Food Guide: What We Ate in Taormina, Sicily

My husband, daughter and I just returned from a glorious weeklong escape to Taormina, Sicily where we gorged on some of the best cuisine we have ever tasted in our lives. I have never felt such intense sadness as we did on our very last evening in Sicily, when we realized that this would be our last chance to devour fresh seafood carpaccio while sipping on an Aperol Spritz (interchangeable with a Sicilian house wine), followed by some sort of crazy delicious homemade pasta and a streetside cannoli.

Taormina is a dream that exceeded my expectations. To be perfectly honest, we weren’t sure what to expect, since Sicily isn’t as popular (to American tourists) as mainland Italy. We had such amazing food memories from our trip to Italy a few years ago, that we really just wanted to go someplace we could feast on MORE pasta, sit by the ocean, and drink endless bottles of wine. We dabbled between Portugal and Croatia, and ultimately picked Taormina, Sicily based on a friend’s recommendation. Since we were traveling with our toddler, it wasn’t realistic to travel to multiple locations, so Taormina was the perfect baby-friendly hub for us just to relax, take in the Mediterranean vibes and do some (very) light sight-seeing while feasting on Sicilian food. In case you missed it, we tend to be food-centric travelers. 🙂 We would have loved to travel to other towns in Sicily, but it made more sense for us to stay put in one place to allow ourselves to truly relax and enjoy THESE views…

Views from the Greek Theatre, one of the main attractions in Taormina 

We picked a beautiful (and so affordable compared to the Amalfi Coast!) apartment rental overlooking Mt. Etna and the Ionian Sea, just a five-minute walk from the main, pedestrian-only street Corso Umberto. The main street tends to get very touristy and packed during the day, but is absolutely magical at night. The best part about jet lag was that we would sleep in late (including our little lady!!), and then head out for a late lunch, afternoon stroll/sight-seeing, nap time for the babe, then a late dinner & drinks when the streets were quieter.

Sunrise from our private garden terrace at the Schuler Residence

Taormina during the day, packed with tourists strolling around and enjoying the various boutiques and restaurants

Stunning views from the Public Gardens 

THE FOOD GUIDE

There are obviously PLENTY more restaurant options than what’s on this list below, but these are some of our favorite spots based on our weeklong foodventuring. I really hope you get a chance to visit the gorgeous hilltop town of Taormina and visit some of these restaurants. It’s truly such a beautiful blend of Greek, Arab, and Italian influences and the sea views just CANNOT be beat.

GRANDUCA
http://www.ristorantegranduca.it/

We literally stumbled on a sign of Granduca while walking along Corso Umberto, followed a narrow staircase downstairs expecting a little pizza joint and found ourselves instead in a beautiful restaurant with a spectacular verandah overlooking the Ionian Sea. I would go here for the views alone, but the food was INCREDIBLE. We had a simple eggplant parmesan, linguine vongole, and the “Granduca” pizza which is HANDS down some of the best pizza I have ever had in my life. Smoked salmon and truffle and cherry tomatoes…I seriously regret not coming back here for round two because the food was as spectacular as the view. I’m a pasta lover, but come here for lunch and order the pizza. You will not be disappointed.

DA CRISTINA
https://rosticceriadacristina.com/ 

This is a popular little takeaway joint right off the main street with some seriously delicious food. There’s a pasta/hot foods section, and a pizza & arancini joint right next door with the same owner. You order at the counter and then sit either indoors and outdoors while the cooks whip up your dish in less than ten minutes. SO simple but SO FREAKIN’ GOOD. We ordered the Pasta alla Norma, a traditional Sicilian dish with tomato and eggplant sauce, more linguine vongole, and tiramisu on our first trip. I’m normally not a tomato sauce girl, but there’s just something about the tomatoes (AND the eggplant) in Europe that is so sweet and incredibly flavorful. We came back on our last day to check out the pizza joint and were not disappointed with the eggplant pizza and prosciutto arancini. Drooling just thinking about this place.

ARCO DEI CAPPUCCINI
https://ristorantearcodeicappuccini.com/ 

We checked out Arco Dei Cappuccini on our very first day in town after reading that this was a popular spot with the locals. It’s pricey, but worth it for its fresh seafood. This was where we had our first taste of traditional Sicilian seafood carpaccio and let me just tell you – I don’t know how I lived my life before eating raw shrimp and langoustine. It has the most buttery, sweet, delightful taste in the world and you HAVE TO TRY IT when you’re in Sicily. The lobster pasta was also delightful and the tiramisu was to die for. The service was also wonderful, which I have to say was the case for every single one of these restaurants. Everyone was so sweet and loving and playful with our daughter, and it made for such a relaxing experience for us as parents.

