153. Street Food of Palermo

For my money, the best food in Italy (and therefore the world) is in Sicily. While Americans are most familiar with the wonderful food of Naples, particularly pizza and pasta with red sauce, Sicily’s blend of cultures, having been conquered at some point over the past three millennia by all the countries surrounding the Mediterranean, plus its plentiful local ingredients from the farm and sea, combine to make it the most interesting and delicious.

Bucatini with fresh sardines, pine nuts, raisins and fennel
Swordfish with tomatoes, mint and olives

So with this in mind, we engaged a Street Food and Market tour of Palermo, famous for its outdoor markets and its street food tradition.

Arancine, fried saffron-infused rice balls, have become readily available in the U.S. Here, they have many interesting varieties, including seafood.

We were led by Salvo, a delightful young man with a background in art history and theater, whose Sicilian ancestry goes back forever. As such, he knew and shared the vulgar words — and there are many — that Sicilian use for food. For example, their slang word for strawberry is the word for a woman’s “modesty,” as Salvo delicately out it.

Salvo explains that merchants equate the length of this local variety of zucchini with the size of their own zucchini, so to speak.

It would be hard to pick a favorite. Ben would choose the panelle, a chickpea fritter with roots in the Middle East, often served with a potato croquette called cazzilli, whose diminutive nickname means “little willy,” as the British would say.

Cazzillo and panelle, whose “M” signifies that the merchant is a member of nearby Santa Maria parish, and therefore a genuine multi-generational Palermitano.

I would choose the sfincione, their version of focaccia, which takes a day to make, three hours just to gently cook the onions on top.

Sfincione, so rich but insanely good.

What we would not choose was the milza, a sandwich combining boiled veal lung and spleen. After all, poor people can’t afford to waste, and use every part of the animal. So you’ve gotta just man up and try it. When in Palermo, after all.

Me, giving milza a try.

5 thoughts on “153. Street Food of Palermo

  1. Thank you for sharing the deliciousness of Sicily. The best food and produce. We ate fish soup and were happy with May strawberries and could never imagine why the lemons taste better in Sicily.


  2. Oh, my, Gigi, everything looks so delicious! I loved Palermo. I went there not expecting much, but loved the combination of old and new—a man selling fish on an old card table, around the corner from a magnificent church and a block away from the Gucci, Prada and Versace shops…



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