Visiting Palermo for the first time can be quite intimidating, especially when walking through the food markets. Unless you know any locals or speak Sicilian, it will be very hard to tell which stalls have the best food, or even have a clue about what you are eating – let alone coping with all those dodgy vendors shouting at each other all the time! (I’m kidding, it’s actually a lot of fun).
The guy in the picture came up with a brilliant solution to introduce foreigners (and by foreigners I mean anyone who’s not from the city) to Palermo’s street food.
StrEat Palermo is a unique tour for people who love food, history, making new friends and learning more about local traditions. It’s now ranked number 2 out of 332 attractions in Palermo on TripAdvisor. No bullshit!
I met with Marco Romeo, the brain behind the project and my personal hero, to ask him a few questions about his tour. Enjoy the interview and get ready for some pretty hilarious stories!
Why did you start StrEat Palermo?
Why did I start? I never had an official start; in fact, I’ve been doing this for ages! This is the type of experience that I did usually offer to my foreign friends when visiting me in Palermo. At a certain point I realised this could be a good business and also the end of my continuous migration towards greener pastures! I’ll give you one more reason, I decided to start StrEat Palermo just because I do love this job; you never get enough of spending time with foreigners. I feel quite lucky because I have the chance to learn new interesting things every day. Travellers love food, I love Travellers.
What should people expect from the tour?
People should expect an authentic Palermitan experience. The first rule of StrEat Palermo is “relax!”. The tour has been designed to let travellers enjoy Palermo, not just see it! any american can visit Palermo on his own with the help of a good guide book, but not all of them have the chance to taste the best arancina or the best spleen sandwich and enjoy a drink with locals. Well, I give this chance, this is what people have to expect.
What is so unique about Palermo’s street food?
In one word: variety… and availability, which makes it two words! Panelle, cazzilli, sfincione, arancine, pani ca meusa, frittola, mussu, stigghiole, quarume and so on. You have food for everyone, vegetarians included! Street food in Palermo never sleeps but… you need to know where to go the get best… I think I know.
What’s the Foodie’s passport?
The foodie’s passport is the official document of the tour. If you collect every single stamp (one stamp for each sample) then you can call yourself a real “mangione” (tr. foodie). If you don’t, well, it isn’t a big deal, the only thing I ask for is “try it at least”. Apart from this, the passaporto del mangione is a cool souvenir to take home with you!
What is the most popular Palermo street food among tourists?
Tourists love arancina and sfincione the most. The arancina is simply unique! the sfincione is mostly familiar because it can be considered a cousin of pizza. My favourite moment is always the pani ca meusa (tr. spleen sandwich) stop of the tour. Pani ca meusa is a love or hate food, if you like it you simply love it, if you don’t… have a sip of beer to wash it out!
A man bites the sfincione and says “lovely, better than my first kiss with my wife”. Half an hours later, the wife takes a bite of the cannoli and says “better than my husband’s….”. If you know the shape of cannoli you can easily guess what she meant!