Fish sculptures hang (swim?) from the ceiling at the gorgeous Sicilian Table in Falmouth. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

I’ve figured out how to tell when a restaurant knows I’m there for a review. It doesn’t happen often – maybe a few times a year, despite my best efforts – but I almost always know. After seven years on the job, everyone seems to comprehend that I cannot and do not accept free dishes or drinks, so the signs are more subtle: an oversized cut of expensive meat, a wine pour large enough to send me to rehab, or a front-of-house manager escorting me to what they whisper is “a very special table.”

All of which is to say, after being seated in the boondocks section of the balcony, with a window view of not one, but two gas stations, I know for sure I wasn’t spotted at the Sicilian Table. And that’s exactly as it should be.

“We try not to seat little kids up here. Sometimes they throw food down into the kitchen,” my server said, gesturing over the steel mesh railing. Taking in the view of prep stations and an enormous tiled pizza oven directly below, I could see the potential for mischief.

At the same time, what kid (or adult) wouldn’t be looking the opposite direction, into the vaulted interior of the restaurant? Wood collage sculptures of sedan-sized fish seem to swim suspended from the ceiling. Surrounding them, rustic, rope-embellished pendant lights bob like fishing traps, and parabolas of LED light create an illusion of motion and liquidity.

I’ve raved about local design maven Nicola Manganello’s genius at turning a corporate girder-and-drywall box into a living sculpture. Her father, Ed Manganello, might own Sicilian Table and its siblings – Tuscan Table in South Portland, Royal River Grill in Yarmouth and Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro in Freeport – but Nicola Manganello is no nepo baby. Indeed, her work here at Sicilian Table might be her most visually stunning yet, incorporating inviting fabrics, upholstery and pillows to soften the commercial space. Simply put, Sicilian Table is gorgeous.

The Hibiscus Fizz.  Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

On the strength of that recommendation alone, it’s worth a visit for a cocktail: perhaps a Hibiscus Fizz ($15), a sweet-tart gin-and-citrus cocktail topped with rosé prosecco, or a glass of wine. If wine is your preference, you’ll select from two misspelling-littered lists, one of standard, by-the-glass choices ($10-18), and another of ritzier options housed in the temperature-controlled, Nitrogen-pressurized Cruvinet machine ($10-25/3 oz. and $20-50/6 oz.). In the mood for a bottle? It’ll run you $50 minimum for red and $54 for white. Simply put, Sicilian Table is expensive.


Food is also on the spendy side, sometimes shockingly so. An heirloom tomato-topped flatbread appetizer with sweet balsamic drizzle and a hard-fisted portion of burrata set me back $22 and arrived cold, even though I sat within food-dropping distance of the pizza oven. Another eye-popper: a miserly portion of sous-vided, crisped duck breast accompanied by warm-spiced wild mushroom sauté and off-putting sugary gnocchi rang in at $38 and left me hunting for any of the garam masala flavor listed on the menu. And if you’re extra flush, you can opt for the $66 New York strip steak with house-made linguine in gorgonzola alfredo sauce.

You might be picking up on another pattern here – almost none of the food at Sicilian Table is actually Sicilian. Much of it is, as my server explained, “pretty much Mediterranean, but from everywhere.”

The Sicilian Table’s tahini-dusted French fries with harissa aioli. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Where you might expect Sicilian staples like lemon zest, pine nuts, golden raisins, capers and sardines, you’ll find a Roman carbonara, two Moroccan tagines, Lebanese fattoush and tahini-dusted, hand-cut French fries (labeled in Spanish) with a North African harissa aioli ($10). The fries were hot, crisp and seasoned well, but completely out of place.

Other dishes fit with the restaurant’s connection to Italy, but didn’t seem connected to Sicilian ingredients or foodways. Chicken parmigiano ($28) might be Parma-style or Italian American … who knows. Or the homemade linguine with expertly seared scallops, tender shrimp and pea shoots that I found enticing and well balanced, despite a heavy saucing in the most classic Northern Italian sauce: pesto ($38). Simply put, Sicilian Table isn’t quite Sicilian.

I can’t really point fingers. I reached out to Sicilian Table to speak with executive chef Johnny Thayer (formerly of Thoroughfare in Yarmouth), but received no reply. My guess is that the restaurant’s staff want to keep the menu familiar by serving Italian dishes and recognizable Mediterranean ones without boxing themselves in. That makes sense, especially when the target audience seems to be wealthy suburbanites who don’t want to drive into Portland. The broader the menu, the more diners you can attract to fill your restaurant’s 230-plus seats.

Ultimately, that compromise is a mistake. Sicilian cuisine is invigorating and flavor-forward, with enough range to please American palates. And when Sicilian Table’s menu navigates in that direction, it shines. Case in point: the strawberry margarita dome ($12), a whimsical, gluten-free take on a Sicilian cassata, with spongy citrus sponge cake, a boozy lime curd and a layer of silken strawberry mousse. It’s a nostalgic dessert that looks like a cross-sectioned Jigglypuff and tastes exactly like a strawberry Good Humor bar.


It’s this sort of dish that demonstrates how Sicilian Table could evolve away from its vague, Mediterranean-ish ambit, toward a deliberate interpretation of regional cuisine. But hey, I’m just some guy in the (not-so) cheap seats trying not to drop pizza crust on the cooks.

The excellent Seafood Pesto with scallops, blistered tomatoes, pesto, cream and house-made linguine. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

WHERE: 261 U.S. Route 1, Suite 101, Falmouth. 207-805-1133.
SERVING: Dinner: Tuesday to Sunday, 4-9 p.m.
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers: $10-$22, Entrees and pastas: $22-66
NOISE LEVEL: Laser tag
VEGETARIAN: Some dishes
BAR: Beer, wine, cocktails

BOTTOM LINE: Sicilian Table is a head-scratcher. A ravishing head-scratcher, for sure, with interior and exterior design by the always-brilliant Nicola Manganello of Nicola’s Home, but bewildering nevertheless. Drinks and food are both expensive. Sometimes the value-for-money proposition works out, as with the delightful strawberry margarita dome, but often, those prices are hard to justify with a wine list featuring some uninspired selections and a menu that seems unmoored somewhere in the Mediterranean – probably not anywhere near Sicily. Chef Johnny Thayer’s homemade pasta is lovely, so if you visit, opt for a dish like the scallop-and-shrimp pesto and just pretend that the word “Sicilian” isn’t in the restaurant’s name.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service, value and type of restaurant (a casual bistro will be judged as a casual bistro, an expensive upscale restaurant as such):

* Poor
** Fair
*** Good
**** Excellent
***** Extraordinary

The Maine Sunday Telegram visits each restaurant once; if the first meal was unsatisfactory, the reviewer returns for a second. The reviewer makes every attempt to dine anonymously and never accepts free food or drink.

Andrew Ross has written about food and dining in New York and the United Kingdom. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is the recipient of five recent Critic’s Awards from the Maine Press Association.

Contact him at:
Twitter: @AndrewRossME 

The Sicilian Table in Falmouth.  Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

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