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Peasants with a cart and Roman ruins on the well, with tables of aging diners in the foreground.
A nostalgic mural of Sicily covers one wall at Joe’s of Avenue U.

10 Sublime Sicilian Restaurants in NYC

Where to find glorious coastal seafood, vegetables, and twirls of pasta

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A nostalgic mural of Sicily covers one wall at Joe’s of Avenue U.

You may already be eating Sicilian food without knowing it. What is probably the world’s most popular bar snack — fried calamari — is fundamentally Sicilian, and so is the eggplant relish (or is it a salad?) called caponata. And, of course, the thick, square slices of Sicilian pizza found in nearly every neighborhood pizzeria, more properly called focaccia or sfincione.

Sicily lies at the crossroads of the Mediterranean adjacent to the north coast of Africa, and over the years has absorbed more international influences than most other cuisines — including that of France, Middle Eastern Arab states, ancient Greece and Rome, Turkey, the Venetian Empire, and Morocco, to name a few. It’s a cuisine rich in seafood and vegetables, and if you stroll into Joe’s of Avenue U, you will see both in glorious displays, including eggplant, broccoli rabe, and escarole decorated with shards of garlic. Pastas, chickpeas, and sandwiches made on special rolls also play an important part, too. Here’s a rundown of my favorite places to get Sicilian food in the city. And check out this review of old-timer Ferdinando’s Focacceria.

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This modern Sicilian restaurant approaches its menu with scholarly glee, ferreting out regional recipes not normally encountered here. Busiate al pesto Trapanese is a good example — al dente pasta twists flavored with almonds, basil, tomato, Sicilian garlic, and crushed almonds. It comes from the far western city of Trapani, and there are plenty of other quirky pastas, vegetable apps, and big round sandwiches made on cabbuci bread from the wood-burning oven. And, not content with a few stray bottles from the triangular island, the wine list at this gem of a spot is all Sicilian.

A heap of thinly slice eggplant woven into a hat shape, with tomato sauce all around.
Eggplant timballo, a convex pie of the purple vegetable bathed in tomato sauce.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Pane Pasta

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Pane Pasta (“bread dough”) opened two years ago in Greenwich Village, just off the NYU campus. Though it emphasizes custard-stuffed and chocolate-drizzled pastries, it also offers a plethora of Sicilian snacks and sandwiches, the former including potato fritters and rice balls, the latter panelle-and-potato sandwiches, thick slices of Sicilian focaccia, and anelletti, pasta rings most often baked with tomato sauce. This is a great place to assemble a picnic for nearby Washington Square Park.

Three cardboard boxes of sandwiches and pastry.
A selection of Pane Pasta offerings: rice balls, bomboloni, and panelle-and-potato panini.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Famous Ben's Pizza

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In the heart of Soho, Ben’s is a pizzeria founded in 1979 that identifies itself as Sicilian, and though many of its glass-case offerings could be found in nearly any pizzeria, this is one of the few places that serves the classic rectangular sfincone topped with sauteed onions and breadcrumbs, called “Palermo” on its identifying tag. Other slices featuring eggplant, broccoli rabe, mushrooms, and zucchini are also baked in the style of Sicily’s capital.

A square pan with rectangular brown slices topped with crumbs.
The Sicilian pizza called sfincione at Famous Ben’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Piccola Cucina Estiatorio

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As part of the Piccola Cucina chain — with branches in Ibiza and Montana — this compact place cultivates an international resort vibe, and offers Sicilian food that partly concentrates on its Greek influences. That means wonderful grilled sardines and raw fish crudos, without neglecting classic Sicilian dishes like rice balls from the owner’s Sicilian hometown of Catania and maccheroni Norma, featuring hand-rolled pasta with eggplant-dotted tomato sauce, named after a 19th-century opera by Vincenzo Bellini (who also inspired a cocktail).

Long thick strands of hand rolled pasta with red sauce and grated cheese on top.
Maccheroni Norma at Piccola Cucina Estiatorio.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Catania Bakery

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Dubbed for Sicily’s second largest city, situated at the base of Mt. Etna on the East Coast, this classic Ridgewood Sicilian bakery offers butter cookies, cakes, breads and croissants, doughnuts, and luscious pastries, many bearing fresh fruit and filled with the cannoli cream for which this long-running establishment is justifiably famous. Around holidays like Easter and Christmas, the bakery rolls out special Sicilian and Neapolitan pastries.

An sugar coated empanada and round small pie with a pastry cross on top.
Casatina (filled with cannoli cream) and pasteira (filled with ricotta and orange peel). 
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

When Joe’s was founded in 1982, it was a focacceria, selling sandwiches, bowls of steaming tripe soup, and other old-style Sicilian treats. Then around 2004 it moved north on Forest Avenue into a new and more elegant space and became a full-blown restaurant. Pastas are a strong point, including spaghetti with thin and crisp Sicilian sausages, and linguine with red or white clam sauce. And don’t miss the anchovy and tomato salad as a starter.

