SICILY..dining in 2023

TRAPANI…part one of SICILY 2023

We are just about finished with our three nights here and in a word, Trapani is a dream city. Vast pedestrian zone, magnificent architecture, main part of city edged on two sides by the sea…I am stunned by the beauty at every turn. Never mind the food (!!!)

Night of arrival: LA BETTOLACCIA.

Superb dinner!

Caponata…shared between the two of us…perfect rendition, puts my version to shame (surprise, surprise!) Slight sweetness is from a touch of sugar. Capers, celery, olives, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots…

Half portion of house pasta: Busiate with eggplant, almonds, tomatoes, etc.

Half portion of Busiate with cubes of smoked swordfish…we both loved this, and every other dish we ate that first night.


One of my favorite fish dishes (small portion remains on plate after first attack): Involtini of swordfish…just wonderful and ooh, that crust!

Spigola with lemon: Perfectly cooked marvel.

With half-liter of house white wine and still water: 81.50euro


Love Trapani, even in decline it is remarkable. Your dinner looks beautiful, keep up the good work! And get out of town and enjoy the wildflowers!

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Jen, We drove today from Trapani to near Porto Empedocle (Agrigento) and can you imagine that we saw very few wildflowers along the roads? Not one red poppy! Some yellow, tall golden-rod-type blooms and little else. Quite a few dried brown pods that are sold in NYC as is…could these have been the dried-out poppy heads? I’m convinced that your trip was at the prime wildflower-viewing time, as you would have been disappointed, as I was, at the paucity of color along the roads now–end of first week in May.

Second-best (of three) dinners in or near TRAPANI:


Tucked into a narrow alley in the center of Trapani, not far from the aliscafi docks, this cozy restaurant felt welcoming and relaxed on a Saturday night. I had presented our hotel staff with a list of possibilities and Al Vicoletto, along with LA BETTOLACCIA, were recommended to us as the best on my list. We appeared to be the only foreigners in a full restaurant last night. While I preferred LA BETTOLACCIA by a tad, as the cooking there seemed to me to be a bit more refined, we had an excellent dinner here. I do like a kitchen that changes the offerings every night, as this one did:

The sardine meatballs in a light tomato sauce were thrilling!

Gnocchi with pistachio crema and guanciale from Norcia (Umbria):

Busiate (you get the idea that this corkscrew-shaped (usually long) pasta is THE go-to primi of Trapani; here is it, again, with Trapanese pesto (tomatoes, almonds–Lidia Bastianich has an excellent recipe for this in her “Lidia’s Italy” book, with raw cherry tomatoes, that is a staple in my house during tomato season. IL VICOLETTO ooffered it last night with medium-sized clams:

Second course and a very good choice: Breaded and baked filet of orata (bream); note the large flakes of Trapanese salt at corner of plate. Each and every dish we had featuring breadcrumbs was greatly enhanced by the crumbs themselves, seasoned perfectly and doused with just the right amount of good oil. I need to ask for the exact details of this, soon!

If the dining room is full, there may be space in the alley, outside:

Dinner with water but no wine: 72 euro

After the meal, we ambled along back to the hotel and stopped into a tiny space where granite with brioche were the draw. Si, con panna! Will try to come up with the name and post here…just off the Corso.


WE did have lunch at DA VITTORIO in PORTO PALO DI MENFI (bound for our B&B inland from Porto Empedocle). DA VITTORIO gave us the best meal of our trip so far. But before I write up the details, I want to add these two leads, in Catania, provided to me by a waiter at DA VITTORIO who hails from Catania. I had asked him for his recommendations (we have only two nights there, early next week).

For meat (horse): DEL CAVALIERE


Your guess is as good as mine, but those are tips from a local person…


Before forget, the sweet couscous from the Holy Spirit Convent in Agrigento town.

and one of the sisters who shows folks around their amazing church with its stucco work

We had flowers all though our trip though the W coast at sea level is pretty dry. Its greener higher up
you will see a lot more crumbs as you go!

looking forward to hearing more about Da Vittorio


Jen, I had never heard of sweet couscous and certainly not any couscous with the colors of a glorious pale green hydrangea!

