corso) which was highly recommended by, yup, Calvino himself. Bettolaccia was small but surprisingly modern interior. Service was terrifc and friendly and the ingredients used were those that the servers were justifiably proud to show off. I thought the seafood and Trapanese pasta dishes were superb.

                                1. re: wristband

                                  Sounds delicious!. you know, those are both on our Restaurant page (Bettolaccia is a Slowfood pick) - I wish our linking function worked!



                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                    I can recommend Sakalleo restaurant in the centre of Scoglitti on the Southern coast near Marina di Ragusa. The freshest possible fish -- I saw the chef buying fish at 10am as boats arrived. I never go to Sicily without stopping there at least once. I live in Dublin and RyanAir flies direct to Trapani for extraordinarily cheap fares. I just bought tickets for a trip in April for 30 euro round-trip. We go on a Wednesday and return on Sunday. Rent a car in Trapani and drive everywhere -- Sicily is a third the size of Ireland.