The best Street Food in Europe is in Palermo

For all Sicilians, and especially for people from Palermo (i palermitani) food and eating is a serious business. Eating is a ritual, a time of the day when we come together, an excuse to break the daily routine and socialize in order to share knowledge and exchange ideas. Eating is forever been a part of Palermo and it can be done at every corner of the city. What is known as Street Food by many (cibo da strada) has been a part of Palermo for centuries. This ancient tradition has made Palermo the fifth city in the world and the first in Europe for street food, according to the VirtualTourist, being preceded only by Asian cities.
While strolling in Palermo you get accustomed to seeing people eating or “snacking” ( schiticchia) on something at all times of the day or night. You will also get used to seeing street food vendors in all sorts of allies and roads selling some of the street food staples of Palermo Pane e Panelle, and Pane ca’ meusa.
In many cases you will come across the typical local breads like the vastedda, a round shaped soft bread made of durum wheat or mafalda, a typical serpentine shaped bread which is often cut in half resulting in a mezza mafalda. Pane con le panelle uses either a vastedda or mafalda to encase fritters that are made with chickpea flour. After the flour is cooked with water over the stove, the polenta-like mix is spread on a counter in a thin layer, or cut in molds, then fried in scalding oil. The fragrance and texture of the fritters will be one experience you will always cherish.

In the past, every friggitoria, or place where fritters are made, like a peddler, used to create a special seal to imprint each fritter so it would be easy to identify the seller and ensure quality for perfect texture and temperature. A great addition to panelle are crocché di patate, or potato croquettes. These are seasoned with mint, parsley or stuffed with fried eggplants. A bite of a hot pane e panelle while walking around the city and taking in all the historical landmark around is a real treat.
Pane ca’ meusa, is another dish exclusively typical of Palermo and it consists of a soft bread (locally called vastedda or vastella), stuffed with chopped veal lung, spleen and trachea that have been boiled and then fried in lard. This can be seasoned with lemon juice or caciocavallo, a local cheese. Pane ca’ meusa may sound like the kind of food not for the faint of heart or stomach, but it truly is one of the most delicious paninis to try.

This specialty originates from the time when Jews were established in Palermo. In one of the Jewish neighborhoods of the city, the Guzzetta, there use to be a slaughterhouse or abattoir, the Kasher, but due to their strict rules, the Jews could not be paid with money for slaughtering the animals hence they would be paid with veal spleens, lungs, or tracheas. That’s when they started selling these to the Christians after frying them in lard Cristiani, giving rise to one of the most famous street foods in the city.
If you find yourself inside one the local bars o forni (bakeries) in the city you won’t have a hard time finding a tasty arancina, a timballo di riso stuffed with ham, cheese and bechamel sauce (oval shape), or with ragù di carne or meat sauce (round shape), or a “pezzo di rosticceria”, another category of street food of Palermo like a calzone or ravazzata, a brioche type of bread stuffed with ragù di carne or beef sauce and oven baked.

Last, but not least let’s address the sweet kind of street food: cannoli, iris fritte stuffed with ricotta cream, sfince, brioche with gelato or with granita – there is something for every palate or occasion. Suite Quaroni positioned in the heart of via Maqueda, the historical center of Palermo, is ideal for any food lover who’d like to splurge in local flavors Palermo’s street food. There are many restaurants, peddlers and street vendors in the near vicinity to experience some of the local Sicilian cuisine.