Not sure if I mentioned this earlier, but we did not rent a car this time and have been using drivers to get from each overnight destination to another, since the usual driver (partner) cannot drive and can barely even walk. Today brought the first blip of stormy weather, so we are debating about booking driver today for Agrigento city and Scala dei Turchi. Or relaxing in B&B (highly recommend this place, inland from Porto Empedocle: BORGO DELLE PIETRE).

This morning’s lavish breakfast spread at the B&B allowed me my first taste of decadent Crema di Pistacchio, the sweetest of a variety of Sicilian concoctions made with this revered nut; the finest pistacchie are said to be those grown near the small town of Bronte, on the slopes of Etna. I will look for a few jars to bring home.

DA VITTORIO, coming up!


DA VITTORIO (PortoPalo di Menfi).

Absolutely divine Sunday lunch here yesterday! Da Vittorio now ranks up there with La Bettolaccia (Trapani) as the best eating experience of our trip so far. I’d read a few negative comments about service, especially during peak mealtimes, and it certainly was packed on a beautiful May afternoon yesterday. I would agree that service might have seemed a bit curt during a few exchanges (when I asked about the difference between gamberoni and scampi, I got a somewhat clipped response). But with food this good, and the happy ambience of family groups enjoying themselves in a gorgeous beachfront setting, that type of quibble seems very minor.

I expected a rustic sand-in-your-shoes type of place and there are, indeed, a few tables set on a cement deck near the entrance to the restaurant. But the large, glassed-in white dining rooms set a pretty elegant stage. Just about every table was filled with stylish-looking diners ranging from the high-chair set to elderly nonnas. The staff bustles around, competently handling the crowd.

We were seated in the second line, near the vast picture windows overlooking the beach. (Next time, I’d request a window table but who knows if the request would be granted.) Anyway, it was difficult to tear my eyes away from the plates in front of me.

DA VITTORIO specializes in ricci di mare, sea urchin. I had asked about ricci during my e-mail correspondence with the owner when I booked. The reason I asked was because I had read that it was forbidden by law to harvest or serve ricci during the month of May in Sicily. And in fact, the owner told me (about 2 weeks before our lunch here) that he hoped he would have them, but could not promise me. I’m curious about this…was the site that stated they were illegal in May incorrect? Or does no one pay attention to these rules?

Ok, I’ll get to the lunch soon…posting this (always afraid I will lose a half-finished post) and will return after my dinner.


Re the riccione - You are in Sicily, right? I think the cops pick their fights there.


I’ve only seen sea urchin on the one menu. I’d be eating it every day if I could. Wish I’d known about the May law.

I feel pretty naive for thinking that a law would stop restaurants from serving the delicacy that are sea urchins!

Lunch at DA VITTORIO was the best of our trip so far, with the best dish of the trip being the Spaghetti with Ricci that WAS on offer, much to my delight and probably, to the delight of Owner Vittorio. This was one of the best pastas I can remember…sublime. (I did ask for salt, and for olive oil)

I was SURE that I had taken a photo of the ricci, but all I can find is the plate with the scant remains:

GAMBERONI, from Mazzaro…in the course of being devoured by a happy diner:

Sadly, no photo of the blistered artichokes…take it from me, they were terrific! (They are barely visible on a separate plate to the far right of the gamberoni)

I guess I fell down on the photo front, being so immersed in the edible delights before me…

Partner ordered Bolognese-sauced spaghetti; it was proclaimed to be “fabulous!” Please do not ask why one would order this meat dish at DA VITTORIO. I’ve asked that question about a thousand times before. There is no answer, but we were both very happy diners that afternoon.

The bill, with water, cover, and a glass of white local wine: 90euro.


Those gamberoni!! :heart_eyes:

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The empty plate tells a happy tale. Plus you look delighted (and very cute!) so it has to have been a good time. I try to remember to take pictures but sometimes I’m having so much fun that I forget. That’s a good thing.

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Wow, I am so happy it worked out! those gamberoni are worthy of the name!

