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Thursday, November 16, 2023


 Via Argenteria in the center of Palermo’s old town. 
Culinary Backstreets takes us to Palermo’s Il Vizietto Bistrot 

GUEST BLOG / By Segolene Bulot and photos by Segolene Bulot-- In the historic center of the city, nestled near the vibrant Vucciria market, lies a unique dining experience in Il Vizietto Bistrot. A former abattoir, the space has been transformed into a restaurant that beckons patrons in search of a delicious meal. After all, the name Il Vizietto means “bad habit,” embodying the restaurant’s philosophy – a place to indulge, to enjoy, anchored by a carefully curated menu filled with Sicilian staples. 

 A must visit when in Palermo, Sicily: Il Vizietto Bistrot 

Sisters Maria, Karima and Rosaria Ferrante opened Il Vizietto Bistrot in 2020, and the project has survived several challenges, a global pandemic among them. Maria, Karima, and Rosaria Ferrante even considered naming it Bordello – “che bordello” is a common way of referring to a real mess in the local vernacular – an ode to the chaotic process of opening their bistro. However, they recognized the need for a name that transcended cultural connotations and embraced the idea of indulgence. 

 When we visit, we’re greeted by Mafalda, a close friend of the Ferrante family, who often lends a helping hand. She proudly shows us the black-and-white photographs adorning the restaurant’s facade, offering a captivating glimpse into the neighborhood’s rich history. Over the years, the once-eccentric Vucciria neighborhood has transformed, giving rise to many new bars and restaurants. However, thanks to places like Il Vizietto, Maria, Karima, and Rosaria’s culinary haven, echoes of the past still linger, allowing locals and visitors to savor the lively neighborhood ambience. 

Talented writer as she
is beautiful, Segolene Bulot
wrote this article.
Reopened recently after the pandemic forced its closure, Il Vizietto’s transformation includes a redesign that fosters an open atmosphere, a harmonious melding of space: interconnected rooms, an integration of indoor and outdoor spaces in the same seamless way the restaurant combines flavors. Thanks to Palermo’s favorable climate, the doors often remain open, tempting passers-by. The open kitchen, separated by a glass window, allows customers to witness the culinary orchestra led by Rosaria. As we arrive, we watch her preparing sugo di pomodori – a rich tomato sauce to accompany the iconic polpette di sarde (sardine balls). 

 Sicilian cuisine’s allure lies in its ability to create exquisite flavors using humble ingredients, and the polpette di sarde are a true testament to the culinary prowess of the island’s cooks. Sardines, an affordable and easily accessible local ingredient, take center stage in this traditional dish from the cucina povera siciliana – “the cuisine of the poor.” The recipe combines a blend of eggs, cheese, parsley, mint, raisins and pine nuts, rolled into balls and then deep fried. The result at Il Vizietto is a tantalizing balance of sweet and savory; tender on the inside, crunchy on the outside. 

 We spoke to a group of locals at the next table: Melania, Luciano, Davide, Giorgia, and Alessio, who had gathered there that day to celebrate Luciano’s birthday. They frequent the bustling Il Vizietto, drawn, they say, to the restaurant’s welcoming atmosphere and the genuine hospitality of the Ferrante sisters. 

 Spaghetti al nero di seppia 
Luciano, a devoted customer, confesses his undying love for Il Vizietto’s spaghetti al nero di seppia – a pasta dish infused with the rich flavor and color of squid ink – and their fritto misto di pesce, an indulgent medley of fried seafood that never fails to impress. After the savory dishes, Il Vizietto’s desserts are equally irresistible. The biancomangiare siciliano – a Sicilian adaptation of a curious medieval dish originally made with chicken breast, cornstarch and sugar – here combines a flat white cream with almond pudding infused with orange blossom water, a nod to local Middle Eastern and North African influences. This elegant dessert, once reserved for noble banquets and monastic menus, has become a beloved Sunday lunch treat for Sicilians. For a frozen option on a summer’s day, the semifreddo di mandorle is a Sicilian twist on the French almond parfait – made here with locally sourced almonds, an abundant resource in the region. And, of course, no Sicilian dessert repertoire is complete without the cannolo – a tube-shaped pastry filled with sweet ricotta – a true mainstay of Sicilian culinary fame, and yet another excuse to indulge at Il Vizietto. 

Fritto Misto seafood combo

Polpette di sarde 

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