OSTERIA ROSSODIVINO
http://www.osteria-rosso-divino.com/

This was one of the restaurants that kept popping up as a top recommendation in my research, so I made a dinner reservation ahead of time. It’s tucked away in a quieter part of town with a beautiful garden patio. The food is slightly more modern and inventive than your traditional down home Italian cooking. While this usually raises a red flag for me, we loved the food here – especially the delicious pasta with fresh zucchini flowers and shrimp. Beautiful and tasty. The veal was good too, but I’d err on the side of ordering seafood over meat while in Sicily. There’s just SO much good seafood to be had here!

DA GIOVANNI
https://www.viamichelin.com/web/Restaurant/MAZZARO-98030-Da_Giovanni-3cbq3xo 

This is another restaurant that we just stumbled upon after taking the cable car down to the beach to check out Isola Bella. We were disappointed to find that there was a long flight of stairs to access the beach and couldn’t take our stroller all the way down there. So instead, we popped into the first restaurant we saw located by the flight of stairs and were blown away by the view of Isola Bella. The food was fantastic too – we just had some simple fried seafood and pasta and it completely hit the spot. I don’t think you can really go wrong with any of these beachside restaurants, but I’m really glad we checked this one out. I discovered later that this one is on the Michelin Guide!

TRATTORIA TIRAMISU
https://trattoriatiramisu.it/ 

This adorable little trattoria was located right by our apartment rental and was always bustling with diners every night, so we knew we had to check it out. It was amazing, and probably offered my favorite seafood carpaccio of the entire trip (and trust me, we tried a few different ones). The lobster pasta was absolutely divine and the desserts were exquisite. The place is known for its tiramisu (duh), which was incredible, but the pistachio panna cotta was absolutely divine as well. My husband almost went back there on our last night just to try the panna cotta again.

OSTERIA NERO D’AVOLA
https://www.yelp.com/biz/osteria-nero-d-avola-taormina 

This beautiful Michelin star restaurant also came highly recommended from tourists and locals alike. While it wasn’t my favorite meal, I would still recommend it for some great dishes, wine selection and a lovely outdoor patio. Perfect for date night. We sampled the eggplant parm, sea urchin pasta (frozen, not fresh – but still tasty!), Sicilian ragu, and a delightful panna cotta.

So there you have it – our favorite eats in Taormina! Other notable highlights include pizza at Villa Zuccaro, drinking almond wine at Bar Turrisi in Castelmola, and the amazing live music and grappa at Cafe Wunderbar every night. They say Taormina can be done in three or four days, but we truly enjoyed spending the whole week there and enjoying all its little gems. We could have easily spent another three days there!

Hope you enjoyed this post and leave me comments/questions if you’re planning a trip to Taormina. Much love ❤

Parisian Foodventures: My Top 5 Meals!

If you’ve been following me on the ‘gram, then you know that I just got back from an INCREDIBLE weeklong trip to Paris with my little family–yes, including the baby in tow! Most people thought we were absolutely bonkers to travel to Europe with a newborn who’s not even three months old, but it was so, so worth it. It was a LOT of work, but also tons and tons of fun. I’ll do another post on tips for traveling with an infant in Paris, so stay tuned 🙂

For this post though, I want to focus entirely on FOOD. We spent seven nights in Paris staying in the trendy Le Marais neighborhood, and it was so wonderful staying put in one place. Pre-baby, our international trips always consisted of multiple cities with jam-packed itineraries and daily restaurant reservations. This time around, traveling with a baby forced us to slooow down, space out our sight-seeing, and leave lots of room for spontaneous breaks at those darling French cafes people-watching for hours. Yes, it was as delightful as it sounds.

We made a few restaurant reservations ahead of time (a must for most Parisian restaurants!), and made sure to mention that we were with a newborn baby who would be in her carseat sleeping. Because she’s so young, we were able to get away with a few tasting menus, but still opted for more casual vs. stuffy/fancy restaurants. That’s more our style anyway! We had an amazing mix of meals during our stay in Paris – from modern French tasting menus, to delicious North African cuisine, to mouthwatering Italian food, and of course those fantastic pastries. I don’t think there was a single meal that I didn’t enjoy, but here are my top five FAVORITE meals that we enjoyed during our time in Paris.

*Disclaimer: There are obviously a zillion other restaurants in Paris, and we selected places that were convenient for us to visit with a newborn baby, but hopefully this is still helpful in your trip planning! Oh, and tip for eating out in Paris with a baby–make an early reservation (most places open at 7 or 7:30 pm) so that you can get in and out before it gets too busy. Some places might get cranky if you show up with a carseat + stroller (mostly because Parisian restaurants are tiny), but we were so pleasantly surprised with how friendly and accommodating each of the below places were. 

