Palermo Street Food
What is it?
A recent ranking, compiled by the American network Virtual Tourist, placed Palermo in 5th place among the best producers of “street food” in the world.
Mark a date in your calendar. To survive your street food experience in Palermo you need: very-very light breakfasts, no-diet-no-calories restrictions today, comfy shoes, a couple of sentences or gestures in Sicilian language and a veteran belly.
Here it is…your Palermo street food bucket list! the not-to-be-missed foods on your Street Food Tour in Palermo!
Small Group Tour operated from Monday to Saturday. Suggestive experience at Palermo Markets including tasting of street food. Walking tour through Palermo city center ans visit to the world renowned Monreale Dome with golden mosaics.
Wait up! What is street food? The basic principle of street food is: simple and cheap food for simple people. The street food of Palermo mainly consists of simple poor recipes…simply fried!
In Palermo’s side street, you can find all kind of goods: among stalls filled with colorful merchandise, the Palermitans often use to eat on the street cooked food to spit with their hands.
Pane panelle e crocchè (cazzilli) fritters, arancine (rice croquettes), carduna, cacuocciuli e vruocculi (thistles, artichokes and broccoli fried in butter), milinciani fritte (fried eggplant), pesce cicireddu (fried little fish), sfinciuni (a type of pizza), pane con la milza (bread with spleen), stigghiola (grilled skevered lamb or goat innards), polpo bollito (boiled octopus), sea food, babbaluci boiled and seasoned snails, boiled corn cobs, slices of cedars served with salt, slices of watermelons, prickly pears and roasted chestnuts are just some of the treats available here – thanks to wich Palermo has justly earned its name as one the street-food capitals of the world.
Let us recap the TOP 7 Street Food Meals of Palermo!
1. PANI CA’ MEUSA
A 31 inch wide iron pot called “tiano” is where the miracle takes form. Fire heats it up supported by the muttering bellies of hungry Sicilians.
The man or meusaro, dances around the pot stirring the meat that it’s gently frying in lard (sugna or saimi). So…What does the meusaro sells? A meusaro sells pani ca’ meusa. A crunchy rounded sandwich called vastedda stuffed with lung, spleen and throat carthilages of veal. Before ending up in frying lard, the meat is boiled in salted water and dried. A juicy lemmon squeezed on the top is the final tasty touch.
This is what Palermitans call pani ca’ meusa schietto. Schietto stands for single. What if the pani ca’ meusa gets married? It does and it’s called pani ca’ meusa maritatu. His beautiful wife is a spoonful of fresh sheep ricotta! super yummy! If you asked a local “what’s your favorite street food in Palermo?”, I bet that 1 out 2 would say “pani ca meusa!”.
Origins: Pani ca meusa has its origins as a poor man’s food that started over a 1000 years ago, when the Jewish population settled in and around Palermo city in Sicily. It was this local Jewish community that came up with a clever way to use the undesirable offal parts of the cow, such as the gut, lungs, spleen and heart, combining these ingredients with cheese and placing them in bread (the practice of using bread and cheese being a local tradition). Although a larger part of the Jewish community of Sicily left the region during the reign of King Ferdinand in the late 15th century, their customs remained, thankfully, giving the Sicilian people with one of their most beloved foods, the pani c’a meusa.
Real street food for real street food lovers. The street food of Palermo is much more various than tourists think. The point is that some street specialty only appears at night. Sicilian hungry owls know this and can’t wait to put their talons on it!
What makes the stigghiola special is that it smells as good as it tastes! the elastic bag of veal intestine is rolled around a fatty part of the stomach. It cooks on the bbq for about 10 minutes, not less. It’s tasty, juicy but I have to say…also a bit chewy! In fact, the stigghiola belongs to that category of food that I call “short chewing food”. It must be chewed just enough to be swallowed. The more you keep it in your mouth the more strong back flavours will come up and makes it less enjoyable! street food palermo is also this! 🙂
The name stigghiola comes from latin “extiliola” which means low stomach guts. Yes my friends! we’ve been eating this stuff for thousands of years! The stigghiola vendor is called “Stigghiolaro”. You see how easy it is Sicilian language?!? add the sufix -aro to a food and you have its vendor!
A curiosity. Stigghiolari rub veal fat on the bbq to make the fire puff up to the sky a heavenly smelly white cloud. It works.
The arancina is definetely the most popular Sicilian street food, worldwide renowned and worldwide cooked!
You will find it everywhere but this everywhere is more often serving bad arancinas. Let’s go step by step! First of all, what is it? Let’s make it easy. The arancina is a fried rice ball with a crunchy breadcrumb crust. What’s inside? thousand years of Sicilian food evolution! Minced veal, peas, carrot and onion…pure orgasm! The rice inside should have the bright yellow color of safron. This is how a proper arancina should be. However, most of cooks also add tomato sauce, which is good of course even if not traditional!
