Palermo is famed throughout Italy for its street food sensations – it has to be at the top of the list for any foodie visitors to Sicily! Streaty Food Tours help you find the best and most authentic Palermo street food vendors, whilst also providing a wonderfully entertaining tour of the city and its most famed sites. I highly recommend that they are your first stop when visiting Palermo both to fill your tummy and your mind.
Whilst on your tour, prepare yourself not only for the classic delights of Arancini and Cannoli, but for slightly more left field ‘treats’. All are delicious however you may have to prepare your stomach for some more adventurous dishes on the tour, bring an open mind with you!
Your Palermo street food tour begins in the famous Piazza Giuseppe Verdi, in the shadow of the stunning Massimo Theater, and your first port of call is the bustling Mercato il Capo, only a few minutes walk away.
Outside the market’s famous gates sits your first vendor of the day, serving one of the most… intriguing street foods you will taste on your journey. Its probably best to first taste the Frittula before getting a full description (and please skip below if you don’t want to ruin the surprise!)
Cartilage and other remnants of a calf carcass, fried in lard and served with lemon juice, salt and pepper make up this tasty but unconventional dish, perhaps you’ll only try it once but we think it’s worth venturing out of your comfort zone for.
Following your interesting start, you’ll wander through one of Palermo’s most famous food markets, in awe of the vast selections of meat, fish, vegetables, alongside endless other Sicilian delights. Your guide is on hand to answer any questions you might have as you marvel at vegetables and seafood you’ve never seen before including some massive broccoli and brightly coloured beetroots!
Stopping in the midst of the market, take a seat next to the street vendors and await your next Sicilian treats as you watch the locals carrying out their food shopping.
For anyone planning a street food adventure in Sicily, the renowned Arancini will be at the very top of your list to try. Here you can enjoy the traditional version, stuffed with beef mince and fried with saffron, the ultimate in Italian comfort food. Learn about various other Sicilian herbs and spices as your guide gives you a mini pop quiz and the next delicacies are prepared. Usually Arancini is prepared in the morning and served until they run out but as Streaty guides know people on the inside yours will be freshly fried and even more delicious!
Alongside your Arancini, tuck into the lesser known Panelle, a fried paste of chickpea and flour, that makes a beautifully crisp starchy snack, and also some Cazzilli, deep fried potato similar to a croquette but without the breadcrumb coating (yum)!
Continuing on your wanders through the market, make a quick stop to test you Italian in a challenge to buy olives as the stalls start to melt away and the streets become visible once more. Before leaving Mercato il Capo you can quench your thirst with a stop at one of the oldest vendors in the market. Heading up a cart laden with fresh oranges and pomegranates, and decorated with photos of the cart over the decades, let the owner squeeze you a refreshing glass of orange juice by hand.
Keep your eyes peeled as you wander along nearby streets, as the residents of the apartments beside the market have developed their own home delivery system whereby their shopping baskets are lowered down from their windows to the vendors below and orders are shouted down, the precursor to online shopping!
A little further on you will find one of many Sfincionello stalls – a Sicilian style pizza (although don’t use the ‘p’ word in their prescence!). A thick dough, topped with fresh tomato, oregano, chilli and sometimes anchovies is placed into the oven underneath the stall to bake Sicily’s version of the famous Italian fare (no cheese in sight!).
Shortly you’ll find yourself in the famous Piazza San Domenico, marvelling at the stunning Convento San Domenico, before finding yourself in another of Palermo’s famous markets – Mercato Vucciria.
Stroll past some of the traditional vendors in the market, including the city’s oldest bladesmith working on his grindstone, before stopping in what can only be described as Palermo’s version of Neal’s Yard (if you’ve never been, check out this incredible cheese shop in Borough Market, London). Displaying an incredible selection of Italian cheeses, cured meats and other delights, squeeze into this small deli to purchase the final item for your Schiticchio.
Your next stop is at Taverna Azzurra, a lively bar tucked in amongst the market, stuffed with locals enjoying a lunchtime tipple. Prop yourself up at the bar and watch your host unpacking the incredible spread you’ve collected along the way for your personal Schiticchio. Dine on olives, wonderful Sicilian bread (made with semolina) and of course delicious cheese that you just picked up. Alongside this, you can savour the local liquor, sangue (literally translated as ‘blood’), a punchy wine very similar to Marsala to wash down your feast. Don’t worry that the spread is too large to finish, the remainder is left for locals to enjoy and you’ve two more stops to go so save some room!
Once you roll out of the tavern one of the true local specialities awaits – a veal spleen and lung sandwich, topped with grated cheese. Not one for the faint hearted (or vegetarians), but a local favourite, the rich meat is boiled in saltwater, cooked gently in lard and topped with cheese to help cut through the rich flavour. You really can’t leave the city without trying a bite of one!
Onto your final stretch now, through the Quattro Canti, Palermo’s famous crossroads and onwards up to the magnificent Cathedral. By the end of your tour you’ll have explored the majority of Palermo’s beautiful architecture and wandered many a cobbled street, at least some of the calories consumed will be negated! As you marvel at the incredible Sicilian cathedral, finish up your gastronomic adventure with something sweet – the Cannoli.
The world famous Cannoli is well known across the world and you can tuck into these wonderful crispy shells stuffed with whipped ricotta (and cheeky chocolate chips). Be warned though, Palermo is not known for the bite sized treats you might have experienced elsewhere, be prepared for a jumbo version of this beloved Italian dessert!
Throughout your street food tour you can keep track of the delicacies you’ve tried with your very own Streaty passport, a lovely little souvenir of your morning devouring Palermo’s finest street food. You’ll be proud if you’ve managed to finish all of your treats, and glad you didn’t have much for breakfast.
Liviana, our guide, was amazing showing her passion both for Palermo street food and the city’s history and it was contagious. We learnt so many interesting facts during our tour, some of which we’ve shared and some of which you’ll have to join a Streaty tour to find out! Streaty also runs food tours in Catania for those visiting the Eastern side of Sicily.