The Best Restaurants In Palermo

Where to eat, drink, and repeat in Sicily’s biggest city.
A bowl of pasta on a round table and velvet chair at Gagini, a restaurant in Palermo

photo credit: Gagini

Its chaotic rhythm, infamous traffic, and equally infamous drivers might make Palermo feel a little overwhelming for first-time visitors, but it’s all part of the charm. Sicily’s capital is home to a wide range of fine dining restaurants, casual homestyle trattorias, seafood spots, places to grab a quick bite after midnight, and wine bars.

Outdoor markets overflow with heaps of spiny artichokes and eggplants, wild fennel fronds, blood oranges, and the occasional offal hanging dramatically on butcher shop hooks. And beyond proper restaurants and pubs, there’s a fantastic street food scene that’s best sampled with an expert cicerone by your side. Use this guide of the best restaurants, bars, snack shops, pizza spots, and more to map it all out.


photo credit: Benedetto Tarantino

Wine Bar

Politeama Libertà

$$$$Perfect For:Small PlatesDrinking Good Wine
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Enoteca Picone is a historic wine bar in Politeama Libertà that’s been open since 1946, and is full of hard-to-find spirits and exceptional wines. Come for aperitivo hour before dinner across the street at Corona Trattoria and sample small bites of things like seared octopus on a bed of creamy potato velouté or beef tartare with crispy artichokes, and a glass or bottle from their selection of wines from Sicily and beyond.

photo credit: MEC Restaurant

Palermo is full of ancient artifacts that’ll make you feel very young in the grand scheme of things. But here, you’ll find some that will make you feel very old: vintage Apple products from the Jobs Foundation. This fine dining spot that’s housed inside a renovated 16th-century palazzo does tasting menus and à la carte dining (for groups of five or fewer) from one of Palermo’s most celebrated chefs. Expect seasonal dishes like the pumpkin with fermented black garlic and miso paste, or a sweet rhubarb dessert with raspberry mousse and star anise meringue. Make a reservation for a night you’ll want to celebrate something special, even if that’s just being old and wise enough to remember when computers looked like this.

This spot is run by a local Sicilian couple and has the feel of a high-end trattoria with the charm of a small family-run business, and the attention to detail usually reserved for generations spent in the service industry. They only use seafood that comes fresh off the boat in Terrasini near the Gulf of Castellammare, and the wine list, curated by the owners’ son, includes a solid selection of natural and traditional Sicilian bottles. The squid ink pasta with cuttlefish and bottarga is the dish you need to order, but proceed with caution: Sicilian squid ink pasta has an intense black sauce that’ll stain everything, including your mouth.

What started out as Palermo’s first mixology bar has since transformed into a full-service restaurant. Bocum’s natural and organic wine list mainly includes hard-to-find Sicilian labels, but they serve great cocktails and non-alcoholic mixed drinks, too. Outdoor dining is available, as well as three cozy indoor dining rooms. Plates are small—a few will do for a snack, but you’ll need more than that for a full meal—and include things like marinated anchovies with black olives and goat cheese or some artichoke caponata.

photo credit: Gagini

Gagini is located in the rowdy Vucciria neighborhood and is the crown jewel of the restaurant group behind Bocum Fuoco, Aja Mola, and Buatta. There’s an à la carte menu and tasting menus that start at €110 with the option to add wine pairings from their exceptionally curated list. Expect less familiar flavors than you’ll usually find in Palermo from Gagini’s Brazilian-born chef, like lemon verbena, smoked herring, finger limes, and puntarelle. Make sure to reserve a table well in advance.

This family-owned trattoria has been open since 1951 and serves fresh seafood and traditional Sicilian cuisine. The founder handed it down to his two sons: Pippo, the current owner who continues the tradition today, and Gianni, who took off to open Corona Trattoria on his own. (Don’t bring it up—family feuds live on forever here in Sicily.) It’s located just a short walk from the Politeama Garibaldi Theater, so head here before or after a show for some sweet-and-sour eggplant caponata, panelle chickpea fritters, and the daily catch, which might include shrimp, squid, or swordfish.

The recipes for everything down to the desserts at this warm, stylish, women-owned Sicilian bistro come from small towns in the region of Sicily. That means you'll find salamureci gazpacho or couscous from Trapani, casatelle di Montevago, ricotta gelato-filled bacio pantesco, and semolina-filled mustaccioli that the chef learned about while traveling and cooking with elderly locals. Le Angeliche is hidden on a backstreet in the Mercato del Capo, and you won’t stumble upon it unless you’re looking. Once you’re there, grab a seat inside or out back in the secret shaded garden. There’s a full selection of natural wines, plus non-alcoholic drinks, coffee, and homemade sweets.