Where do you find good arancinas? try to avoid popular bars or even worse “arancine shops”. If you see tens of arancina lined up on the bar that means they had been fried a kept under the steam for too long. The result is that the arancina will be soggy, not crunchy as it must be. So skip those places!
Arancinas must be eaten at so-called friggitoria that I normally translate in english as fryery 🙂 family run humble food shops furnitured with a fridge, a frying pan and a mama. The friggitoria is the court of Palermo street food where kids, families and old men meets to share a cold forst beer and some fried stuff.
4. PANELLE AND CAZZILLI
What a treat! Panelle make everybody happy! greedy foodies and passionate vegetarians. Thin chickpea fritters, as easy as that! Easy to cook, easy to find, easy to eat, easy to pronounce. The Panelle are probably the most present street food of Palermo. Traditionally cooked and served in the streets by the Panellaro. The panelle feeds generations of Palermitans, from students on their morning break to construction workers on their lunch break. You find pane e panelle sandwich sold in tuk-tuk at Mondello beach but also in fancy restaurants served as fine appetizers enriched with wild fennel seeds. A must be eaten of your Palermo street food bucket list. clear? 🙂
Let me tell you what cazzilli means? LOL cazzilli means “little penis”! You should see the face of our foodies when streaty guides reveal this!
LOL We are talking about penis-shaped potato croquettes. Nothing special you would say…in fact it is nothing mythological. However, the fresh mint mixed with the mashed potato makes it kind of special! The street food of Palermo is generally simply cooked…well…fried! The basic principle of street food is: simple and cheap food for simple people.
The cazzilli makes love in bread with panelle. Step in a friggitoria and order a “panino misto”. You will get a soft sandwich topped with sesame seeds and stuffed with layers of chickpea fritters and potato croquette. Wanna make it real palermitan…squeeze a slice of lemmon on the fritters and have a safe trip to heaven!
Wait a minute…you will probably feel lost in translation when searching for cazzilli coz most of palermitans call it “crocchè”. You know…it sounds more french and elegant but the real street name will always be…cazzilli!
There are many interesting facts behind the existence of this orgasmic street food specialty of Palermo. Let’s start with the name. Sfincione, from arabic “Isfinj”, sponge! Interesting to know that real palermitans from the streets call it “spinciuni” which sounds more the latin term “spongiam”. If you are a linguistic feel free to make love with this interesting case. Or simply do like the Americans from the east coast: call it Sicilian pizza!
But I’m here to list and describe foods this time. So, the sfincione is a spongy pizza topped with a delicious tomato and onion sauce. Precooked at the central bakery located right behind the Cathedral and finally processed in the wheeled stall of the Sfincionaro. The sfincionaro toasts the soft tick pizza in his movable gas grill and finally generates a rain of oregano on the top of it. The result is an soft textured pizza with a gentle tomato taste and a perfumed aftertaste of onion.
Unfortunately many tourists miss this Palermo street food because it doesn’t look inviting at a first glance. The point is that it needs to be toasted first and then it will look great and taste even better! The sfincione is another big piece of traditional street food in Palermo. What to eat in Palermo? Go for it!
6. MANGIA E BEVI
A proper street food palermo bucket list must include the delicious mangia e bevi. The mangia e bevi is the ideal treat for hungry meat lovers. Bacon rolled around spring onion and cooked for about 5 minute on a street barbecue. It’s a included bite in our Palermo night tours. The combination of fatty meat with the mouthwatering spring onion makes you wanna have more and makes you wanna have it with beer! This is why this food is called mangia e bevi, it means eat and drink! Please stop the vendor before he serves the mangia e bevi with plastic forks! use your beautiful hands and lick your fingers!
The vendor of mangia e bevi is actually the stigghiolaro, the one who makes stigghiola as core business! Follow the white cloud!
An authentic #foodporn delicacy! Two slices of bread stuffed with bechamel, ham and mozzarella cheese, dipped in batter and fried in sunflower oil with no mercy! It’s tasty, crunchy, greasy…it’s all a passionate foodie like you needs to eat before leaving this earth. Not easy to find a good quality one around. Join our night street food tour of Palermo and find it out where the best is made! The crostino should belong to a different category of Palermo food, the so-called rosticceria (delis). However, some Friggitoria fry this up together with panelle and cazzilli. Street food in Palermo is very various and surprising, sometimes too heavy for delicate stomach and fine palate. As for me, the heavier the better. The crostino is a must try food in Palermo. Look for it, find it, devour it.