Organic Gourmet in Palermo: Gagini Restaurant

Ristorante Gagini, in the former studio of Renaissance sculptor, Antonello Gagini, was the best and biggest surprise of my visit to Palermo. It is located in the bustling Vucciria (meaning “confusion” in Sicilian) district near the tourist port in the historic center.

Franco Virga and Stefania Milano have expertly and lovingly juxtaposed antique stone walls, modern art, Italian design, a lovely terrace and most of all ridiculously delicious organic food prepared by a chef with soul…a lot of soul.

Gianni Lettica came to the table wearing an apron that reads “Forgive me, excuse me, I love you, thank you.” He explained that he says these words to all the food he prepares as recognition that the plants, fish, meat, etc. have been taken from where they were in Nature.
His jolly demeanor is intertwined with his seriousness about maintaining positive karma in the food he prepares. “My mood in the kitchen goes into the food and is communicated to you out here on the terrace,” he said.

Gagini’s holistic and artistic bent was revealed in the first course that my friend and I ordered: a “vertical tasting” of baccalà and tuna. Usually a term used to refer to wine tastings, the two “verticals” included various cooked and raw versions, each with its own special flavor and preparation.


And for the second course, delicate fish with vegetables…

And for the wine…Gagini’s wine list is a veritable who’s who of my favorite producers in Sicily. We ordered Le Custode delle Vigne dell’Etna Etna[glossary_exclude] Rosato [/glossary_exclude]DOC 2012. Le Custode delle Vigne dell’Etna are part of Salvo Foti’s I Vigneri group read previous post, dedicated to preserving not only traditional growing and cellar methods, but the culture and way of life that is a part of Etna.
Made from 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio, the wine is not your typical rosé. It has all the freshness and minerality of an Etna white with the structure (but not the weight) of a red. Delicate berry flavors, a little spicy. Full of personality and the wild energy of the volcano. (12,5% alcohol)

Before leaving, I found out from Franco that the tabletops were made by an artist friend of his, who cut the stage from the Pope’s visit into pieces. Who knows what surprises await on my next visit.

Gagini Restaurant
Via Cassari, 35
Palermo 90133

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