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I believe you’ll be making your way to Catania. I just finished dinner at a spot near my B&B called Be Quiet (no idea why it’s called that), and they had sea urchin pasta as a special. I got it. Not as good as in Ortigia, but still happy making.


Look…these are the leftovers I brought home and had for lunch (“home” being the hotel in Licata) a full 2 days after that lunch at DA VITTORIO!

I was probably uncool to ask to take them home, although to be truthful, the wait person did not blink an eye, she even finished my request to “portare.” (no “doggies” mentioned) Is it an ok thing to ask for take home in Italy/Sicily? (I am not sure I would decline to do this even if it was not the “done thing,” but just curious…it’s the first time I did this on this trip so far…

By the time we arrived in Licata, the clear plastic (“clamshell”) container with the take-home gamberoni had turned upside down and the good dark stuff from the heads had leaked all over the carry bags…but still, a great lunch snack even if the surroundings were less than idyllic:

I ate them in the bathroom so as not to disturb the sensitive sense of smell of the travel partner. Over the sink…with my hands------they were terrific!!!

OOOh, Lulu’s Mom (do I “know” you from CH from long ago??) I hope you will tell more about your eating in Catania!! We have only 2 nights there and I followed Jen’s recommendation and booked CUMPARI TURIDDU for the second night (a Monday)

Also, since the ricci at DA VITTORIO were so far superior to the same dish at SIRENA DI SANSICA in Bonagia, I wonder if the latter might have been frozen?

How could a dish with ricci di mare be so different from one place to another? There are probably so few ingredients in that dish (???) so how can one be swoon-worthy and the other disappointing to the maximum?? Could the ricci have been frozen and thawed in the lesser dish???

I did not yet write about SIRENA DI SANSICA, where we taxxied for dinner from Trapani…but will do…


Hahaha, tonight I couldn’t finish dessert (I am in Matera), and my waiter brought a little paper bag over for the remaining amaretti to “porta via.” So, okay, these were cookies, but still it must not be completely verboten.

Enjoying your report immensely–and wish I had the energy to write things up after a full day of touring and eating!


at Me Cumpari Turiddu the waiter offered me a takeout container for my remaining salad (which I did not take). if you go there, I recommend a different dessert from the geli. It was fine but the least distinctive geli I have had in Sicily and reminded me too much of orange jello!

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Yes, I was on CH a lot. Think I might have helped you with one of your trips south (I live in Chapel Hill, NC).

Only one night in Catania, flying to Rome this morning and home tomorrow. It’s been an amazing trip.

Dinner last night was good (again, a place called Be Quiet). Started with something like Catanese shrimp ??? Which was delicate shrimp cooked in garlic, chilies, olive oil over salad. I liked it a lot. Then the pasta, then lemon cake - basically a lemon tiramisu. It was light and a nice finish.


After leaving the B&B outside Empedocle, we made a stop at MANDRANOVA, the vaunted olive oil producer with a lodgings, a restaurant, and tasting facilities on just off the main Agrigento-Licata coastal road. We had no reservation, but were welcomed when we pulled up, and ushered to the office where their oils and other jarred local products were available for sale. They were out of the pistacchio crema, which I had come to adore just a few days before, at hotel breakfasts. But I did manage to put together a nice package of marmalades (cedro; if you know about the fruits of the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot, you will be familiar with this citrus fruit, grown in both Calabria and Sicily, and limone) and a quartet of oils, 3 monocultivar oils and one blend. (Each .75 liter tin cost 18 euro; Mandranova oils are sold in NYC at Eataly for what I’m sure is a much higher price but of course, buying them at Eataly means a schlep on the subway or a short taxi ride (for me) as opposed to a longer and more arduous schlep on ITA and Delta. But your correspondent has recently taken to traveling with a hefty supply of packaging supplies: Masking tapes; scissors; bubble wrap; rubber bands; twist ties–don’t get me started here. Not to mention the admonition given to travel partner to bring large-ish suitcase and to pack lightly, therefore leaving plenty of room for overflow from my own checked bag.

