“Sicily is not exactly Italy,” Anthony Bourdain says about a destination that beguiled him during the two trips that he made. Located just two miles off the coast of Italy, Sicily might be considered part of the Bel Paese from a bureaucratic standpoint, but both Sicilians and Italians agree that Sicily is a world unto itself.
Anthony Bourdain visited Sicily twice in his television career. The first was during season 1 (episode 6) of No Reservations, and the second was during season 2 (episode 5) of Parts Unknown. As Tony points out, his return visit was in part an attempt to redeem himself in portraying Sicily to his audience – and also to let Sicily show him her true nature that he felt he missed during the first trip.
If you’re planning a visit to Sicily and are curious about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Sicily, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve watched both of these episodes carefully and have done extra research to ensure this is the best guide to helping you follow Tony’s footsteps and forkfuls – and none of the missteps or bad bites.
Ready to discover Sicily and all the flavors it has to offer, as Bourdain experienced it?
Places Visited by Anthony Bourdain in Sicily
Before jumping into the details of each place visited by Anthony Bourdain in Sicily, I thought it might be helpful to see a map of them all, as well as where he visited in each episode/show. Here’s a quick list:
In this episode, Tony meets a politician, argues about Sicilian superiority, and traces some foods to their roots.
Here’s where he ate:
- Antica Focacceria San Francesco (Palermo)
- Unknown Pasticceria (Palermo)
- Mercado del Capo (Palermo)
- Hotel Baia Turchese (Lampedusa)
- Pasticceria Chemi (Taormina, CLOSED)
In this episode, Tony films the worst fishing scene in his entire career, drinks tons of Sicilian wine, and finally finds those special flavors.
Here’s where he ate:
- Osteria Nero D’Avola (Taormina)
- Trattoria Piccolo Napoli (Palermo)
- Macelleria Equina (Palermo)
- Catania Fish Market (Catania)
- Monaci delle Terre Nere (Zafferana Etnea)
Antica Focacceria San Francesco (Palermo)
Fresh from the plane and with lost luggage, it should come as no surprise that Anthony Bourdain is thoroughly bemused when his first meal in Sicily is accompanied by the president. Yep, the Sicilian president. They head to Antica Focacceria San Francesco for a local lunch; President Salvatore Cuffaro recommends the panino al penelle, a bread sandwich with fried chickpeas, and they also try focaccia ca meusa, a spleen sandwich with local cheese.
Bonus! Antica Focacceria San Francesco has other locations all over Italy including in Rome if you’re also visiting that city.
Unknown Pasticceria (Palermo)
Next, Tony and President Cuffaro head to a different restaurant/dining establishment for dessert. There they enjoy watermelon gelee – think jello – with Sicilian pistachios and chocolate.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to determine exactly where this was – however it had a green awning and red tablecloths during his visit in 2005. If you know where this might have been, please let me know in the comments as A) I’d love to try this dessert myself and B) I want others to enjoy it too if the place is still open.
Mercado del Capo (Palermo)
Next up, Tony heads to one of his go-to spots in any destination: the local market. In this case, he visits the Mercado del Capo in Palermo, which claims to be the oldest market in the world. There he meets up with a renowned writer and historian of Sicilian culture and they sample foods throughout the market.
Hotel Baia Turchese (Lampedusa)
While not strictly a food experience, after squid fishing and winning a round of bocce against some locals on the island of Lampedusa, Tony heads to the beach in front of Hotel Baia Turchese for a moment’s relaxation. There he orders a piña colada – definitely not a local flavor, but hey, it’s what lots of Italians and Europeans head to Sicily to enjoy!
Pasticceria Chemi (Taormina, CLOSED)
To round out his restaurant experiences in Sicily, Bourdain meets up with a fellow Italian film nerd – a Sicilian friend who just finished film school in New York – and they discuss Sicily’s portrayal in Italian film and what makes Sicily culturally unique. They head to the now-closed Pasticceria Chemi for the iconic Sicilian dessert: cannoli. While Tony claims he’s had great ones in NYC, even he is impressed by enjoying this sweet treat at its source.
Osteria Nero D’Avola (Taormina)
After the inimitable fake fishing incident – it’s literally cringe-worthy to watch and I’ve never forgotten it – Tony gets blasted at a local wine bar before dinner at Osteria Nero D’Avola.
While he claims not to remember the meal, he does a good job of narrating the dishes during the voiceover, which included white olives, bread and local olive oil, raw abalones on the half-shell, baby sardines with citrus and salt, an octopus and shrimp salad, tuna tartare, cuttlefish crudo, Pasta Al Finocchietto (pasta with fennel, pine nuts, saffron, and anchovies), and fried sardines, served with lots – perhaps too much – Sicilian wine.
