Where to Go Next: Sicily
Mi Manda Picone This lively wine bar has a terrace overlooking the beautiful San Francesco d’ Assisi church, and a list with 400 or so labels; almost all are available by the glass. About two-thirds are Sicilian, like the unusual Passopisciaro, made from Etna’s Nerello Mascalese grapes. The wine-friendly menu offers what owners Antonella Bonanno and Sandro Tatanò call “revisited” Sicilian cooking, like baccalà; (salt cod) served carpaccio-style with arugula. Via A. Paternostro 59; 011-39-091-616-0660.
Grand Hotel Wagner This property is named for the German composer, who wrote sections of his Parsifal in the city. Opened in February in an early-20th-century palazzo, it sits near the Teatro Massimo, Palermo’s major opera house (the concierge can arrange tickets). The decor includes the chandelier used in the ballroom scene of the Visconti film The Leopard, as well as Louis XVIstyle furnishings. There’s no restaurant, but cold foods like silky tuna carpaccio, local shrimp cocktail and Sicilian Ragusano cheese are available in the lounge. Doubles from $368; Via R. Wagner 2; 011-39-091-336-572.
Pasticceria Da Arturo Since the early 1900s, Giovanni Facondo’s historic pastry shop has been famous for its cookies, made with Sicily’s deep-green, intensely flavored pistachios grown in Mount Etna’s volcanic soil. There are nutty macaroons and sweet white-chocolate and pistachio torrone as well as frothy granite and gelati—including the tangy Catania lemon—served with airy brioche and potent cups of coffee. Via Umberto 73; 011-39-095-921-068.
Al Duomo At her relaxed restaurant facing the Norman-Arab church in Taormina’s central square, Flaviana Ferri has created a menu of recipes culled from her family and 10 years of research into Sicilian women’s cooking. She uses locally grown vegetables, braising field greens and rolling roasted eggplant around spaghetti, and cooks with delicious Mediterranean fish for dishes such as fried fresh anchovies. Vico Ebrei 11; 011-39-094-262-5656.
La Capinera In the tiny kitchen of his 35-seat restaurant near the Taormina autostrada entrance, talented young chef Pietro d’ Agostino is serving one of the city’s most appealing menus. Using exceptional local ingredients—Nocellara del Belice olive oil, tiny nassa shrimp, capers from the Sicilian islands, artisanal pasta—d’ Agostino cooks simple dishes and serves them with wines from his 1,000-bottle list. Among his specialties is guazzetto (a fish soup flavored with oregano and mint), which he pairs with Arbiato, the pleasant Sicilian Chardonnay. Via Nazionale 177, Spisone; 011-39-094-262-6247.
Fish Market Spread over several streets between the Duomo and the old port, the daily fish and produce market is a spectacle. An incredible variety of fish, shellfish and Sicilian vegetables are on display. Look for red shrimp, octopus, swordfish and tuna of all sizes, as well as long silver garfish (a.k.a. needlefish), which resemble flattened eels and are wrapped in loops like saw blades. Around Piazza dell'Indirizzo and Piazza Pardo.