Italy is famous for its food. But what most people don’t know (until recently me included), there are so many different cuisines in Italy as there are different regions. I’ve had an opportunity to explore the tasty world of Sicily street food, which fascinated me with its simplicity, ultimate comfort food vibe and economical prices.
My hungry fascination ran so deep, I forgot to take pictures. Again!
Street Food Markets
The best food, in my opinion, is available in the market, where they offer authentic ingredients from the hands of the locals. Forget the fine restaurants that attract guests with champagne and slick waiters, although the experience is very accessible in Palermo due to reasonable costs. But, If you are like me, you will end asking the polished server if you can finish your beer next to the near by statue on the square since you can hear the street musicians far better there. Their music outdid the bland pasta anyway … Mission treat yourself to a fancy restaurant dinner: failed!
There are quite a few food markets in Palermo, in the typical style of the nation that loves food, the most popular are La Vucciria, Mercato di Capo, Ballaro and Borgo Vecchio. Spices, fruit, vegetables, an endless selection of cheeses, dry meats and artichokes are not only an alluring challenge for a hungry traveller, but prices on stalls also make it a real feast worthy of the Mediterranean island.
The Winner: pezzi!
The real joy is tiny pezzi, happiness that consists of a carbohydrate bomb combined with local cheeses and meat products. Little sandwiches, stuffed buns and similar pieces of heaven are heated, arrayed into neat boxes and served with local beers. The midnight snack should be enjoyed sitting on old church staircases, possibly overlooking the Palermo’s Pretoria fountain, a stone art piece imported from Florence, consisting of a series of statues, depicting various mythical creatures. The Sicilian mermaids possess two fish fins, which amazes me quite a bit, in the meantime, I learn something new about the Sicilian people too. Their friendly character derives from the self-preservation knowledge of real islanders, they understand that welcoming newcomers is much more efficient than trying to scare them away since the island can not be defended. Indeed, despite the accumulation of inconsiderable tourists, people are quite tolerant, generous and friendly.
Arancini or arancina? Cannoli!
Lovely arancini are a local speciality, the pride of Sicily, but there are frictions between Palermo and rival Catania, about their correct gender. In Palermo, they call them arancina, since the best things in the city are female, like the famous saint of Santa Madonna del Rosario, official patroness of the city. Fried rice dumplings stuffed with meat, spinach or other surprises are more masculine on the other side of the island, in Catania, but I do not see the difference myself because I’m still dreaming about pezzies.
Cannoli is probably the most famous Sicilian culinary export product, widely distributed in the US. The fried dough, filled with sweet ricotta, is enough for itself. Enthusiasts, such as they are, add pistachio, chocolate or other extras on top, bringing a person to the verge of sweet dizziness like no other. All this in the harsh competition of confectioners, as has not been seen by the traveller, patisseries are full of unnamed pastry, sugar products, biscuits and sweet rolls.
Over a bowl of chocolate granita siciliana, I learn about first people who supposedly invented the beloved ice cream, these were the Greeks, settling on the slopes of Mount Etna. Bringing snow from the mountain, they mixed it with different ingredients, resulting in refreshing dessert, still popular over Sicily.
Best meal of the trip?
The simple salad I made by myself in the lovely Airbnb apartment’s kitchen in the heart of Taormina. Fresh cherry pomodori pelati, aromatic dried oregano, olive oil and a chunk of perfectly round buffalo mozzarella cheese from Napoli, bought after the optimistic hunt for food at 11 pm in the evening. Background music: corny Italian festival songs from decades ago.