Nowhere do you get a better insight into ‘real’ Sicilian food than in the street markets of Palermo. Find out all you need to know about Palermo’s street food, and much more besides, in the markets of Vucciria, the Capo, Ballarò and the Borgo Vecchio, each one a hive of activity and friendly assault on just about all of your senses.
The first thing that will hit you is the smell of frying, from the pane e panelle chickpea fritter sandwiches, to the cazzilli (potato croquettes), trigghiola (small fried mullet) and the frittole (fried pork). Pride of place, however, goes to the arancine (crunchy golden rice balls stuffed with minced meat and peas), the most obvious legacy of 10th century Arab rule in Sicily.
These markets are not for the faint-hearted and you need to be ready to be adventurous to get the best out of them. On the meaty front, the smell of smoky barbecue from the stigghiole (skewered veal intestine) is near irresistible, but the king of Palermitan street food is pani c’meusa, an admittedly unappealing sounding mix of veal spleen, lungs and throat gristle that has been boiled, fried and served in a soft sesame roll.
Unsurprisingly, fish is also a popular option, with boiled octopus topped with lemon juice and some fabulous fish stalls piled high with the shiniest and freshest of sardines, swordfish and tuna.
Vegetarians are well catered for with stalls selling fried aubergine and cauliflower, roasted artichokes and traditional caponata. Almost a meal in itself, a piece of sfincione is s soft doughy pizza, with toppings of tomato, onions, anchovies and caciocavallo cheese.
An organised walking tour of Palermo’s street food markets combines an introduction to Sicily’s street food with a stroll through some of the city’s quieter spots and lesser-known streets and squares.