1. LA BOURSE ET LA VIE
http://www.labourselavie.com/en/  

My carnivorous hubby was obviously on the hunt for the best steak-frites in Paris, which is how we ended up at La Bourse et La Vie, a modern (and slightly Americanized) take on a traditional French bistro. With super minimalistic decor, and an uber-cool wait staff, we were in for a stellar meal. I’m so glad we found this place, because I’m still dreaming about that incredible rare steak au poivre with thick, crispy potatoes cooked to perfection. We split one steak, which was probably for the best, but I kiiiinda wish I devoured one on my own. So. good.

2. LES ENFANTS ROUGES
https://www.les-enfants-rouges.fr/ 

Les Enfants Rouges was probably THE most convenient restaurant we went to in Paris, because it was located right next to our Airbnb. It was also just an incredible meal. A tiny restaurant located in a side street of Le Marais with a Japanese chef, Les Enfants Rouges was exactly the type of modern inventive French food we were craving for our very first dinner in Paris. We opted for the six-course tasting menu, and our super sweet waitress who had just moved to Paris from Tokyo (and was juggling three different languages) happily described each of our dishes in English. French, with a touch of Asian influence. Our favorite dishes included a beautiful beef & mushroom dish and a mouthwatering molten chocolate dessert with pistachio ice cream.

3. COME A CASA
http://comeacasa7.tumblr.com/

It’s tough competition, but this might have been my favorite meal of all, just because the restaurant was SO ME. I live for tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurants that make you feel like you’re inside someone’s living room, and that’s exactly what Come a Casa is. It’s a tiny place in a very residential neighborhood owned by an Italian couple that changes the menu daily. Oh, and there’s only like three things on the menu. And everything is simple, fresh, and exquisitely delicious. We sat outside, drank lots of wine, and ate to our heart’s content. Big thanks to my friend Kat (a former Parisian) who recommended this very special place to us!

 

4. EAST MAMMA
https://www.bigmammagroup.com/fr/trattorias/east-mamma 

We were severely depressed on our last night in Paris and had no idea where to go. We wanted to go someplace casual, and I was craving another Italian meal because well, what’s new. I always want Italian. Kat had told me to visit one of the restaurants from the popular ‘Big Mamma’ restaurants so I mapped out whichever one was closest to our Airbnb. So that’s how we ended up waiting in line for East Mamma to open its doors at 7 pm on a Saturday night. Pretty much everyone in the line was speaking in French, which is how I knew we were in for an amazing meal. And boy, did it deliver. We were quickly seated outside, ordered the truffle pasta and a truffle pizza, and…died and went to heaven. To top it off, we polished off a pistachio creme brulee that might have been even better than a Pierre Herme macaron. And that’s saying a LOT.

5. SEMILLA
https://www.semillaparis.com/en 

Semilla is one of those trendy Parisian restaurants that just oozes French sophistication. The local patrons there are impeccably dressed, and the waitresses are just-friendly-enough to still be cool. When we asked for the tasting menu, they warned us that our baby might not last the two and a half hours (…their polite way of saying, please eat quickly) but I’m glad we insisted on it anyway. And our little one thankfully slept through the entire dinner! I loved my meal here–it felt more clean and refined than the modern French cuisine at Les Enfants Rouges, but perhaps with a little less heart. I’d still recommend Semilla for the overall ambience and really, really good food. The sole fish with tons and tons of butter was DIVINE.

Two-Week Itinerary for Italy & Santorini

Ever since my husband and I got engaged, we’ve been dreaming about an extended honeymoon somewhere in Europe. We’ve both traveled to Europe separately, but couldn’t wait to experience its magic together. I spent four years in Paris growing up and planned a trip to Barcelona after graduating from college, while he had studied abroad in Madrid. With our hectic schedules, we couldn’t make a honeymoon work right after the wedding, but boy was it worth the two-year wait.

We explored a couple different countries while researching for our trip, and almost decided against Italy. We were worried it would be too touristy, and it just felt so cliched to travel to Italy for our honeymoon after seeing so many of our friends doing the same. We’ve both also been to Italy during our younger years, and considered traveling somewhere more off the beaten path. Alas, our love for fresh pasta, vino and Italian culture was too strong, and I’m SO glad we decided to spend the majority of our trip in Italy. It’s simply exquisite. Santorini has always been at the top of my bucket list, so I convinced my husband to spend the last few days of our vacation there since we were going to be so close. I definitely need to plan a separate trip to Greece to experience its culture in its entirety, but we’re incredibly grateful that we got to spend a few days in Santorini during our honeymoon. It is beyond words.

