The impending arrival of Morandi, the amply covered, Sicilian-inflected restaurant from Keith McNally, may have whetted your appetite for the island’s regional cooking. (Seeing the menu certainly did it for us.) But Morandi won’t be open for another week, and if you’re anything like Jeffrey Chodorow, you’ll want to be prepared to offer your own informed critiques of the place should the mean ole major critics review it harshly. So where can you train your tongue by sampling Sicilian specialties in the meantime? We’ve got just the three places for you.
• Cacio e Vino
The East Village eatery got some love from Rob and Robin – the menu carries dishes you won’t even find in far more expensive restaurants, and they’re all spot-on. If you’re in the mood for pizza, go for it, but don’t neglect the pungent antipasti and the stuffed calzones called farciti. 80 Second Ave., nr. 4th St.; 212-228-3269
Related: Sicily or Bust: Cacio e Vino to Join Minority Representing for the Island [NYM]
Don Pintabona’s Hudson Square outpost is one of the city’s bastions of elevated Sicilian cookery. You can’t go wrong with the basics: bucatine con sarde, house-cured meats, and octopus with parsley potatoes. Plus, the bar is nice for hanging out while you digest sardines. 333 Hudson St., at Charlton St.; 212-633-9333
• Joe’s of Avenue U
Even the most dedicated foodies rarely venture out to the very edge of Gravesend in South Brooklyn. But this old-school, ultrafriendly place serves all the Sicilian specialties you could hope for, from the spleen-and-cheese sandwiches known as vesteddi to kick-ass caponata to the mother of all stuffed rice balls, loaded with meat and fresh ricotta from nearby Eagle Dairy. 287 Ave. U, nr. McDonald Ave., Gravesend, Brooklyn; 718-449-9285