Sicily has a strong street food culture, and is considered a capital for finger foods in Europe. While you’re visiting it is practically a requirement to try this cheap and delicious mode of eating. Most street food originates from food vendors with mobile carts found in the marketplace. Most markets, such as the fish market in Catania or the Capo Market in Palermo, still host a range of temporary vendors that pack it in at the end of the day. However, the traditional street foods have made a move into trendy restaurants and
Arancina(plural arancine) is a deep-fried ball of rice and other fillings. Traditionally, Palermo’s arancineare flavored with vivid-yellow saffron, but other fillings are common these days. (Catania and mainland Italy call this dish arancinoand add tomato to the filling–two things a proud Palermitanowould never be caught dead doing.)
Pani ca’ meusa (or pane can milza) is boiled spleen, lung, and other veal organ meat, served on a roll. It can be dressed with cheese (maritatu),or without (schiettu).
Sfincione is a fluffy pizza, topped with tomato (and sometimes anchovy and cheese), sold on carts by the greasy slice. It doesn’t look appetizing in the cart’s display case, but the vendor will grill it on a hidden oven. (All the sfincionestands you see around Palermo are supplied by the same bakery. Since it takes Sundays off, you won’t see sfincioneon Mondays.)
Panelleis a deep-fried chickpea crêpe.
Cazzilli(or crocche) are potato croquettes, usually filled with mashed potato, parsley, and mint. Panelle e cazzilliare often served together.
Rascatura mixes the leftover panelle and crocche with some onion and lemon, and is refried into little pieces of greasy goodness.
Stigghiola are easy to find–just look for the grills spewing smoke. While intestines wrapped around green onion may not sound appetizing, they smell and taste great. For something a bit more tame, look for the dish called mangia e bevi–thin strips of pork around green onion. Often, other meats are also available to throw on the grill.
Frittola is the ultimate for the adventurous eater, and is usually found only at market carts (and sells out quickly…once it’s gone, it’s gone). It’s made of all the leftover cow parts, like cartilage and bone, all fried up and assembled into a chewy meat fluff.
Polpo bollito is a small octopus (about the size of your hand) that’s been boiled in salty water, then chopped up and spritzed with lemon.
While you can get “street food” at restaurants and shops, the quintessential Palermo experience is to hopscotch between vendors at one of the city’s street markets. Prices are affordable (any of the above items shouldn’t cost more than €1-2)–even considering that you’ll probably be charged more than a local person would be. Don’t be intimidated–just point to what you want, and dig in.
Where to Try It