Here’s how we laid out our two weeks in Italy & Santorini. September is the perfect time to visit Italy, because it’s at the end of tourist season and the weather starts to cool down ever so slightly (but still warm enough for beaches). We wanted to get a good feel for the country by visiting a variety of different cities, but we also didn’t want to be overwhelmed by packing our bags every 1-2 days. We wanted a good mix of beach towns, wine country, big cities, culture and adventure with things to constantly do. We like to be on the go when we’re on vacation rather than beach bumming for a week straight, so this itinerary worked really well for us and gave us a sense of places we want to visit again for a longer period of time. We also LOVED all the hotels/B&Bs that we stayed at, so I’ve linked details to our accommodations. Okay, enough rambling – here we go!

  • DAY 1: Fly into Naples, rent a car (with a driver – you don’t want to be driving on your own here) and drive directly to the picturesque town of Positano for two days. We’re not huge beach people and wanted to spend more time in other places in Italy and in Santorini, so we decided to spend all our time in Positano rather than town-hopping around the Amalfi Coast.
    • Positano accommodation: Villa La Tartana  (cute little no-frills B&B steps away from the Spiagga Grande)
    • Tip: Visit Le Sirenuse for a gorgeous view of Positano’s colorful homes. Rent a private speed boat at Spiagga Grande (super affordable for just an hour or two) for the most breathtaking and luxurious views of the Amalfi Coast. You can drive around the coast with a bottle of Prosecco, visit private beaches, and go swimming. The views of Positano from the boat just can’t be beat.
    • Foodie highlights: We weren’t super adventurous with food in Positano because we were there for such a short period of time but we liked Chez Black for fresh seafood and a stellar waterfront view. Yes, it’s super touristy and on the pricey side, but worth it for one meal.
  • DAY 2: Positano – sight seeing, beach bumming
  • DAY 3: Positano in the morning, then take a car back to Naples and a train to Florence
    • Florence accommodation: Le Stanze di Caterina (steps away from the Duomo with beautiful, art-inspired rooms)
  • DAY 4: Florence – sight seeing (Uffizi Gallery, Scuola del Cuoio – Florence’s leather school with amazing leather products, and sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo)
    • Foodie highlights: Osteria Santo Spirito for a more local feel and Trattoria ZaZa for unbelievable truffle pastas.
  • DAY 5: Florence – sight seeing till the late afternoon (Mercato Centrale for fabulous lunch options and Accademia for the gorgeous David), then rent a car to drive to Tuscany
    • Tuscany accommodation: Fonte de Medici (We got an incredible deal through Jetsetter– the most gorgeous Tuscan villas EVER! A little remote, but totally worth it for the property)
    • Foodie highlights: Lamole di Lamole. Must visit for the most mouthwatering Florentine steak ever. Amazing spot.
  • DAY 6: Tuscany – wine tasting and visiting little Medieval towns
  • DAY 7: Tuscany/day trip to Siena
  • DAY 8: Tuscany, then drive to Rome
    • Rome accommodation: Augustana House (Super clean, no-frills B&B located on a quieter, less touristy part of the city. Nicest staff, but I do wish we had stayed in the Trastavere neighborhood instead for its charming alleyways and boho feel!)
    • Foodie highlights: We arrived in Rome with pretty low expectations (“It’s too hot! Too touristy!”) but we absolutely LOVED the city. The food in particular was absolutely stellar; the best we had in the country. Highly recommend following Romewise.com for restaurant suggestions and making reservations EARLY – I’m still dreaming about my pasta dishes from Osteria del Sostegno and Roberto e Loretta. Rome is heaven for pasta, bacon and tiramisu lovers. Mmm!
  • DAY 9: Rome – sight seeing (Trevi Fountain and the Caesar Shuffle – Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Pantheon)
  • DAY 10: Rome – sight seeing (the Vatican – absolutely incredible)
  • DAY 11: Rome in the morning, then flight to Santorini
    • Santorini accommodation: The Majestic Hotel (just outside Fira – BEAUTIFUL hotel, but we would have preferred to stay in Oia or Imerovigli instead)
    • Tip: Best way to explore the entire island is by renting an ATV! So much fun, and you come across so many lovely little private beaches with family-owned seafood restaurants. Some of the spots we stumbled upon were just magnificent. Santorini is too beautiful for words.
  • DAY 12: Santorini – sight seeing (Sunset Cruise – highly recommend splurging for one with fewer people on the boat)
  • DAY 13: Santorini – sight seeing (exploring the towns of Fira, Imerovigli, and Oia)
  • DAY 14: Santorini, then flight back to the U.S. via Rome

Sigh, can I please go back already? Hope this itinerary was helpful for your planning – leave me a comment if you have any questions! And just so this post isn’t ALL words, here are some of my favorite pictures from our trip:

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The adorable town of Positano in the Amalfi Coast

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Sunset in Florence from the Piazza Michelangelo 

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View of Firenze from the Uffizi Gallery

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Rolling hills of Tuscany. View from Fonte de Medici. No words. 

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Trevi Fountain, Rome

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Santorini views from Imerovigli 

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Sunset at Oia, Santorini