Old Don Tano knows that not everybody has pockets just bursting with euros, and if you’re anything like me, you don’t want to squander your hard-earned money on expensive tourist traps. Within this article you will find a list of the top three best affordable restaurants in Palermo.
Ciao, amico mio. Old Don Tano always has your back to help you avoid such tragic bumps in otherwise spectacular vacations. I want your visit to leave you with wonderful memories of my beloved Sicily.
And I hope you come back, again and again.
Some time ago, after a visit to the Vatican, a sweet old lady at a nearby restaurant invited us in and treated us very well. But all we had, mia moglie (my wife) and, I was two plates of barely passable spaghetti with meatballs, a glass of bad house wine and a soda.
Can you believe a bill of 79€?
Yes! And when I began to protest, an incredible hulk came out of the kitchen and he looked as if he’d like nothing better than to deal with a couple of deadbeats.
That was enough to intimidate even the intrepid Don Tano. I decided to pay and get out of there.
They don’t expect you to come back as a regular so they milk you for what they can get.
That incident alone put a dark cloud on what otherwise would have been a wonderful visit to the capital of Italy.
That bitter memory makes me want to help you avoid such depressing incidents. (I recommend that you read also about the 5 tips to remember before dining out in town).
I know too, that just because you’ve come all the way to Palermo from the US or the UK, your pockets are not necessarily bursting with euros.
Allora, with that in mind, I’m gonna tell you about some inexpensive trattorias that you won’t find in the tourist-gastronomic guidebooks.
These may be overlooked by the people who write guidebooks but believe old Don Tano when I say that these places are favorites with the locals, including my family. These are just the right places for great dining at reasonable prices.
Three Budget Restaurants Where You Can Dine Well and Pay Less
Okay amico mio, these three restaurants have been around and they’re going to be around next week too.
Of course, I’m sure you already know that when you spend less you have to give up something in exchange.
That may be slow service due to fewer employees, a poor out-of-the-way location or sometimes it’s the menu.
It may be limited but you can be sure that you’ll get a decent meal for less than the “quality” restaurants with bustling servers pouring wine while soft music lulls you in the background.
1. The Old Club Rosanero
This authentic Sicilian trattoria is a place where you can really enjoy excellent dishes accompanied by a glass of decent local wine.
Now, you can’t expect a 3 Michelin star environment here. But you can breathe in a simple non-pretentious atmosphere.
The menu has been well organized and you’ll find a wide assortment of Palermo special appetizers such as eggplant rolls and caponata. The first and second courses can be fish or meat.
The chef changes the menu to follow the seasons and he shops daily at the market for the best of what’s seasonal and available.
Of course, there’s never a shortage of greens and those favorite dishes that you’ll find on the menu throughout the year.
I have to recommend one of my favorites dinners: Spaghetti with sea urchins and red shrimp, sardine rolls and a bowl of mussel soup.
Don’t pass up the wine. It’s strictly homemade and you’ll like it.
Portions are impressive. A half portion is more like what you’d expect a normal dish to be, so take it easy.
Just sit back and start with an appetizer, a first course (and possibly a second course), and then you’ll have to consider what else you’d like.
This isn’t a large restaurant so even with a few patrons, it can get a bit noisy.
It’s clean and the staff is courteous and fast. Some come away feeling that the owner, known only as Boss may be rude, but he isn’t really. It’s just his gruff manner.
His personality fits in perfectly with Palermo folklore.
The Old Club Rosanero is well worth a visit. It would be a good idea to reserve a table early because the place gets crowded and otherwise, you may have a wait.
- Average price per person: 15/20€
- Address: Vicolo Caldomai n. 18,90134 Palermo
- Telephone: +39 0912511234
- Mobile: +39 349 4096880
- Hours: Monday to Wednesday, 1 pm to 3:30 pm
- Thursday to Sunday: 1 pm to 3:30 pm and from 8 pm until 11 pm.
this isn’t easy for a tourist to find. It’s located in a narrow alley in Old Town. The staff doesn’t speak English and some feel the service seems rude at times but that’s not really true. Perhaps a bit brusque We think that’s just part of the act. And the food is really good. I personally think he lunch is better than the dinner.
2. Osteria Mangia & Bevi
When dining here, you absolutely have to try the Calia.
These are day pumpkin seeds and dry chickpeas or garbanzos depending on what you like to call them. That’s just something to nibble while waiting for your table service.
This has a feature that in America they call roadhouses where you nibble peanuts and throw the shells on the floor. Here you throw the peels on the floor in the same way.
If you don’t, you risk offending the staff and you never want to anger a server. Your entire dinner could be at stake!
Here, you’ll find typical Palermo cuisine such as Pasta c’anciova (pasta with anchovies) with a sauce and toasted breadcrumbs. This is a uniquely delightful dish. And the fried pasta is another delicacy.
All the local dishes are here.
Eggplant rolls, fried or roasted fish, small octopus and much much more portions are quite large. I recommend the fried pasta. A portion for one is plenty for two.
I do want to suggest that you enjoy some of the house wine with your repast.