Slices of red ripe tomato with dark anchovies draped across them.
Anchovies and tomatoes at Joe’s in Ridgewood.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Ferdinando's Focacceria

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Ferdinando’s, now on its fourth owner since being founded in 1904, is the oldest Sicilian restaurant in town, and also one of our oldest Italian restaurants. The premises charmingly reflect its age, and the miracle is that much of the menu from a century ago remains intact (it began life only selling small round sandwiches to longshoremen). From fragrant baked clams and seafood salads to crumb-stuffed giant artichokes, the food excels. Don’t skip the celebrated pasta con sarde, a heap of thick spaghetti in a tomato sauce laced with fennel and sardines.

A huge artichoke baked to near blackness with crumbs on top.
The baked artichoke boasts a profuse crumb filling.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Mazzola Bakery

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This splendid bakery was founded in 1928 when Cobble Hill was a Sicilian stronghold, and is currently occupying temporary digs, but will move back to its original location at the corner of Union and Henry in the near future. It sells all manner of enticing cookies, pastries, and pork-laced breads (the lard bread is legendary), but direct your attention to the Sicilian pizza squares — a paragon of bakery pizzas — with a selection that changes daily.

A hand holds a long bumpy loaf aloft.
Mazzola’s legendary lard bread.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Amuni is an assertively modern Sicilian restaurant that appeared during the pandemic in Bay Ridge. The setting is an informal cafe, and the old-time Sicilian recipes are often slightly updated for contemporary tastes. The panelle special, a sandwich of chickpea fritters that look like fried ravioli, are now stacked on a large bun, making a very full meal. Tuscan style, the artichokes are fried instead of stuffed, and a wonderful version of the muffuletta is fabricated, as if it had come from Sicily rather than from Sicilians living in New Orleans.

A sandwich of yellow slabs of fried chickpea paste and ricotta cheese.
A panelle special at Amuni is made on a full-size roll rather than the traditional small round roll.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Joe's of Avenue U

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If you could go to only one Sicilian restaurant in the city, Joe’s would be the place. Heralded by a giant mural of an island folk scene, it offers the most complete menu of any restaurant of its type, heavy with the vegetables beloved of Sicilians, displayed in a glass case as you enter the restaurant. Sure there are panelle special sandwiches, caponata, broccoli rabe with garlic, and pasta con sarde, but also find such lesser-known dishes as fettuccine with sea urchin and a tripe-and-potato stew.

Wide noodles with little wads of orange sea urchin.
Pasta and sea urchin at Joe’s of Avenue U.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Norma

A heap of thinly slice eggplant woven into a hat shape, with tomato sauce all around.
Eggplant timballo, a convex pie of the purple vegetable bathed in tomato sauce.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

This modern Sicilian restaurant approaches its menu with scholarly glee, ferreting out regional recipes not normally encountered here. Busiate al pesto Trapanese is a good example — al dente pasta twists flavored with almonds, basil, tomato, Sicilian garlic, and crushed almonds. It comes from the far western city of Trapani, and there are plenty of other quirky pastas, vegetable apps, and big round sandwiches made on cabbuci bread from the wood-burning oven. And, not content with a few stray bottles from the triangular island, the wine list at this gem of a spot is all Sicilian.

A heap of thinly slice eggplant woven into a hat shape, with tomato sauce all around.
Eggplant timballo, a convex pie of the purple vegetable bathed in tomato sauce.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Pane Pasta

Three cardboard boxes of sandwiches and pastry.
A selection of Pane Pasta offerings: rice balls, bomboloni, and panelle-and-potato panini.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Pane Pasta (“bread dough”) opened two years ago in Greenwich Village, just off the NYU campus. Though it emphasizes custard-stuffed and chocolate-drizzled pastries, it also offers a plethora of Sicilian snacks and sandwiches, the former including potato fritters and rice balls, the latter panelle-and-potato sandwiches, thick slices of Sicilian focaccia, and anelletti, pasta rings most often baked with tomato sauce. This is a great place to assemble a picnic for nearby Washington Square Park.

Three cardboard boxes of sandwiches and pastry.
A selection of Pane Pasta offerings: rice balls, bomboloni, and panelle-and-potato panini.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Famous Ben's Pizza

A square pan with rectangular brown slices topped with crumbs.
The Sicilian pizza called sfincione at Famous Ben’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

In the heart of Soho, Ben’s is a pizzeria founded in 1979 that identifies itself as Sicilian, and though many of its glass-case offerings could be found in nearly any pizzeria, this is one of the few places that serves the classic rectangular sfincone topped with sauteed onions and breadcrumbs, called “Palermo” on its identifying tag. Other slices featuring eggplant, broccoli rabe, mushrooms, and zucchini are also baked in the style of Sicily’s capital.

