The subject of many Dolce & Gabbana love letters, the island of Sicily is a heady mix of culture as decaying baroque palazzos mingle with the ruins of Greek temples and lingering Mafia myths. The capital, Palermo, is the beating heart of this history-rich isle, and a perfect destination for a late summer getaway.

Palermo is also the ultimate foodie destination, with plates of pasta to rival Italy’s finest. From seafood-spiked spaghetti to ricotta-stuffed cannoli, the Sicilian capital boasts a serious list of signature dishes. Proof that a fancy doorway does not always lead to the finest dining, Palermo’s winding, cobbled alleyways yield a treasure trove of rustic trattorias, with traditionally indulgent Sicilian home cooking taking centre stage. These are five must-visit restaurants in Palermo.

Kursaal Kalhesa

This bookshop/bar/restaurant hybrid is tucked away in a grand 19th-century mansion near Porta Felice, with no outdoor terrace so you’ll have to search for the entrance. The cavernous bar, with its vaulted ceilings and eclectic decoration, is the perfect spot for an Aperol spritz with the locals, while the restaurant serves up contemporary Sicilian food in modern guises.

Gagini Social

Situated inside the old stone-walled workshop of Renaissance sculptor Antonio Gagini, this intimate restaurant sets the standard for fine dining in Palermo. The restaurant is part of Sicily’s Slow Food Presidia, an environmental initiative which supports local famers and producers, and offers a concise seasonal menu which will tempt you from antipasti right through to dolce. Choose from riffs on Sicilian classics alongside some truly spectacular organic seafood and meat, and if you spot ravioli on the menu, order it.

Gelateria Ilardo Giovanni

Gelato is a serious business to the Sicilians and old-school gelaterias are found on almost every street corner in Palermo. Gelateria Illardo Giovanni has one of the best locations in town, situated at the base of the Mura delle Cattive wall which was destroyed during the air raids of WW2 and has only recently been restored. Overlooking the sea and shaded by trees, the historic wall is the ideal spot to sit and enjoy one of Illardo’s famous ice cream stuffed brioche buns – the mulberry and whipped cream one is just dreamy.

  • +39 091 617 2118
  • Go to Website
  • Forco Italico
    Umberto I, 1,
    Palermo
    90133

Bisso Bistro

Bisso Bistrot is a cosy trattoria run by friendly Sicilians and serving a small but delicious selection of traditional dishes. The antipasti is particularly good here: try the panelle (Sicilian chickpea fritters) and the caponata (a tangy aubergine salad). Unlike most places in Palermo, this one requires you to book in advance – it’s a not-so-secret favourite among locals.

  • +39 328 131 4595
  • Go to Website
  • Via Maqueda 172
    Quattro Canti
    Palermo
    90100

I Cuochini

According to the Palermitans, I Cuochini – which translates literally to mean “small cooks” – is the place to sample the country’s signature fried foods: arancini, timballette and pasticinni. In the wrong hands, these prized national dishes can be overly heavy, but Cuochini has nailed every single one. The meat arancini arrives as fragrant saffron-infused rice balls, stuffed with ragu and fried in breadcrumbs, and is certainly the best in town.

I Cuochini

Bisso Bistro

Gelateria Ilardo Giovanni

Gagini Social

Kursaal Kalhesa

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