The white is a light, pleasant wine, but don’t let that fool you. After four glasses you may be unable to get up from your table. They also have a local craft beer, called Forst. It’s made right here in the city.
Osteria Mangia & Bevi is well-maintained.
The furnishing is a rustic Sicilian motif and the staff is friendly and fast. Again, I recommend you try to reserve a place in advance — especially for an enjoyable dinner — because the Osteria is well-known and very popular.
- Locals, as well as tourists, dine here all year long.
- Average price: Under 25€ per person
- Address: Largo Cavalieri di Malta n. 18,09133 Palermo
- Telephone +39 091 5073943
- Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 1 pm to 3 pm and from 8 pm to 11 pm
- Monday: Closed.
Many years ago when the restaurant first opened the doors the food was incredible. Unfortunately, over the last few years it’s not quite the place it used to be and prices have been increasing (I believe they’re increasing all over the world), but la Osteria Mangia & Bevi is still a place I can recommend.
3. Ai Cascinari Trattoria
Ai Cascinari is a humble place but it’s loaded with charm and a warm ambiance. It’s a family-run restaurant located near the tourist routes (near the Cathedral in fact), and almost hidden from the general chaos of traffic.
The Trattoria is easy enough to reach.
You’ll love its rustic interior with exposed wooden beams and “antiquey” wall lamps, etc. The staff is quite professional and always courteous.
You have to start with the fried mixture: breaded sardine fillets with pistachios and fennel, panelle, artichoke, mushrooms, ricotta and anchovy pancakes with potato crocché. (vaguely similar to a knish, crunchy and light and never greasy).
Everybody the world over loves spaghetti and what can I say, where you’re at the Ai Cascinari Trattoria, the spaghetti won’t let you down.
I especially recommend the spaghetti with cuttlefish, fresh wild fennel and stuffed inkwells.
Ingredients are always local, freshly chosen at market each day.
They have an excellent wine list but as in any self-respecting trattoria, you really should try the house wine. If you’re not a wine drinker, they also have excellent artisan beer.
Portions are generous and the staff (including the owners who are always on deck) are very pleasant and ready to help in any way they can. Don’t forget to call ahead for a reservation for dinner.
- Average price: 20€ per person
- Address: Via d’Ossuna n.43 90138 Palermo
- Telephone: +39 09 6519804
- Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm and 8 pm to 10 pm.
- Monday and Tuesday: Closed
This trattoria is located may give you chills feeling that someone might suddenly pop up out of nowhere and hold a knife to your throat but really, it’s not dangerous at all. And this trattoria, while spartan, has some really good food to offer without you having to max out your credit cards.
A heads up about one thing to bear in mind
But before you head to one of these budget restaurants in town, I want to give you a heads up about one thing to bear in mind.
Here in Palermo — and, I suspect, in many other cities around the world — with new restaurants, it’s like the lottery. They spring up and do everything wrong.
One week you’ll see a new Italian pizzeria at Via Libertà and the next time you pass by the pizzeria will be gone and a Moroccan restaurant will have newly opened at that location.
For that very reason, Nico, Antonio, Francesco, Alessandro, and Giulia got together and created Wearepalermo.com They all work hard and try their best to keep the site up-to-date.
Being perfectionists, they’re never satisfied just to sit back and spend their time sipping aperitivos. They’re constantly striving to improve and keep their information up to the minute.
Obviously, in order to accomplish those goals, it took the entire team.
I have a little secret, one I especially don’t want la mia gelosa moglie (my jealous wife) to hear, but Giulia has a special place in our hearts (including mine).
That’s not just because of her extraordinary beauty but also because I know she’s really dedicated to this enterprise and very detail-oriented.
I repeat I don’t want my wife to read this but Giulia really is an outstanding beauty indeed. Maybe one day Nico will post a photo of her so everybody can see what a wonderful addition to the team she is.
If she had been born in 1300, I’m sure Dante would have fallen madly in love with her and we would never have Beatrice or The Divine Comedy but rather an epic poem entitled Giulia.
By the way, if you want to get out and meet new people in popular spots, browse through Nico’s travel guide. He shows you some of the more popular streets where you can meet some great new friends and enjoy a good Italian cocktail.
Perhaps on: ”Some enchanted evening you may see a stranger across a crowded room”. That stranger may be your own Giulia or Romeo. Be sure to grab a copy.
You’ll be glad you did. Just write and tell us. Then Nico can advertise as a matchmaker too!
Scusa, I’m rambling again. That’s part of the old-timer disease or syndrome. Well here we at last. For today, I believe I’m done here.
Ok, siamo alla frutta.
That’s an old Italian expression. Translated literally it means we’re are the fruit but it’s a way of saying “We’re done here”.
This is also can be a rather sarcastic expression when someone tells you a dumb joke. Here, I’m just saying we’re done for today.
So do try to check out the budget restaurants I’ve listed here and although they may not be perfect in every respect, and since things change so quickly, they could be different next week.
I’ll try to keep up though. And Nico’s guide is constantly updating too.
Big hugs from all the Sicilians (except for the taxi drivers!) and remember that old Don Tano is always here to answer questions or offer any other information he can.
Don Tano Bongiorno