A square pan with rectangular brown slices topped with crumbs.
The Sicilian pizza called sfincione at Famous Ben’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Piccola Cucina Estiatorio

Long thick strands of hand rolled pasta with red sauce and grated cheese on top.
Maccheroni Norma at Piccola Cucina Estiatorio.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

As part of the Piccola Cucina chain — with branches in Ibiza and Montana — this compact place cultivates an international resort vibe, and offers Sicilian food that partly concentrates on its Greek influences. That means wonderful grilled sardines and raw fish crudos, without neglecting classic Sicilian dishes like rice balls from the owner’s Sicilian hometown of Catania and maccheroni Norma, featuring hand-rolled pasta with eggplant-dotted tomato sauce, named after a 19th-century opera by Vincenzo Bellini (who also inspired a cocktail).

Long thick strands of hand rolled pasta with red sauce and grated cheese on top.
Maccheroni Norma at Piccola Cucina Estiatorio.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Catania Bakery

An sugar coated empanada and round small pie with a pastry cross on top.
Casatina (filled with cannoli cream) and pasteira (filled with ricotta and orange peel). 
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Dubbed for Sicily’s second largest city, situated at the base of Mt. Etna on the East Coast, this classic Ridgewood Sicilian bakery offers butter cookies, cakes, breads and croissants, doughnuts, and luscious pastries, many bearing fresh fruit and filled with the cannoli cream for which this long-running establishment is justifiably famous. Around holidays like Easter and Christmas, the bakery rolls out special Sicilian and Neapolitan pastries.

An sugar coated empanada and round small pie with a pastry cross on top.
Casatina (filled with cannoli cream) and pasteira (filled with ricotta and orange peel). 
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Joe's

Slices of red ripe tomato with dark anchovies draped across them.
Anchovies and tomatoes at Joe’s in Ridgewood.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

When Joe’s was founded in 1982, it was a focacceria, selling sandwiches, bowls of steaming tripe soup, and other old-style Sicilian treats. Then around 2004 it moved north on Forest Avenue into a new and more elegant space and became a full-blown restaurant. Pastas are a strong point, including spaghetti with thin and crisp Sicilian sausages, and linguine with red or white clam sauce. And don’t miss the anchovy and tomato salad as a starter.

Slices of red ripe tomato with dark anchovies draped across them.
Anchovies and tomatoes at Joe’s in Ridgewood.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Ferdinando's Focacceria

A huge artichoke baked to near blackness with crumbs on top.
The baked artichoke boasts a profuse crumb filling.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Ferdinando’s, now on its fourth owner since being founded in 1904, is the oldest Sicilian restaurant in town, and also one of our oldest Italian restaurants. The premises charmingly reflect its age, and the miracle is that much of the menu from a century ago remains intact (it began life only selling small round sandwiches to longshoremen). From fragrant baked clams and seafood salads to crumb-stuffed giant artichokes, the food excels. Don’t skip the celebrated pasta con sarde, a heap of thick spaghetti in a tomato sauce laced with fennel and sardines.

A huge artichoke baked to near blackness with crumbs on top.
The baked artichoke boasts a profuse crumb filling.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Mazzola Bakery

A hand holds a long bumpy loaf aloft.
Mazzola’s legendary lard bread.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

This splendid bakery was founded in 1928 when Cobble Hill was a Sicilian stronghold, and is currently occupying temporary digs, but will move back to its original location at the corner of Union and Henry in the near future. It sells all manner of enticing cookies, pastries, and pork-laced breads (the lard bread is legendary), but direct your attention to the Sicilian pizza squares — a paragon of bakery pizzas — with a selection that changes daily.

A hand holds a long bumpy loaf aloft.
Mazzola’s legendary lard bread.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Amuni

A sandwich of yellow slabs of fried chickpea paste and ricotta cheese.
A panelle special at Amuni is made on a full-size roll rather than the traditional small round roll.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Amuni is an assertively modern Sicilian restaurant that appeared during the pandemic in Bay Ridge. The setting is an informal cafe, and the old-time Sicilian recipes are often slightly updated for contemporary tastes. The panelle special, a sandwich of chickpea fritters that look like fried ravioli, are now stacked on a large bun, making a very full meal. Tuscan style, the artichokes are fried instead of stuffed, and a wonderful version of the muffuletta is fabricated, as if it had come from Sicily rather than from Sicilians living in New Orleans.

A sandwich of yellow slabs of fried chickpea paste and ricotta cheese.
A panelle special at Amuni is made on a full-size roll rather than the traditional small round roll.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Joe's of Avenue U

Wide noodles with little wads of orange sea urchin.
Pasta and sea urchin at Joe’s of Avenue U.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

If you could go to only one Sicilian restaurant in the city, Joe’s would be the place. Heralded by a giant mural of an island folk scene, it offers the most complete menu of any restaurant of its type, heavy with the vegetables beloved of Sicilians, displayed in a glass case as you enter the restaurant. Sure there are panelle special sandwiches, caponata, broccoli rabe with garlic, and pasta con sarde, but also find such lesser-known dishes as fettuccine with sea urchin and a tripe-and-potato stew.

Wide noodles with little wads of orange sea urchin.
Pasta and sea urchin at Joe’s of Avenue U.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

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