At a stone’s throw from the Teatro Politeama in the centre of Palermo, a wide range of places have been open for a few months now, where you can taste something a bit different from Sicilian cuisine. If you’re spending a little extra time in the city or want to try something new, there’s the “food block”: this area of town between via Libertà, via Isidoro La Lumia, via Archimede and piazza Ruggero Settimo is packed with places to eat.
During my travels, I learnt a simple yet effective rule: if there’s a “tourist trapper” standing in front of the restaurant, trying to get people to sit down, it means the restaurant is touristy. Sometimes the food is good, but with mid-high prices and recipes often tailored to international tastes. I don’t discourage this type of experience, but I would like to talk about the variety of choice that has been on offer in the centre of Palermo for some time now, including some unique quirks.
Let’s start with La Pesceria, at the corner between via Isidoro La Lumia and via Quintino Sella. This place is a cross between a fishmonger’s and a restaurant, made possible thanks to the passion of Lollo Cracolici and his family. Lollo wanted to share his catch with his friends and others and so he opened this place where there is no set menu: whatever is caught is served to guests who eat at tables on the pavement, taking advantage of Palermo‘s mild climate all year round. The fish is fresh and delicious. I recently ate a pasta dish with tuna and clam botargo, which I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
Nearby, in via La Lumia no. 15/17, there’s Zangaloro Meat Factory. The Zangaloro family are historical butchers from Palermo who have recently created a fast food style restaurant with local produce. The restaurant’s interiors are reminiscent of a butcher shop, with white tiles on the walls and wooden tables. Here you can eat the delicious burgers that have been all the rage in Milan for some years now, but with a local touch, made from meat and chicken. You can also opt for the Angus burger. The most traditional one is the double Zangaburger made from Italian beef, with cheddar cheese, tomato, cucumber, red onion and barbecue sauce. The chips are hand-cut – a far cry from American-style fast food fries. They also serve grilled dishes and salads. I’ve personally found that it is better not to go during peak hours as there is sometimes a long wait.
Also on via La Lumia no. 11/A, you’ll find Se Magna, baking pizza squares with a variety of toppings, cut in the traditional Roman style and sold by weight. There are many Roman-style pizza places in the city and since this one opened in April, it has already built up various regulars. At lunch time, you’ll find people who work in the nearby offices coming to eat and enjoy a chat. I tried the pizza with pistachio ricotta, aubergine and bacon, but you can taste various specialities such as prawns and orange, potato and truffle and – for the most indulgent – pizza with Nutella.
Nearby, in via Quintino Sella no. 65, you can taste Roman cuisine in Caligula. In Rome, I regularly ate pumpkin flower, “Cacio e pepe e Gricia” and I have often since found myself with an insatiable craving for Roman food. This gap has been filled for some years now thank to this restaurant with a pleasant atmosphere and walls that vaguely recall the Domus. Don’t forget to take a look at the menu of the day, which often has delicious surprises in store, such as the “Salciccia e Cicoria” (Sausage and Chicory).
So Palermo isn’t just about “arancini” fried rice balls and pasta with sardines… but actually, there something for everyone!