Buatta in Palermo is one of the best trattorias in Italy. Here's why

Nov 11 2023, 12:57
Buatta in Palermo is not only one of the best trattorias in Italy, but an important part of a gastronomic ecosystem that from Palermo is about to reach as far as Turin

When a trattoria wins the Tre Gamberi, the highest award in the Gambero Rosso Ristoranti d'Italia guide, there is always a concurrence of reasons, the first of which is the quality of the proposal, the constancy, the ability to tell the story of a gastronomic territory without suffocating in the constraints of tradition. Of being a place full of life. And here, at Buatta, there is plenty of life.

Buatta. The Palermo cuisine of Rome-native chef Fabio Cardilio

On the one hand, there is the Art Nouveau beauty of the spaces, a former period luggage store transformed into an elegant trattoria with large wood-framed windows, marble floors and cast-iron columns; on the other hand, there is the quality of the dishes: a popular proposal that demonstrates the timeliness of Palermo's cuisine. It is the signature of Fabio Cardilio, a Roman transplanted to Palermo who has developed, over the years, a meticulous interpretation of city dishes. Good, gourmand, elegant, yet genuine, fully authentic, capable of dispelling the myth of legendary heaviness that accompanies this cuisine by virtue of a precise and fine hand. And starting with a selection of ingredients that betrays a certain maniacal scrupulousness for what some would call excellence: whether Slow Food presidia or small producers without plaques on the door, the common point is always the great quality that Cardilio knows how to enhance and promote.

This is the starting point for dishes often of disarming simplicity, such as caciocavallo all'argentiera, Madonite snails, or the frittatina with organic vegetables, a true emblem of home-cooked lunches. And then, in succession, sfincione, minestra con i tenerumi (extraordinary even at equatorial temperatures), a timballo d'anelletti unique for the point at which the pasta is cooked, incredibly al dente, and the exquisite bucatini sarde e finocchietto. Unwavering tradition, which also indulges in variations on the theme, as in the case of the ravioli with offal. All accompanied by Melania Guarneri's bread (the same for all the group's establishments), a wine list that is not afraid to declare its love of the natural world, concentrating above all on local labels, but you can also drink mixed, all in an informal, easy-going atmosphere with attentive service coordinated by Umberto De Simone, one of the cornerstones of a team that now numbers around 20 people and counts on its sous chef Davide Prestifilippo and Giovanni Vassallo in the dining room.

Buatta outside Buatta. The group

When one speaks of Buatta, however, it is difficult to limit oneself to just the trattoria on Via Vittorio Emanuele, because that restaurant is part of an ecosystem that has transformed Palermo's scenery. The credit goes to the stainless duo Franco Virga - Stefania Milano, who over time have added and moved, as the case may be, the pieces of a colourful and changing mosaic. We talked about it a couple of years ago, but in the Virga&Milano group (formerly Good Company) two years are geological eras. Since then there has been Stazione Vucciria, that incredible summer pop-up in Finale di Pollina, a stone's throw from the sea that first hosted Kobe Desramauls and then Yoji Tokuyoshi, there has been a change in the pass of the seafood trattoria Aja Mola - now firmly in the hands of Tiziana Francoforte - and Bocum, which has redefined its boundaries and is preparing for a new, further transformation: the vibrant universe created by Virga&Milano is in fact ready to overturn everything again. Rebelot, some would say, recalling the beginnings in Italy of Mauricio Zillo, chef at Gagini, the group's flagship that continues to expand the team (with Antonio Currò as restaurant manager and Vincenzo Genuardi in the kitchen, with three years as second pastry chef at La Pergola in Rome). In the group's ecosystem - in which product quality and good natural drinks are key elements - there is also Libertà, the wine bar in the street of the same name that in the next few months will expand to over 250 square metres (plus 5/600 outside) to decline the format of the classic V&M-style steakhouse, which means with a very careful search for Sicilian ingredients: from Ragusa donkey to Messina foal, from Nebrodi pig to Enna calves. Great meats, great wines in an ambience curated by a London studio “that is doing magical things in the dining scene,” says Franco Virga. The project is still in progress, but the foundations are laid. And there’s more.

Buatta and Aja Mola in Turin

Stefania and Franco smile when you tell them about what happened just a season ago, because they already have more news in store. New projects, small changes of course, or unexpected swerves, like the one that leads straight from the Vuccìria to Porta Palazzo where in the next few weeks - time to train the brigade - the Turin annexes of Buatta and Aja Mola will arrive on the ground floor of the Mercato Centrale in Turin.  An extension that from Palermo leads to Savoy soil, extending its hand to nearby Milan as well, with the playful acronym: ToPaMi. We will hear more about it.

Buatta – Palermo – Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 176 – www.buattapalermo.it

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