Old Tano Bongiorno loves talking about his home city of Palermo. In fact, I talk about it to anyone who will listen. I tell people all about our markets, the beaches, the nightlife and most important sights every visitor shouldn’t miss. But so far, I’ve missed at least two important features of Sicily.
This morning I was looking out through the window of our little apartment. There, in the distance, Mount Etna blew out a little plume of smoke. I think maybe our famous volcano, he is still angry since his eruption in March.
I was thinking I maybe should write something about Mt. Etna, but our minds can play crazy tricks on us. I stood there staring out the window and instead of Mt. Etna, I began to see an aromatic and piping hot pizza coming out of a furnace almost as hot as the mountain itself.
That’s when I realized there were two things (so far) that I haven’t told you about. Okay, we know Mt. Etna is old, impressive and very dangerous, but right now, I’m gonna tell you about another feature we haven’t really explored together.
And this is a feature that has a bigger payoff…and generally speaking, isn’t dangerous.
The most dangerous part of pizza in Palermo is that everybody has a very fixed opinion about this product, the controversial pizza, and who makes the best of the best. And they’re ready and willing to fight to make sure you understand!
Of course, being a street urchin running around Palermo a few years ago — okay, many years ago.
Well, far too many to mention! — I have my own opinions about food and especially pizza. But I thought it might be better if I could offer an impartial list. I decided to post a survey on that social website, Facebook.
I posed my questions to Sicilians because they live and work here every day, and most of them eat pizza every day.
So here is the list of the top ten pizzerias in Palermo, according to the pizza lovers who know:
The 10 best pizzerias in Palermo
Piazza Sant’Onofrio, 37038 (Old Town)
I can believe the English newspaper, The Daily Mail when it tells us Frida is one of the top fifteen pizzerias in all of Italy, and most locals have to agree. (And Italy has a lot of pizzerias!)
This deep-dish, narrow slice of restaurant offers plenty of atmosphere with small tables and after a seventy-two-hour leavening, they present a delightful array of pizzas that include thick crust, stuffed crust, etc.
And the one I like is the big square pizza.
Frida offers you a choice of the flour for your pizza, but due to its fame, this restaurant is always busy.
If you want to sample that famous pizza, you might have to stand in line seemingly forever and one thing I have to tell you: The service isn’t always as good as it could be.
Via Venezia 71 (Old Town)
They tell me this name comes from an ancient local wheat.
Mastunicola has never been mixed in with other varieties so it still has its original structure now as a thousand years ago.
The owners claim it’s this local wheat is its secret for making this restaurant so successful.
Okay, when you see the prices you may want to turn and run, but if you can afford it, Mastunicola is well-worth every penny.
This is the place for those with more refined palates, for those who only love pizza, but want to soak up the entire atmosphere and essence of our island.
You’ll find this great location in the historic city center, only a few steps from The Four Corners.
Its location so close to the city center and of course, its excellent pizza, make this establishment overcrowded especially on weekends and holidays, but this is one restaurant where they manage to keep up their high standard of service despite every challenge.
Via Siracusa, 20 (New City Center)
Just like Mastunicola, Tredicisette bases its continued success on their exclusive use of local ingredients only.
Since there is no long-distance transport of goods, you can be assured that everything on Tredicisette’s menu was freshly delivered on the same day you visited this fine establishment.
When you sink your teeth into their pizza, you’ll taste the difference in quality, and again you’ll notice it at the end when you pay up.
But don’t worry. Compared to overall prices in the city, Tredicisette’s prices don’t seem too high at all.
Tredicisette is centrally located, only a few steps from one of Palermo’s most important streets, Via Libertà. The restaurant, however, isn’t likely to be rewarded for design.
I feel there are too many tables crowded together inside, and when the place is full, you may begin to feel a sense of claustrophobia. But when all’s said and done, you’re gonna be coming here for the pizza, not the location.
4. Ciccio Passami L’olio
Piazza Magione, via Castrofilippo No 4 (Old Town)
Refined pizzeria in the heart of Old Town close by to Magione Square.
Like all the best pizzerias in Sicily, this restaurant uses only local products which not only give their pizza its unique flavor, but they promise to be good for you as well.
Already known for its famous fried calzone (I love it!) which is simply pizza dough stuffed with mozzarella cheese and ham and fried.
The fried calzone is considered an appetizer by most of the locals before digging into an unforgettable pizza.
The only drawback here — I think — is bad management. For some reason management doesn’t seem capable of taking of peak hours that require people, even with reservations, to wait for longer than an hour before being seated.
In fact, I blame management for most problems that arise in restaurants. But old Don Tano, he has lots of opinions and maybe I express too many. I don’t know.
