Palermo Trattoria Pizzeria is owned by Marianna Merki and her family whose history and food traditions are based in Sicily, Italy. Born just outside of Palermo in Sicily, a passion for good food has been ingrained in Marianna since birth. Food is the focus of every family gathering and celebration. It’s their way of showing their love for one another, so they always strive to make the best food possible. “The meal is an excuse to bring us together,” says Marianna. “Our lives are very busy, so when we do come together family meals are a nice chance to enjoy each other’s company.” Every year her family, all 20 of them, takes a weeklong vacation together. A different person makes the family dinner each night. Not only is there a new meal every night of the week, but “we try to outcompete one another,” laughs Marianna. She brought her love of good food and shared meals with her when her family immigrated to the US in 1969.
Marianna has spent her whole life working in restaurants, starting out in her father’s restaurant with her three sisters. At 50 years old, she decided it was time to open her own restaurant and, thus, Palermo Trattoria Pizzeria was born! Palermo has been a family project since day one and continues to embody its values today. Despite opening in 2008 during the worst of the economic recession, Palermo has thrived thanks to their hard work, a shared commitment to high-quality food, and the family atmosphere they create for every customer. “My customers are like my family,” says Marianna. Cooking for her customers and being a part of their lives brings her satisfaction and happiness.
Even the menu at Palermo is a celebration of family with recipes passed down through the generations as well as Marianna’s own creations. “There are no measurements to my recipes,” says Marianna. “They are all done by memory.” Each time she makes Pappardelle Al Sugo, a dish her mother used to make before she passed, it brings her back to her mother and the many wonderful memories they shared together. Another dish, Costolette Di Agnello Alla Pietro, reminds her of her father, Pietro. “When we were in Italy, he was a sheep shepherd,” shared Marianna, “He used to take such pleasure in making this dish.”
Marianna is no longer in the kitchen anymore. Instead, she runs the restaurant with her daughter, Gabriella Sill. Her nephew, Gaspare Cruciata, is the lead chef. He has taken over the role of making her original dishes and has expanded the menu with his own culinary creations. “So we have the old and the new,” Marianna says. Her son, Joseph Merki, makes their delicious pizzas including gluten-free options. They offer a dessert of the day, all of which are made by her sister, Luisa Piasentini, who also makes the salads. Marianna makes it a point to treat her front-of-house staff like family, too. How they run their restaurant and the food they cook is truly an expression of their love for one another and their customers.
For authentic Sicilian food in a relaxed family atmosphere, book your reservation at: dineatpalermo.com
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- Handful of fresh parsley
- Tablespoon of Pecorino Romano cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 eggs
- 2 large chicken breasts
- All-purpose flour
- 50% vegetable/50% olive oil, for cooking
- Tomato sauce
- Shredded mozzarella cheese
- Cooked pasta of choice
- Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, cheese, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl.
- In a separate bowl, beat eggs together.
- Slice chicken breasts in half, lengthwise making 4 portions.
- Lay chicken breasts between plastic wrap, then pound until meat is tender.
- Roll each chicken breast first in flour, then in eggs, and finally in breadcrumbs mixture.
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Heat oil in pan on the stovetop until it is very hot.
- Fry each chicken breast in the pan on medium heat until breading is golden and crisp.
- Transfer chicken to a baking pan with tomato sauce on the top and bottom. Top chicken and sauce with shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Bake chicken in oven at 250 degrees until cheese bubbles up, about 10 minutes.
- Serve over cooked pasta of your choice.