Forget the Michelin-starred restaurants and the tourist menus, here’s the ultimate list of foods you need to try if you ever visit the capital of Sicily. Read through to find out about these traditional delicacies, where you can find them and why your life without them would not be complete.
WARNING: the last items on the list are not for the faint-hearted. But if you can make it to the end, you have all my respect!
Always remember the golden rule of street food: the greasier the better. Don’t be put off by the rough look of the street vans and pop-up stalls, they are the best!
I’ve already dedicated two posts to the famous Sicilian rice ball, and here ‘she’ is again. This deep fried beauty was introduced in Sicily during Arab colonisation (early middle ages), and she stuck around ever since.
First rule about arancina, the name on the label must end with an ‘a’ (arancinA, or arancine for plural). If you ever find an ‘arancino’, run away as fast as you can! They just don’t know what they are talking about.
Second rule about arancina, if it costs more that €1.80 also run away as fast as you can. They’re definitely trying to rip you off. Here’s a bit of history and the list of best arancina places in Palermo and here’s how you can make your own at home.
Pezzi di rosticceria
The glorious arancina is part of a bigger street-food category called ‘pezzi di rosticceria’ (literally, ‘deli pieces’). The list of pezzi is endless and would probably deserve a whole blog and another bucket list. You’ve got calzoni, pizzette, spitini, ravazzate, rollo’, just to name some. The best time to eat pezzi is late at night on your way home, when you’ve had a drink or two… They are the ultimate ‘drunk food’.
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Sfincione is a thick Sicilian pizza, topped with tomatoes, onions, anchovies and casciocavallo cheese, seasoned with a dash of oregano. Oh yeah.
To find the best sfincione you’ve got to follow this legendary van (whose famous recording has been waking up Palermitans for decades) or go to any of these places.
Pane panelle e crocchè
Another deep fried little heaven, if you ask me. Panelle are little square fritters made with chickpea flour; crocchè (or cazzilli) are potato croquets. You can eat them on their own or stuff them into a bread roll. May the carbs be with you!
Another golden rule of street food is nothing goes to waste. So here you go, whatever is left of the panelle and crocchè mix becomes ‘rascatura’. Eat it with a dash of lemon and an extra cold beer in one of these places and you’ll be the happiest person on earth.
Small snails cooked with oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, or with a special tomato sauce called ‘picchi pacchi’ that only Sicilian mums can make. To eat babbaluci the Sicilian way, you have to suck them from their shell and forget good manners. Here are couple of places where you can find them.
Pani ca’ meusa
Now, fasten your seatbelts and get ready for some hardcore stuff. I introduce you to the king of street foods: the spleen burger. It might sounds disgusting at first but, trust me, it’s one of the best things you’ll ever eat (unless you’re a vegetarian, that is). You can only find this in Palermo, so make sure you try it if you want to enjoy your Palermitan experience in full. You can have it served with salt and lemon or with cheese (caciocavallo or ricotta). Here’s a list of places where you can find it.
I have to admit I’ve never tried this one, mainly because it’s a bit more difficult to find it and a bit on the ‘extreme’ side of the spectrum. Frittola is everything left from the slaughter of calves, including bones that are ground for industrial use and pieces of meat boiled at high temperature in large silos. If you decide to go for it, you get 100 Sicilian points.
If you ever wander the streets of Palermo at night, the smell of stigghiola will drive you straight to the Vucciria market, where you’ll find big greasy men barbequeing in the dark like there is no tomorrow. What are they, you ask? Roasted intestines of sheep or goat, sometimes wrapped in leek or served with onion. Enjoy!
If you’re looking for something that is not on this list, just type the name into the street food search engine Crocche.it (or use the app) and you’ll get an endless list of places and local reviews.
Featured photo by: Giuseppe Romano