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Southern Italian restaurants

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As one might expect, I had some truly wonderful meals during my recent trip through southern Italy. I offer these comments on restaurants (with one exception, all positive) in the hope that others might find them useful.


Palermo: Casa Del Brodo (Corso Vitt. Emanuele, 175) — I found the boiled beef to be as delicious as I had read it would be! It was fork-tender and flavorful, with a texture that reminded me of a superb Yankee pot roast, but without the heavy gravy. The service was great, and my wine and a potato contorno (both recommended by my waiter) complemented the beef very nicely.

Palermo: Osteria dei Vespri (Piazza Croce dei Vespri, 6) — I can understand why my Fodor’s guide described this restaurant as a foodie’s paradise! It wasn’t the easiest place to find, but it was well worth the effort. From start (a few mini-appetizers served gratis) through finish, every dish included delightfully fresh ingredients that had been combined to complement each other in taste and texture, and the delicious results were beautifully served. Servers were very knowledgeable about their extensive wine list and were pleased to recommend suitable wines. The Osteria dei Vespri is not inexpensive, but I was glad to spend a long, relaxing meal there.

Agrigento: Per Bacco (Vicolo Lo Presti, 2) — Just off the main street of Agrigento’s old town (Via Atenea), Per Bacco offered a range of local specialties served under the friendly and attentive eye of its manager, Valeria. I enjoyed a fresh and flavorful meal at one of the restaurant’s outdoor tables, tucked into a medieval close. The indoor area looked pleasant, too.

Enna: Ristorante Centrale (Piazza VI Dicembre, 9) — I opted for a set menu that included hearty, tasty dishes (including one’s choice from a nearly overwhelming buffet of desserts). The servers were attentive and accommodating. For example, I had asked to eat at a table outdoors, but when the weather turned chilly, they suggested that I move inside and made me feel welcome in their bright, cheery interior.

Caltagirone: Il Palazzo dei Marchesi di Santa Barbara (Via San Bonaventura, 22) — I commend this restaurant for its elegant furnishings and outstanding service, but otherwise was dissatisfied with my meal here. The salad was fine, but my main course — glazed lamb — was inedible. It was mostly fat, grizzle, and bone; the tiny bit that was meat was extremely tough and overcooked. I chose not to send it back (I was more tired than hungry by then), so I don’t know how they would have responded if I had. Other posters have offered positive comments about this restaurant, so my experience there might have been atypical.

Siracusa (Ortigia): Il Cenacolo (Via Del Consiglio Regionale, 9/10) — I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at this popular restaurant. Seated in a pleasant outdoor area with trees overhead, I had a delicious salad and a perfectly cooked risotto. Service was friendly and attentive, even though the restaurant was very busy.

Siracusa (Ortigia): Ristorante Porta Marina (Via Dei Candelai, 35) — My meal at this restaurant was absolutely delicious and beautifully presented. I also enjoyed the setting: simple, elegant furnishings in a high-ceilinged room with exposed brickwork and vaulting.

Taormina: Osteria Nero D’Avola (Vico Spuches, 8) — I have nothing but praise for this restaurant — great food, great service, and great wine in a delightfully casual setting. My English-speaking server and the host, chef, and other staff of this small establishment seemed genuinely interested in ensuring that their patrons enjoy their meals. Dishes were prepared from extremely fresh ingredients combined with attention to taste, texture, and color; the results were truly delicious. I was very pleased with the wine my server recommended from their extensive wine list, and I appreciated that the bread was served with several different olive oils to allow comparison. Gratis treats were also a delight: Before dinner, a sample of tiny, absolutely fresh strawberries; after dinner, some kind of wonderful local citrus fruit.

Capri: Ristorante Buca Di Bacco (Via Longano, 35) — I had another wonderful meal at this restaurant just a few steps from Capri Town’s Piazzetta. My meal was wonderfully seasoned with fresh herbs and perfectly complemented by the wine and contorno recommended by my server. Staff had a delightful way of engaging their patrons, without ever seeming intrusive.

Salerno: Ristorante Santa Lucia (Via Roma, 182) — I enjoyed a delicious pasta outdoors at this restaurant near Piazza Amendola. It was very fresh, included a nice combination of flavors and textures, and was hearty without being heavy.

Matera: La Zuppa Del Re (Via Fiorentini, 52) — This restaurant, with its high ceilings and multiple dining areas, lies in the heart of the cave dwellings of Sasso Barisano. I enjoyed generous servings of incredibly flavorful dishes that had been prepared using local traditions and fresh, local ingredients. The restaurant has an extensive wine list, and my English-speaking waiter recommended a wonderful wine that complemented my meal perfectly.

Trani: Ristorante Il Melograno (Via G. Bovio, 189) — Staff of this restaurant take great pains to accommodate non-Italian-speaking patrons, and the restaurant has a multilingual menu. But order from the Italian menu if you can, because that’s where you’ll find the list of their seasonal specialties. I had a delightfully fresh, perfectly seasoned meal with a lovely wine.

Lecce: Enoteca – Ristorante Plaza (Via Centoquarantesimo Reggimento Fanteria, 10) — Decorated in a pleasing, modern style with splashes of red against white, this restaurant served fresh and delicious local specialties. My server spoke English, and was particularly solicitous in explaining their menu and making sure that I enjoyed my meal.

Polignano a Mare: Grotta Palazzese (Via Narciso, 59) — With outstanding food and impeccable service in a truly stunning physical setting, the restaurant of the Grotta Palazzese is a very special place. On a man-made bridge within a seaside cave, one dines with the sound of waves breaking beneath and around (as well as quiet strains of jazz). Truly memorable! Well worth going to Polignano a Mare just for the experience!

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