Dar El Medina
This little restaurant advertises itself as a specialist in couscous and pizza. While the food is decidedly good I always feel that there is something missing here. That “something” is, for me, the absence of an atmosphere promised by the name of the restaurant.
Window display promoting couscous and pizza
The parents of the owners were Tunisian while the owners, born and raised in Trapani, regard themselves as Sicilians. Dar El Medina, which translates as Gate (or door) of the Town in English, offers a hint that you are about to enter a corner of Tunisia in Sicily. Had they called the restaurant “Porta da Citta” I would automatically assume the food to be Sicilian, or Trapanese, or even Italian.
While I can understand the owners wish to both assimilate yet offer the type of food they obviously know how to prepare well, the execution comes out as neutral at best and disappointing at worst.
The decor is modern and clean, though bordering on clinical. White walls and square white plates, few plants, simple overhead lights and splashes of colour in the form of nameless decorations.
The tables were white with inset aqua-coloured ceramic tiles that remind you of clear green seas. However, these were then covered in yellow tablemats, thus losing a touch of Mediterranean colour in the process. One could sit at high-backed dark brown bench seats or on modern yet simple armless chairs. The music was modern Italian and American.
The food was good. Very good.
So two things that I would recommend. The first is a quick fix that would help the ambience. Music. Traditional Tunisian songs or folkloric dance music. The sort of stuff that can play quietly in the background while creating a sound that allows diners to imagine they are in Tunis.
The second thing to do is to use genuine Tunisian decorations: cushions, wall coverings (optional, could keep it white as many restaurants in Tunis do, but add colour). While the restaurant did have some colourful serving dishes the crockery was modern, square and white. There are plenty of moroccan imports that are similar in style to Tunisian designs. Even so, importing direct from Tunisia would not be expensive.
To be honest I wouldn’t dream of eating pizza at Dar El Medina. Their pizza may be good, though I haven’t tried them, but if I want pizza I go to a pizzeria. The reason they do so is probably because in the evening many people like to eat pizza, especially tourists that stay in the vicinity or those on cruise liners visiting the town.
As a starter I ordered an octopus salad. My mother wanted the burik but settled on buying a couple to eat at home and sharing the octopus with me. We still over-ate despite sharing!
A basket of fresh Tunisian bread to accompany the octopus salad
Octopus salad. The octopus had most likely been caught that morning a couple of hundred metres from the restaurant
Sauce to pour over the couscous
The best options are seafood dishes and, of course, couscous. The dish I liked most, to date, was a fish couscous but various types of fish and shellfish dishes are available and served in a variety of ways – but why not go for couscous?!
The fish was perfectly cooked, and the sauce that accompanied the couscous was tasty to the point of wanting to take some home!
I have also had vegetable and lamb couscous that I enjoyed, though not as much as the fish.
This restaurant is highly recommended. It is walking distance from the port, near to the main piazza in the heart of Trapani, and is there is ample car-parking close by.
Dar El Medina
Via Marchese Enrico Platamone, 12
+39 0923 196 4100
The restaurant can also be accessed from via Regina Margherita opposite the Villa Margherita park entrance.
Dar El Medina entrance from via Regina Margherita
Entrance to the Villa Margherita park gardens