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Oct 3, 2010 11:08 PM

Syracusa Palermo

We will be in Sicily, based out of Syracusa for just over 10 days this October. Any recommendations for really good food? We are not into trendy, foam-ish stuff, just casual, but honest and delicious.
Thanks for any help!

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  1. We spent a week in Siracusa this past summer and loved the town. That being said, we did not have a lot of tremendously memorable meals there. We had dinner at least three times at the Gran Caffe del Duomo, which is located (of course) in the stunning piazza del duomo. There are a number of cafes opposite the duomo, and this one is on your far right if you are standing on the duomo steps. Friendly service and very good wood-fired pizza, along with all the other classics. Reasonably priced, despite its primo location. Vite e Vitelo, recommended by the Slow Food guide, was very disappointing. Although it's not a major destination for Americans, Siracusa, or rather Ortigia, is a tourist-oriented town so there are quite a few culinary landmines that can trip you up if you're not careful. If you have an apartment with a kitchen, I recommend daily trips to the market, near the Talete parking garage. It's one of the best I seen in Europe and the prices are absurdly low for the quality.

    If you will have a car, which you absolutely should have, I recommend a vist to the lovely town of Marzamemi, about 45 south, along the coast. It's a quaint fishing village where we had one of our best meals of the trip right on the water at Ristorante La Balata. Outstanding and creative seafood. I little more expensive than other places in the area, but well worth it.

    By the way, not sure why you have "Palermo" in the title to your post. It's about 3 and a half hours from Siracusa and definitely not recommended as a day trip destination from there.

    10 Replies
    1. re: cmm2

      Duh! Yes you are right about the Palermo/Siracusa in my heading; too busy and in a hurry, and also unfamiliar with the area. We are in an apartment, and love to cook, so will definitely try the market you recommended.
      We will have a car, as the plan is to follow in the footsteps of the "Operation Husky", where both of our Canadian fathers landed in WW2. I am not familiar with the route, as my partner is the one with the plan for this, but we will be taking day trips with Siracusa as our base.
      Thank you so much for the tips. I have been hearing warnings about dining in Italy and having to be careful. We are much more used to using our noses and instincts in Spain, having been in many areas of the country on at least 10 trips. We often have a kitchen to cook, but I love to try the local cuisine, and we have been really lucky choosing the old-style tapas bars. Smell, never choose a place with pictures of their food outside, and don't be afraid to bolt after trying a small course if it's not good!

      1. re: Albertagirl

        Where is your apartment? In addition to the daily market, there is an enormous Carrefour hipermarket just outside of town where you can stock up on all you daily necessities. And just behind the Piazza Archimedes, there is a fantastic shop called Tami, where you can buy great wine, olive oil and other high quality, typical products. They specialize in vini naturale. There are lots of wine shops in Ortigia, but Tami was the best one we found.

        1. re: cmm2

          Thanks cmm2 We are staying at Lakios Res B& B Via Allo de Sber adero sorta iuciac 2/a . (Makes no sense to me, having never been there; hope I copied it out right!) Now that I have looked at our res, and talked the my s/o, we don't have kitchen facilities. They do have them in some rooms, but not what we booked. Maybe we can upgrade once we are there. We booked thru Travelocity or something like that, can't remember. sometimes those things are not flexible; will try tho. The markets sound so good; we need to be able to cook! You and other people have posted about how great the markets are. Thx again.

          1. re: Albertagirl

            Albertagirl--I checked out your hotel's location on a map. I'm sure you're not going to want to hear this, but if it's not too late, I would book a room in Ortigia, which is the ancient, pedestrian section of Siracusa. It is absolutely where you will want to spend your time when you are there. (Your hotel is about a 15 minute walk from Ortigia.) There should be plenty of good rooms available for reasonable prices when you are in Siracusa. If you are interested in cooking, you should rent a small apartment in Ortigia. Again, there will be lots of available apartments when you are going and I'm sure you could find something nice for well under 100 euro per night.

      2. re: cmm2

        very interesting report. Im wondering what dishes you recommend at the Gran Caffe del Duomo and in particular what disappointed you about the slowfood place. what dishes did you try?

        1. re: jen kalb

          At the Gran Caffe, I would recommend any of the pizze and the insalatas. They also had a very attractive antipasto bar and good classic dishes such as spagetti vongole e cozze. Wines are basic, decent and inexpensive. Our tab for two adults and two kids was usually around 50 euro, which included a caraffe or two of wine, bottled water and a Fanta or two.

          Vite e Vitelo was a big disappointment. It is a charming small space and was immediately across the street from our apartment. The chalkboard menu looked great, but the delivery was deeply flawed. My insalata mista was awful--about what one would expect at an Olive Garden in Kansas City in February. Barely ripe tomatoes, limp lettuce--and remember, this is in July in Siracusa, not 300 meters from probably the best daily produce market I've ever seen. There's absolutely no excuse. My wife ordered a pasta with meat sauce and it was OK. We also got a grilled vegetable antipasto platter that was at best OK--the eggplant, for example, was barely cooked. I ordered a "frittura mista di peschi azzuri". The problem was, it contained hardly any peschi azzuri--mostly calamari rings, with a couple gamberi and a sardine or two. Again, this was a few hundreds meters from a market with the freshest, cheapest seafood--including limitless amounts of sardines, mackeral and anchovies--you could imagine. I can't remember much else. The wine list was pretty decent. I think we got a bottle of Produttori di Barbaresco for around 25 euro. Over dozens of meals, this was about the only time I've ever been steered wrong by the Slow Food guide.

          1. re: cmm2

            I suspect lack of information or miscommunication might have been partially at fault. If your wife ordered pasta with meat sauce (alla bolognese or al ragu), which is anything but local and probably put on the menu to satisfy tourist demand, they might have thought that you didn't know or didn't really want pesci azzurri and given you what they thought you would like better. There's no explaining the insalata, though, or why Vite e Vitello, in the online guide (2006) a meat-only restaurant, had fish on the menu at all.

            1. re: zerlina

              Not sure how there could be a miscommunication. Pesci assuri = pesci azzuri, not calamari or shrimp. And despite what the guide said in 2006, it's no longer a meat only restaurant. There were several seafood choices on the chalkboard menu. And I believe the 2010 Slow Food guide reflects that change.

              1. re: cmm2

                Im not making any excuses but they might have thought you l would like the calamari and shrimp better than the fish. Some tourists might have found the sardines etc too strong tasting in the past. Its frustrating sometimes to convince restaurants in a single visit that you are interested in the genuine local cuisine. I usually try to order something sort of offbeat to indicate this (whether in italy or chinatown) and it can be helpful but not always. thanks for adding color on this.

        2. re: cmm2

          Thanks for the Marzamerni pick. Not sure if we will be traveling that way, but I have written it down in case we do.