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Feb 26, 2014 04:43 PM

Sicilian Food in New York?

I was looking for a good Sicilain restaurant in New York. Recently got back from an extended trip to Sicily and fell in love with the food there. I live in the East Village and have been told Cacio e Vino is authentic, has anyone dined here? I not opposed to traveling a bit, so recommendations outside of the East Village would be appreciated as well.

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  1. Post on Outerboroughs board too. e.g. Ferdinando's Focacceria.

    14 Replies
    1. re: thegforceny

      Thanks for the tip, much appreciated! I'm new to this site..

      1. re: TonyB2012

        Again, before heading out to Brooklyn look at the menu for Ferdinando's Focacceria. It has a handful of Sicilian specialties but the great majority of the dishes are Italian-American versions of dishes from regions of Italy far from Sicily.

        1. re: kmzed

          have you ever been there?

          whatever the menu filler says the main action is stuff like panelle, rice balls, octopus salad, spleen sandwiches, pasta con sarde, etc - I havent been in several years so who knows, maybe the quality of their frying has dropped or somethingm but if thats the sort of sicilian food you are looking for its worth checking out

          1. re: jen kalb

            90 percent of what you mentioned isn't the kind of Sicilian food I'm personally looking for (don't know about the OP) and I wouldn't make a trip to Brooklyn unless somebody told me the pasta con sarde was tops. (Can't tell what you mean by "etc" with regard to the rest of what you recall they offer because so much of what is shown online isn't Sicilian.) Have you ever been to Sicily?

              1. re: jon

                .) But have to ask: Have you ever been to Sicily?

                1. re: kmzed

                  have to ask: have you ever taken the F train to sicily?

                2. re: jon

                  PS: I got curious about the pasta con sarde at Fernando's Focacceria and did some googling, and one thing I came across was this (from Eric Asimov in the NYTimes):

                  "pasta topped with sardines canned by the owner."

                  The pasta con sarde that I ate in Sicily that was tops was made with fresh-caught Mediterranean sardines (which are rather closer to anchovies), and as far as I know that is classically what the Sicilian recipe calls for: fresh sardines. Also, the dish is classically made with wild fennel, usually rather hard to find in NYC, but maybe he grows his own.

                  Could be Fernando's is a delicious dish even better than what I ate in Siciliy, and maybe there is many a Sicilian cook who uses canned sardines. (Could also be that Fernando's dish is actually pasta con le sarde a mare, which usually has no sardines or just a paste of them, possibly canned.) But if I was craving pasta con sarde like I had in Sicily I'd be craving a dish made with fresh sardines and wild fennel.

                  Edited to add: Here is a blast from the past from Google: Paula Wolfert's struggles for the New York Times in 1985 to make a pasta con sarde in NYC that tastes like the Sicilian dish:


                  1. re: kmzed

                    I am missing your point I guess. The OP is "looking for a good Sicilian restaurant in New York." His options are to eat at one of the recommended Sicilian style dining options in the city or not.

                    He could wait until he returns to Sicily and enjoy what you had during your visit.

                    1. re: thegforceny

                      We read the initial post differently. To me the OP seems to be equating "good" with "authentic". It appears he or she is now looking for a Sicilian restaurant in NYC because of lingering strong memories of the food he or she ate (not me) in Italy and hoping to enjoy those same tastes.

                      I don't know what Sicilian foods the OP ate. Perhaps they are looking for panelle or arancini. I wasn't suggesting they eat what I ate.

                      You might want to read the link I posted to Fred Plotkin's review of Piccola Cucina. I think he makes the point I am trying to make. I realize a lot of NYers really won't accept the fact that the flavors of Italy are rarely found in NYC restaurants. When it gets pointed out they react as if somone were saying the food at these restaurants is terrible. That's not what is being said. What is being said is if you remember the taste of what you ate and enjoyed while in Italy and are looking to enjoy that taste again in NYC, it is rare to find it thousands of miles away in NYC. With a little bit of reflection you can see why that would be.

                      NYC may be the worldwide epicenter of people being told that, with enough money and determination, you can get your hands on anything you want. If you didn't already guess that might not be true, Italian food is shining evidence it is not.

                      I think I have made my point so I am not discussing it anymore. Not in this forum!

