Spectacularly perched on the side of a capital mountain, Taormina is one of Sicily’s most popular holiday destinations. Yet while tourists flock for its breathtaking views and historic ancient theatre, there’s another good reason to visit this magical seaside town – much like the various regions of neighboring Italy, the gentle Mediterranean island has a distinct cuisine steeped in history and tradition. And if Taormina is not yet on your dream holiday list, a look at the photos of the fascinating Ippocampo restaurant will certainly change your mind.
Perhaps the most exclusive setting in all of Sicily – it’s also regularly touted as one of Italy’s most romantic restaurants – Ippocampo sits in Atlantis Bay, a luxurious five-star hotel on the picturesque waterfront of Sicily, a few cable car rides from the charming old town of Taormina. And while the pretty center is home to narrow streets lined with cozy restaurants, laid-back bars and (albeit touristy) shops where you can pick up souvenirs, there’s nothing touristy about Ippocampo. In fact, when we visited at the height of summer, there was a distinctly calm air around the outdoor restaurant, which allowed us to breathe in the bustling atmosphere of the city.
Nestled at the water’s edge, Ippocampo offers panoramic views of the magnificent Baia delle Sirene and, just adding to its charm, we were beautifully lulled by a pianist as soon as we entered. Sleek with signature dishes featuring authentic Sicilian flavors, the menu is traditionally divided into appetizers, starters, meat dishes, fish dishes and desserts, with a dedicated bubble menu to boot. We highly recommend starting with a glass of superb Jean-Paul Deville Champagne, which will set the tone for a sumptuous evening to come.
With starters such as yellow grouper tartare with gin and tonic jelly; pan-fried octopus with crunchy potatoes, caramelized red onion and dried black olives; and Sicilian purple eggplant parmigiana served with basil pesto, you’ll be tempted to order it all, but we recommend sticking to a few sharing dishes to whet your appetite. The pistachio stuffed prawns with burrata cream and tomato confit was a highlight. The first courses are where the gourmet pastas appear – seafood lovers can’t go wrong with spaghetti with clams, zucchini threads and bottarga curls while, for vegetarians, fresh maccheroni with pesto of pistachio, confit of cherry tomatoes and eggplant caviar are bursting with flavor.
We went to the dish and we were particularly won over by the almond-crusted sea bass with thyme mashed potatoes (deliciously creamy) and black truffle-stuffed chicken supreme, samperi jus with marsala Vecchio and potato gratin. mille-feuille earth (also deliciously creamy). Add a side of grilled vegetables and you’re done. Just be sure to save room for dessert – opt for the Sicilian walk, which lets you sample some of the region’s best sweet treats, including ricotta cannolo, ricotta raviolo, cassata, lemon granita and pistachio semifreddo. Everything on the menu can be washed down with crisp local wines – the white Etna DOC Bianco Barone di Villa Grande pairs particularly well with lighter fish dishes.
Stellar views, superb seafood, and a calming ambiance that feels a million miles from the hustle and bustle of central Taormina, Ippocampo was by far our favorite restaurant during the four days we were in Sicily, and we would most definitely come back in time and again.
Address: Via Nazionale, 161 – 98030 Taormina (ME)
Call: +39 0942 618 011