Hotel Emilo, listed in both Frommer’s and Lonely Planet, is situated on the main drag, Vittorio Emanuele, not far from the parking lot. This is a good thing as I heard tourists dragging their luggage over the cobbled stone streets past our hotel in the mornings.
Our room was sizable, but I think it was really a triple. Peaking into other rooms, the standard double is average sized. The beds were comfortable, but not all rooms have incredible views of the “windswept coastal plains” as stated in Lonely Planet – you have to be on the back side of the building.
The dining room does have the dramatic views and there are other cozy spaces in the building to hang out and connect to Wi Fi (which is free but not available in the rooms). The breakfast is pretty minimal, especially if you like fruit and whole grain breads or cereals. The staff is friendly but speaks minimal English. Although they seem to understand English reasonably well, they prefer to answer in Italian. If you can get a good deal on a room, it is worth it to stay here.
A Frommer’s listing located just off Piazza Umberto in the center of town, is a casual, comfortable dining room with good pasta. Pizza is served only in the evening. We each had the busiate (a local pasta in the form of long rag curls), one with Trapanese sauce, tomato pesto with basil and lots of garlic, and the other with the Ulisse sauce, eggplant, zucchini and tomato. Both were well done and tasty. The insalata mista was a disappointment with very sad looking, tasteless tomatoes, a crime in Sicily at this time of year. Service was friendly and efficient.
Monte San Giuliano
Listed in Lonely Planet and is a Frommer’s find located on the main street, Vittorio Emanuele. The dining room is pleasant and cozy, decorated in a casual rustic style. The service is friendly and attentive but not overly fussy.
We had the plate of various smoked fish and orange; the caserecce (a homemade pasta shaped like floppy folded out tubes) with shrimp, sea urchin and the usual vegetables: eggplant, zucchini and tomato; swordfish alla matalotta, a tomato and caper sauce; and tonno all’agrodolce, tuna in a sweet and sour sauce, similar to the type of sauce used in caponata. Everything was well prepared except for the tuna which I thought was a little over done.
The wine, Quarter by Firriato, was also excellent, a blend of four grapes – Nero d’Avola being the most prominent – with bold fruit and berry flavors.
A Lonely Planet listing on via Guarnotti , just off Piazza Umberto. The dining room is in a 16th-century monastery and has a similar rustic quality as the other restaurants of Erice, although with warmer yellow walls with ceramic tile accents. The service is similar to the other restaurants, friendly and attentive.
We had the antipasto rustico, a plate of assorted antipasto including: olives, cured anchovies, sun dried tomatoes (super flavorful), fried potatoes pieces (not so good), hard dried sausage ( spicy and excellent) and two kinds of cheese (OK); the seafood couscous, with fish and strips of calamari served with a rich and flavorful fish broth on the side to be pour or ladled over the couscous, nice seafood flavor and well seasoned; the seppie ripiene (stuffed cuttlefish, similar to squid). The stuffing was oregano flavored bread crumbs which they also used to coat the stuffed sepia. Way too much soggy bread crumbs for my tastes. The cuttlefish, however, was cooked well and not rubbery. The last dish was a veal cutlet in a rich buttery balsamic vinegar sauce. The veal was cooked perfectly, tender and still pink in the middle. The sauce was rich and tangy without overwhelming the meat. We selected Planeta Chardonay to go with our meal having read good things about this wine and were not disappointed, not oaky or too sweet with nice acidity.
Caffé S. Rocca
Located next door to La Pentolaccia on via Guarnotti. It has a rustic style similar to Monte San Giuliano but with a more intimate dining room with stones walls and a wooden ceiling. We had the octopus salad, a simple preparation with celery and cooked peppers in a light oil and vinegar dressing; risotto marinara, a seafood risotto in a tomato based sauce, tasty but a little heaving on the salt; and the busiate alla S. Rocca, pasta with swordfish, eggplant, zucchini, tomato, onion and mint, also very tasty and not too salty. The service was again friendly and attentive but not overly so.
Pasticceria Grammatico Maria
Located on the main street, Vittorio Emanuele, just off Piazza Umberto. This is a famous pastry shop run by Maria Grammatico, nun turned pastry chef. Both Frommer’s and Lonely Planet talk about her, her fabulous pastries and her book Bitter Almonds, coauthored by Mary Taylor Simeti, that tells the story of her youth in a convent. Yes, the rich almond cookie sized pastries are wonderful and definitely worth sampling.
Pasticceria Michele Il Tulipano
Next door to Grammatico Maria with outdoor seating and friendly service, but from my one sampling of pistachio tart, bad, bad pastry. The tart was tasteless with an odd jelly like consistency. Maybe I had an off tart or maybe they just don’t deserve the star and the high recommendation from Frommer’s.
For links to all the posts in this series see the Sicily page.