From Mandranova, we proceeded on to LICATA, a small workaday coastal city that was the site of the first Allied landings of Operation Husky, which began the push to wrest control of Italy from the Axis in 1943.

booked LA MADIA in Licata online a couple of months ago, and we decided to overnight the night before our long-awaited lunch at RELAIS VILLA GIULIANA, a formerly private Liberty villa-turned-hotel. We had a good view from our suite of part of the city, and the vast adjacent fields (which were mainly dedicated to canteloupe at this time in May) covered by pale grey plastic to protect the melons from weather variations from night to day, and/or from pesky birds (I heard various explanations for the plastic from different locals; for whatever reason the plastic was stretched, it was less obtrusive than you might think, since the grey color made the acreage look, from a distance, like reflective padi fields, or shimmering rectangular bodies of water). Hard to convey, but here, unlike the vast blue-plastic coverings that mar much of the coastal landscape in Andalucia, the grey plastic covering really were not visually horrid.

Since the hotel was located on a hill, what we gained in view we lost in accessibility to the city center which, as I was told several times, was too far to walk, or a long but not difficult walk TO the center but a steep, uphill climb back to the hotel. so we opted to stay put and dine that night in the hotel restaurant, LA BOTTEGA, which seemed to have garnered very good online reviews.

(to follow)


I am having a problem here; I took many photos of our lunch at LA MADIA, but these have yet to show up on my laptop. So I will wait to post about the meal, which was one of the best I’ve had in this lifetime, in any country. Hopefully the photos will show up so I can post them along with my report. (fingers crossed). Otherwise, I can try to post from my iPhone (???)

Meanwhile, just to recap, we had dinner at IL DUOMO on our second of four nights in Ibla (Ragusa’s oldest quarter). Along with LA MADIA, I believe that IL DUOMO is considered the “best” restaurant in this corner of southEastern Sicily. And while Ciccio Sultano and his team offered us a technically superb dinner, IL DUOMO was a far more “typical” upscale, Michelin (2-starred) eatery. LA MADIA, on the other hand, felt like the private domain of a chef who loved his hometown and loved hosting guests in his domain. I know I am not explaining this well, but suffice to say that I will remember my lunch at LA MADIA for as long as my memory holds. I would consider booking a return to Sicily to dine here once more. Pino Cuttaia was ever-present in the small (about 10 tables) dining room, repeatedly returning to our table to offer explanations of the various dishes, to inquire if we were pleased, and was spotted many, many times overlooking his guests and even, a few times, collecting finished plates. We were both in total awe. Each course (we chose a la carte rather than the tasting menus) and allowed chef Cuttaia to create a trio of antipasti that he thought we would like, based on partner’s aversion for raw shellfish/fish. The result here, and of all the courses was, as I said above, a delight of the n-th degree, from the minute we entered to the arrivedercis at the conclusion of our lunch. Nothing I can write (and will attempt if I can locate those mysteriously disappeared photos) could convey just how marvelous was our lunch.

Trying to keep current with this report, I will also mention a superb lunch that we had today in PORTOPALO DI CAPO PASSERO, on the coast south of Ragusa. (not to be confused with Porto Palo di Menfi, the location of DA VITTORIO) where we lunched a few days back. The lunch was at RISTORANTE SCALA, and we had but two dishes, both primi: Mine was Spaghetti with Lobster (230 grammes of the crustacean, taken out of the shell, with the empty shells left on the plate for a dramatic presentation. My dish cost 30 euro. Partner chose a simple spaghetti with the very small and very sweet tomatoes from nearby Pachino. He pronounced his dish, with the addition of grated Parmgiano, to be “perfection.” I’d go even further, with “sublime!” (They recommend ordering the lobster in advance; ricci di mare is also a specialty but this was not available today due to “the weather,” which was a tad windy and drizzly for part of the day. The restaurant was just about full when we arrived just after 2pm; all diners appeared (to my ears and eyes) to be locals, or at least not foreigners. This was a testament, I guess, the reputation of SCALA because on this drizzly Friday afternoon the town itself appeared fairly deserted.

I’m not sure that English is spoken here beyond a few words, and we saw no written menu but were offered an oral listing of dishes on offer; I asked for prices and was offered several choices of lobster sizes. Again, will post photos with further description when the photos are available to post here.