Italians don’t really eat pizza for lunch, which means pizzerias tend to be open only for dinner. Fúnnaco PizzaLab, located in La Loggia, follows suit. Here, you’ll find all kinds of pizza styles, from Roman to Neapolitan and everything in between, plus pan pies called pizza al padellino. It’s always packed, so reserve a table and enjoy a casual night in the heart of Palermo’s city center, just behind the Piazza di San Domenico and the Vucciria Market. It’s big, with roughly 100 seats inside and outdoor tables on the quiet side alley in the summertime.

Take your coffee break on the cusp of the scenic Piazza Bellini square at Casa Stagnitta, the outpost of the oldest family-owned coffee roaster in the city. Their torrefazione roasting facility has been toasting up beans in Palermo since the ‘20s, so it’s safe to say the owners know a thing or two about great coffee. Stand at the small bar or sit down for outside table service. You can grab a coffee or tea and a little snack at any time of day—they have gelato, granita, and a few sweet and savory bites.

Osteria Mercede is located just a few blocks behind the famous Teatro Massimo opera house (which you’ll recognize from The Godfather Part III, White Lotus, or both, depending on how old you are) and is open most days for lunch and dinner. Here, the owner's previous life as a mariner comes through in the loosely-nautical decor and Mediterranean color scheme. They offer decent pricing for an entirely fish-based menu—think shellfish pastas, pesto alla trapanese with prawns, and mussels with tenerumi squash. In addition to traditional Italian plates like pasta with clams or mussels, you’ll find daily specials such as swordfish alla palermitana written on the hanging chalkboards in the dining room.

This confectionery shop, located inside the Chiesa di Santa Caterina d'Alessandria, is an homage to the ancient tradition of making pastries inside convents. Cassata and other traditional cakes are sold by the slice, cannoli are filled with sweet ricotta cream à la minute to ensure prime crispiness, and there are almond and pistachio cookies, plus hand-painted marzipan fruits, displayed at various stations. Enjoy your sweets in the lush open-air courtyard tiled with multicolored traditional maioliche, and save time to visit the ornate Baroque church before making your way up to the rooftop for one of the best views in town.

Word is Dario Genova, the owner of Ozio Gastronomico, is the one who brought high-quality, Neapolitan pizza making to Palermo, having consulted on several pizzerias and personally trained many of the local pizzaioli in town. Menu descriptions might seem long-winded, mentioning the provenance of each ingredient, but it shows that they consciously source and select each element with care. Try his spin on the local street food focaccia sfincione made with ricotta from the village of Gangi, tuna bottarga from Marzamemi, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, and stewed onions. It’s a bit outside the city center, but worth the effort to get there—take the bus that runs up Via Libertà.

The team behind Moltivolti represent eight different countries (Italy, Senegal, Zambia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, Spain, and Gambia), and the multicultural menu reflects that. You’ll find hearty dishes like Senegalese mafé, Tunisian brik, Ethiopian injera platters, and a selection of pasta dishes like lasagna and anelletti al forno. More than just a place to eat, it’s known for its social justice activism, which includes advocating for refugee support organizations in the Mediterranean and creating community-building endeavors in the Ballarò neighborhood. Make a reservation for dinner, or swing by for breakfast or lunch and some wifi—laptops are welcome in the mornings and afternoons. 

Playing a little game called: “who makes the best gelato?” is inevitably going to be a part of your trip to Sicily. And much as we’d like to recommend you embark on a mission to try them all, we can save you the hassle of tracking down a bottle of Lactaid: Cappadonia Gelati is the winner. They serve up artisan gelato in cups, cones, or the classic Sicilian-style brioche bun, plus seasonal sorbets like kiwi, pomegranate, artichoke, and melon. Eat yours on the go as you head out to discover the nearby gems of the city, like the Cathedral and Mercato di Ballarò.

When it comes to sweet shops, Cappello is a true Palermitan institution and is famous for their setteveli cake with seven layers of chocolate and hazelnut cream. There are two locations in the city center: the original pastry shop and its behind-the-scenes laboratory, both of which are located between the cathedral and the Capuchin Catacombs. The newly renovated shop reopened in early 2023 with indoor and outdoor seating, a full display case of ricotta cream-filled sweets, marzipan fruit, fried sfince puffs, artisan chocolates, nougat, and gelato.

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