A Surprise Feast at Trattoria Family Michele & Iolanda
When you sit down in a small, family-run trattoria in Palermo, something like Trattoria Family Michele & Iolanda, expect to have the freedom of choice snatched away from you. You’ll enjoy whatever plate you’re given to eat, but you won’t have much say in what that plate is.
It was a Sunday afternoon and, after having visited La Cuba, we were slightly hungry. Breakfast had been hearty, and we really didn’t want to have a big lunch. Spotting a sign in the window of a trattoria promising paninis, we thought “Perfect”. Quick, light and cheap. Oh, silly Mike. Oh, silly Jürgen!
Inside, the restaurant was cute, with Sicilian trinkets decorating the walls. We were the only guests, and upon seeing us, the owner sprang into action. He sat us down, welcomed us to Palermo on behalf of all Sicilians, and asked what we’ve done and seen. He nearly had a conniption fit upon discovering that he and I shared a first name.
After chatting for a bit, he told us that he was going to whip up some wonderful plates of pasta, followed by a second plate and then dessert. We threw up our hands: stop, stop! We’re not all that hungry, Michele, we’d just like a couple paninis! “Panini?! No! You are in Sicily, and panini you can eat anywhere. No, I will prepare something Sicilian for you, okay?” Well… okay, but just a simple snack, right? “Oh yes yes, just a snack!”
He disappeared and, as minutes passed and the sounds of frantic activity escaped the kitchen, we began to lose faith in the simplicity of our snack. When Michele finally emerged, it was with a gigantic buffet tray of sixteen-thousand Sicilian delicacies. He darted back into the kitchen, and came back out with a plate full of meatballs. But he was not done! On the third trip to our table, he came bearing gifts of arancine. Sigh… we surveyed the feast before us despondently. Well, if we must!
The food was all delicious. We had caponata, an oily eggplant salad, pickled pumpkin slices, fried zucchini, a paella-like rice dish, and peppers with eggs. The meatballs were incredible, as were the arancine. Michele was great company, leaving us alone while eating, but friendly and helpful when we wanted something. We couldn’t finish all the food, which is an almost unheard of rarity between me and Jürgen. And at €25, the price was fair. Of course, it was a little aggravating that this mega-feast wasn’t at all what we wanted. But in the end, with food like this, it’s hard to complain.