5. La Braciera
Via dei Quartieri, 104 (Villa Lampedusa)
This is a renowned pizzeria, especially because of its numerous awards and accolades given by the Gambero Rosso – the authoritative Italian food and wine magazine.
The publication gave it the prestigious ranking in the top 50 pizzerias in all of Italy, but I cannot comment on this because I have not tried all the pizza places in the country. I can say that most locals will tell you it’s the best in Palermo.
If you do not book ahead – you will find out quickly that it is popular with the locals and you will be waiting awhile. During the summer, they have a different location in a villa with a garden featuring inside and outside tables.
They are also able to serve gluten-free options. You can only get food here for dinner.
Via del Granatierre 11 (Close to the New City Center)
Technically, Graziano is not a pizzeria, but a bakery. However, like many bakeries, snacks, etc. are available and many enjoy dining there.
Actually, Graziano is the best place in Palermo. The most popular item is what we call Roman al taglio pizza. These are thick square slices sold by the cut.
Graziano is a small and austere space. The tables too are small, and we’re talking about self-serve here.
But believe old Tano, the pizza will take you into another dimension and you’ll forget where you are.
Graziano is a bit out of the tourist area, but it’s easy to reach by car. It’s well worth the ten-minute drive from the New City Center.
I can heartily recommend Graziano for lunch or just a quick bite.
Via Enrico Albanese, 24 (New City Center)
Only a few steps from the Port of Palermo in the New City Center, you’ll find one of the best pizzas in this Sicilian regional capital.
At Mudù you can get that super thin pizza with the finest and freshest ingredients you can find in the whole of southern Italy.
Whether you’ve tried it before or this is the first time, the buffalo mozzarella cheese will make you cry with joy.
In summer this location is especially inviting and delicious. The trees and shrubbery emanate a freshness that makes you feel you’re dining in the air someplace.
On cooler days you may choose to dine inside which is not as spectacular as the terrace, but it’s okay.
As we all know, quality costs money and at Mudù the check may cause you to gasp slightly, but if you stop to think about it, you should realize that Palermo, in general, isn’t as expensive as most other European cities. So not to worry.
The prices may seem a bit high, they’re not gonna throw you into bankruptcy.
8. La Faccia di Vecchia
Via S. Giuseppe Maria Tomasi, 13 (Torretta)
Unfortunately, this being one of the best family-run pizzerias in all of Sicily, it’s a bit distant from Palermo.
You’ll be in for a thirty-minute drive, but believe old Tano, you’ll agree the ride was worth the time it took to get you to this establishment.
This is one of those rough and ready pizzerias that is not only family-run, but they treat you like family as well, and it’s every man, woman, and child for him/herself.
No table service. In fact, you have to set up your table by yourself. But the pizza, made in the old-fashioned, traditional way…Mamma Mia!
Luckily for you, the choices are easy. There are only 7 or 8 different toppings, but I believe that when I say you’ll never forget this out-of-the-way pizzeria and its fabulous offerings, you’ll never forget it.
Most of the locals come just to dine on the famous “Faccia di Vecchia”, meaning “Old Face”. This is a blend of Sfincione and pizza.
Don Tano’s inside recommendation is that you go early, by eight p.m., especially during summer weekends. You’ll soon find out this is one of the most crowded pizzerias in all of Palermo…and one taste will tell you why.
Via Giosuè Carducci 15 (New City Center)
Biondo is a landmark for many young people who first enjoy an aperitif and perhaps before going to the cinema, drop in for some of the deliciously and famously thin pizza that is the specialty of this, undoubtedly the best-known pizzeria in Palermo.
The pizza is incredibly thin and large with quality toppings. Prices, while not exactly cheap, are in line with the average for a good pizza in Palermo.
However, expect to enjoy a wait in line during weekends unless you’re made a reservation beforehand.
To accompany your dining experience, Biondo also offers a wide selection of Sicilian wines as well as local beer.
If that doesn’t whet your appetite for more pizza, I just don’t know what to tell you. But a word of warning: Don’t eat too much appetizer because the pizza is big and you won’t want to miss a bite.
10. Funnaco PizzaLab
Via Pantelleria, 19 (Old Town)
This place is fairly new, but it has a young and dynamic staff. While the décor is minimal here, the experience is authentic and welcoming. High quality ingredients make up the pizzas and you can taste that in every bite.
They even have gluten-free options. Remember: quality doesn’t come cheap. You can expect these better pizzas to be higher than average prices. I would suggest booking a table in advance as this place is always crowded – especially on the weekends.
They have many tables inside to accommodate the crowds, and are only open for dinner.
If you’ve visited Palermo, or have read good things about other restaurants we may have missed, go ahead and make us a suggestion we won’t refuse. Old Don Tano just got new glasses and I love to read or hear everybody’s opinion.
Until then, Ciao!
Don Tano Bongiorno