This is the first meal, including his entire first visit, that really shows off fine dining in Sicily.
Trattoria Piccolo Napoli (Palermo)
I’d argue that despite the impressive menus he tries elsewhere, Bourdain’s meal at Trattoria Piccolo Napoli with food writer Mary Taylor Simeti is his favorite. This isn’t a fancy meal, nor is it street food; instead, the two discuss Sicilian food and politics over dishes including panelli (fried chickpea fritters), caponata (sweet and sour eggplant), spaghetti al nero deseppia (spaghetti in cuttlefish ink), casarecce al pesce spada (pasta with swordfish, eggplant, and tomatoes), plus Sicilian white wine.
It’s during this scene that Tony says something along the lines of “there it is,” a magic phrase he says when he’s finally found that meal, those flavors he was looking for in that destination.
Macelleria Equina (Palermo)
Okay first to address the elephant – or should I say horse – in the room, there are a lot af places named Macelleria Equina in Palermo, and I’m not totally sure which one Tony visited with Sicilian friends Anthony and Marco (if you know, let me know in the comments!). However, visit they do, to one of those Macelleria Equinas, to try horse meat.
Horse meat is popular street food in Palermo, and they try both thin-cut horse steaks and horse meatballs. This might be off-putting for some visitors, but is a great local flavor to seek out if you’re following the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Sicily.
Catania Fish Market (Catania)
At the fish market in Catania, Tony shops for ingredients for lunch and tries a few local flavors – as one does at a Sicilian market where the food is meant to entice you to try and buy. In particular, he samples blood sausage with salt and pepper, and tripe with fresh lemon.
As mentioned, he’s also shopping for a local lunch, which his friend and guide Tomaso’s mother will make for them. Since you can find many of the ingredients at the market, I’ll mention the dishes she prepares here: Arancine al Ruso (arancini made of hollowed-out potato filled with cheese), caponata, bread and tomato salad, shrimp sauteed in garlic, butter, and herbs, and filleted and sauteed sardines.
Monaci delle Terre Nere (Zafferana Etnea)
Tony ends the episode where it began, at the Monaci delle Terre Nere, an agriturismo much like the ones he visits in Sardinia. This working farm with accommodation and restaurant is a great base if you’re visiting Sicily, and the food Bourdain tries there sounds amazing.
His final meal on-screen includes penne with sun-dried tomatoes and zucchini, roast rabbit with olive oil and fresh vegetables, and corino agrodolce (I might have this name wrong!), served with Silician wine and cheese with local honey. It’s a delicious end to his second Silicy visit and ends on a high note.
Local Dining Experiences in Sicily
As usual during his travels, Anthony Bourdain has a number of local dining – aka non-restaurant – experiences in Sicily. On his first trip, these include:
- Trying frittola (fried scraps of various animals) from a local vendor, followed by a glass of Sicilian wine from a kiosk.
- Heading out on a sailing excursion with charcuterie and beer – oh, and cliff diving.
- Visiting the oldest salt marshes in Europe, Trapani, where he also enjoys a local meal of octopus salad, caponata, pasta, and fresh-caught salt-baked bass-like fish.
- Farming for capers on the island of Pantelleria followed by a lunch with the farmers that included pasta with grilled tomatoes, crushed capers, and basil sauce; salt-aged capers; grilled scormeete (local fish) and bread with salad, with homemade, wine of course.
- Eating pizza on the slopes of Mount Etna, Sicily’s famously active volcano.
During his second visit, Bourdain has one main local dining experience (in addition to the lunch with Tomaso and his mother): he visits the Nebrodi Mountains for a pig slaughter. Obviously this scene isn’t for everyone, but I’ll mention it for those who want the full picture.
The Nebrodi Mountains are the home of the black-skinned pig, suino nero in Sicilian; during his visit, one is slaughtered to make a meal that includes fresh pork confit and blood sausage. Tony and others in attendance also try cured meats, local cheeses, and homemade wine.
You obviously won’t be able to replicate this one, but as I said, I try to be comprehensive so you know everything Bourdain ate in Silicy!
Sicilian Food Tours to Try
Planning a food trip to Sicily might be a bit intimidating, and you can’t replicate every dining experience Tony had there – but you can sample some of the best Sicilian flavors by taking a food tour. Here are three great ones to check out to try a bunch of different dishes in different parts of the region.
And with that, you’ve got everything you need to know to visit the same places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Sicily. Have any questions about how to follow Tony’s travels in Sicily? Let me know in the comments!