Sit in the courtyard and escape the chaos of the Palermo city streets. You are just steps away from the famous Chiesa di San Giovani degli Eremiti and its garden oasis. In fact, you are in your own little oasis. Relax, enjoy and let the wonderful staff guide you. Service is friendly and accommodating, providing guidance to diners and eager to make suggestions, they will steer you in the right direction. Show interest and they take delight and pride in explaining the menu and the history of Sicilian food in general.
Seafood shines, as is befitting for Sicily, but equally or perhaps more astounding is the handmade pasta. The restaurant is justly proud of their pasta and it shows in the long rolled busiate tossed with pesto trapanese and tossed with sautéed zucchini and a panoply of seafood including clams, mussels, and shrimp. The raw tomato and ground almond sauce with just a hint of basil provides an intriguing backdrop to the zucchini and seafood, offering depth, without overshadowing their flavors. Dark toasted bread crumbs, replace parmesan cheese, add a bit of texture.
Listen to the daily specials, it might be small local octopus is cooked in a rich tomato based guazetto infused with the flavors of the sea. Local sardines come in both small “meatballs” topped with tomato sauce or the much better Sarde Beccafico where they are rolled and stuffed with bread crumbs, fennel and raisins and then baked with orange and bay for the signature interplay of sweet and sour flavors typical of Sicilian cooking. The oily fish is tamed by the orange and gentle aroma of bay.
Finish with a Sicilian fritter, a fried “ravioli” filled with sweet ricotta and dusted with powdered sugar and lots of cinnamon.
Get It!: Busiate with Seafood, Zucchini and Pesto Trapanese
Signature Dish: Any of the homemade pastas with seafood, particularly the busiate; fish couscous
Vicolo S. Mercurio, 26/32, Palermo. www.villasangiovannideglieremiti.it; tel: 091 2531643