                      1. re: kmzed

                        Although your point is well taken (&, in fact, extends way beyond Italian food to the many posts about "authentic" ethnic foods found throughout CH), many of us who are long time CH posters try to answer these type of posts by recommending places (if we know of any) that serve the type of cuisine asked for and make it well, given the limitations of being here in NYC and not in the areas of origin. Ferdinando's is Sicilian food made by a "long time in Brooklyn" Sicilian family. Joe's of Ave U. is similar (specifically from Palermo). However, both have adapted their recipes, their methods &, in fact, their serving style (both are steam table operations, not made to order dishes) to their environment & business needs. But, if one wants to get as close as possible to the dishes one had in Sicily, these are some of the places one can try.

                    2. re: kmzed

                      I didnt much like the pasta con la sarde I had at Ferdinandos one time. It didn't taste all that different from the version you can buy in a can in Italian shops, and I really would not recommend. We have plenty of fennel greens here (sprouting all over my garden) though likely not the same as the Sicilian wild stuff) Id imagine many Sicilian cooks use the preserved sardines depending on market conditions.

                      I remember seeing my heroine Wolferts version, and I simply cant see putting dill in the dish, sorry Paula..

                      1. re: kmzed

                        Having grown up with Ferdinando's, a few words: the pasta cu sarde is not worth ordering, it's from a can, the kind you can buy in any NY alimentari. On the other hand, the panelle, vastedde, caponatina, potato croquettes, and arancine, especially the special version with extra sauce and ricotta, are perfectly wonderful Palermitana street food. Since Caffe Bondi closed some years ago, there's not really been a proper Sicilian restaurant in Manhattan.

                3. re: kmzed

                  The Leopard in the space of Café des Artistes has some very good and authentic Sicilian food--surprisingly good, in fact. I go often to Sicily for work and know and love the food. The Bucatini alle sarde, the pesce spada in beccafino, the caponata, were all good. It is much too noisy, so go early or very late.

            1. One of the grandmas who cooks at Enoteca Maria on Staten Island (easy walk from the ferry terminal) is from Sicily. Better to discuss this place on the Outer Boroughs board, though.

              (It's a wonderful place and worth a trip)

              1. Piccola cucina in SoHo is quite good.. Not great.. But arancini and parmigiana are pretty good.

                2 Replies
                1. re: alepenazzi

                  agree with recommendation for Piccola Cucina but there are two branches, and one serves full meals and the other one doesn't (it's more focused on small plates). The one that doesn't is a bit more pan-Italian than mainly Sicilian. You can look at the menus here:


                  It might matter too where you went in Sicily as to whether you find in NYC what you are looking for. Just like other regions of Italy, various areas have various ingredients, traditions and specialties, and Sicily is huge with several different microclimates. So you should also take a look at the menu of Cacio e Vino (which is online) and see what you recognize from your travels.

                  1. re: alepenazzi

                    Here's a nice review of Piccola Cucina on Spring Street from Fred Plotkin, who wrote a truly great book about Italian regional cooking and restaurant eating


                  2. Take a look at this seasonal menu from Eolo if you are missing pasta (not al dente!) with cauliflower and breadcrumbs (I am)


                    3 Replies
                    1. re: kmzed

                      Eolo has a Sicilian type menu, but the food is not the greatest nor is it truly Sicilian. They have a sister restaurant with a totally different regional menu.
                      Fernando in bklyn is good for getting a panelle. Most of the food is just OK not exceptional. The seafood salad is good.

                      1. re: foodwhisperer

                        Unfortunate about Eolo. So rare to see people doing seasonal menus like that. I just remembered that The Leopard at des Artistes usually has a few Sicilian pastas on the menu.

                        1. re: kmzed

                          I only tried Eolo once. It was 4 days after I got back from Sicily. So I was totally disappointed. That was i n October, so I would try it again and see if their food got better.
                          Fernando's pasta con sarde is not what you want.
                          That being said the pasta con sarde in Sicily varies from area to area. Some make it with tomato sauce, some do not use tomato sauce and use olive oil , bread crumbs raisins, pignoli. Ive even seen it with pistachios.But, no matter where you eat it in Sicily, you won't get it with canned sardines.
                          You will see a few restaurants trying to do a pasta a la Norma, but in Sicily, each region is proud of their version and the ricotta cheese varies. For example in Catania they like using ricotta salata, in Taormina they mix ricotta salata with a smoked ricotta. In Manhattan, Sole di Capri makes a version but uses mozzarella.
                          Now how about nice granita in the morning, you can't find that here in NY. Right now I'd love a Sicilian cannolo or cannolu,,,,, but certainly not cannoli.

                    2. I've been to cacio y vino a few times and its a lot more about vino than the food- i remember great wines by the glass but couldn't tell you what we ate.....
                      I am sure there are better options in nyc.