Palermo Street Food

We had a delightful 3+ hour tour of street food today, taking us through the Capo market. We were a group of 14: a newly married Swiss couple, a couple from Italy, a German woman, and Americans from PA, NJ, New Orleans, and one living in Brazil. In addition to food the tour included local history. Forbes rated Palermo’s street food 5th in the world.

The Capo market was created during the time when Sicily was controlled by the Arabs: 875 – 1075. Before then the market area was open countryside.

Our first stop was for Frito which is made up of left over parts from animals, what exactly our guide, Giorgio, couldn’t say. It’s a food tradition dating back 500 years. The Frito is brought to the market warm and kept in the bottom of the basket behind Giorgio.

The vendor reaches down into the basket and either fills the paper cup he is holding or puts it on bread. We had it from the cup and it, whatever it was, was delicious. After, we had prickly pear from the many cactus plants covering Sicily, which did not have a lot of flavor.

Everything in the market is local and seasonal except for a few imports from the tropics. This includes the fish. Much of the fish is oily fish – mackerel, anchovies, sardines – so healthy.

Next was fried veggies and fish in a kind of tempura batter. Street food is mostly fried because it was a way to gain the caloric intake that the poor people shopping in the market needed.

We had octopus, sardines, anchovies and shrimp along with broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers. In addition there was eggplant rolled around raisins, cheese, and breadcrumbs with a tomato sauce on top. Yum.

Giorgio and some of our group

We also had white wine made with the Grillo grape indigenous to Sicily. Like all their wines, it is mineraly. Light, fresh, delightful.

Next up: panelle, arancini, and potato croquettes.

Panella in front, arancini back left, potato croquettes back right.


Panelle are chickpea fritters made from chickpea flour and parsley. The croquettes are mashed potatoes and mint. Arancini are rice balls stuffed with beef, carrot, peas and mozzarella. The root of the word arancino is orange and they are shaped kind of like an orange. Here, we had a nice table wine.

Next was a bit more challenging! Parts. The first is spleen called pani can meusa cooked in pig’s fat served on bread with salt and lime. I had the tiniest piece and it was actually pretty good.

Pani can meusa – bread with spleen

Then there are the parts I couldn’t do: lung, feet, penis!

To clean that away: autista. This is a drink made with fruit juice, a bit of simple syrup, and soda water. Just before you drink it they add bicarbonate soda which makes it boil over. It’s added and you are supposed to drink it before it spills.

Boiling over!

Tasted like lemonade and was quite good.

From here we walked to the center of town to outside La Martorana, pictures of which are in my previous post. Here we learned that the Norman’s conquered the Arabs in Sicily in 1075. They used Arabs as workers and designers. This is the reason for the Arab influence and the Norman-Arabic building style, influenced too by Byzantium, and thus the unique-to-Sicily building form. Lovely.

Finally we went for granita, the flavored ice treat eaten for breakfast as well as at other times of the day. And to a place that roasts their own coffee, and where I’ll be going tomorrow morning!

Truly a wonderful three hours. If you are ever here, it is worth the 30 Euro, plus the 10 or so you spend buying food.

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