Palermo is the capital of Sicily and a true melting pot of history and diverse civilizations. Art, architecture, culture and catacombs are just a few of the fascinating sites and experiences you’ll have in Palermo. But let’s not kid ourselves. One of the best experiences to have when visiting such an alluring destination is the food.
The food in Palermo is exquisite and delicious. With the multiple cultural influences and simply being a part of Italy you would expect as much. Restaurants and markets overflow with so many choices in which to indulge, but to truly enjoy the local tastes as a Sicilian you really must sample the street food of Palermo. Here are some of our favorites.
We’ll begin with the most easily recognizable of Palermo street food, arancini. This large and delicious fried golden ball of rice has a savory surprise in the middle. Quite popular and found throughout Sicily in different forms, the Palermo version takes a filling of meat sauce with peas, dried prosciutto, dried capers or a combination of cheeses such as mozzarella and pecorino, and wraps it up in a mixture of, typically, saffron rice. The rice ball is then rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried to a golden color. The name arancini is derived from the Italian word for orange, arancia, and means “little orange” as the end product closely resembles an orange.
These are hot and crisp-fried chickpea fritters that appeal to everyone, including vegans and vegetarians. As a street food you can often get the panelle served sandwich form, in a bun or on bread. You’ll even find these chickpea flour and herb fritters on the menu in some finer restaurants as appetizers. The versatile Panelle is best eaten hot and topped with a light squeeze of lemon juice.
If you're adventurous and looking to sample some of the more authentic street foods of Palermo look no further than Stigghiola. This staple of Sicilian street food is made from lamb, goat or chicken intestines wrapped around a skewer of onions and leeks and grilled. The end product is then cut into convenient bite-size pieces for you to enjoy. Though considered at one time as frugal fare, the Stigghiola now represents a truly authentic taste of Palermo.
Derived from the latin word for sponge, though significantly more appetizing, the street food Sfincione is served much like pizza. The soft bread is topped with tomato, onion and cheese called caciocavallo. Often the ever-present anchovies tops the Sfincione. This street food is often eaten by locals for a convenient breakfast or mid-morning snack.
Pane Con la Milza
Another very authentic street food you’ll see in Palermo is this interesting sandwich that resembles an American hamburger or roast beef on a bun. The similarity ends there as this soft sesame seed bun is topped with the sliced spleen, lungs and trachea of veal. The cook builds the organ meat and then cuts it into thin slices which are then browned in lard. The sandwich can be served plain, or schettu or topped with caciocavallo or an herbed ricotta cheese.
Not all street food in Palermo is fried or heavily meat-based. One of the healthier street foods is Caponata. This delicious delight reflects the still-strong Arab influence in the culture of Palermo. Caponata is most often made from eggplant, tomatoes, onion, and other vegetables combined with pine nuts, raisins and vinegar and served warm or cold as an appetizer or snack. Delicious, healthy and truly authentic Caponata is a “can’t miss” Palermo-and Sicilian-street food.
Gelato con Brioche
This delightful Sicilian version of an ice cream sandwich is another “can’t miss” treat! A rich brioche bun is stuffed with a generous smear of gelato. Eating this yummy delight can be a challenge so you may ask the vendor for a spoon to scoop out some of the generous portion of gelato. Interestingly the Gelato con Brioche is most often the first food of the day in Palermo. Who says you can’t have ice cream for breakfast? Not me!
Most people assume the creamy and sweet Italian dessert cannoli is just that, an Italian dessert. But cannoli actually originated as a Sicilian street food specialty. If you aren’t familiar with cannoli it’s a tube-shaped crust filled with a sweet ricotta cream and sometimes topped off on either end with crushed pistachios. The vendors usually make them fresh-to-order to keep that satisfying crunch and cool cream filling.
There you have it! A selection of our eight favorite street foods to try in Palermo. Of course you’ll find many more options than those listed here. The best advice? Come to Palermo and taste for yo