Sicily: Recipes from an Italian Island


Go get this book.

It's called Sicily: Recipes from an Italian Island by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi and it is gorgeous. 

Katie and Giancarlo are from the UK and we had the extreme pleasure of hanging out with them while they were researching their book. 

They are amazing people. What a privilege to have helped them with their book. 

This is our acknowledgement in the book. Not gonna lie, we are pretty proud to be the first listed as "Things to do in Palermo." 

This is Chef Marco Piraino. MARCO sei troppo bello in questo foto!! We introduced Katie and Giancarlo to Marco. He's an amazing chef. Just look at that arancina! 


Where to buy the book? If you are in NYC go pick up your copy at Archestratus in Brooklyn; it's a destination for anyone who loves Sicily. Just go there. You will thank us. If you are in London, go get yourself a copy at Books for Cooks


When We Ate Octopus Head

You can tell by Salvatore's black lips that we are not joking around. We ate this octopus head and it was AHMMMazing. Just another friday night in Palermo!

Presenting: the Palermo Street Food Sicilian Wine Tasting!


We know what you're thinking, it's about time!! Yes! Ladies and Gents, The Palermo Street Food Sicilian Wine Tasting!

It's no secret that the wine drinking portion of our Palermo Street Food Tours is one of the best parts of the tour. So, now, we bring you a full activity in Palermo dedicated 100% to wine. Evviva! 

We are working with our lovely sommelier friend, and member of the Palermo Street Food team, Francesca. She is heading up all the tasting. Francesca is a great somm, crazy about Perricone, and a Palermo native. She knows everything there is to know about Sicilian wines!

You can read more about our Sicilian Wine Tastings held in Palermo, Sicily here. And if you have any questions, just email our wine team 


Il Signore Paolo, The Anchovy Seller

This was one of the first pictures that we ever posted on Instagram. He is the magnificent Il Signore Paolo and he will remain forever a symbol of Capo Market in the heart of Palermo. He will remain forever a symbol of Sicilianità and tradition. 

Il Signore Paolo was the kind of person that you noticed. Even on the market's most crowded days, Il Signore Paolo would always catch your eye behind his counter of salted anchovies, sardines, and capers.

We know that many of our fellow Palermitani agree with us when we say that Il Signore Paolo was greatly admired and considered a great testament to our community's history and culture. Maybe it was his charisma. Maybe it was his passion, he loved what he did. Maybe it was because there's just nothing like a good anchovy packed in salt. 

When you'd buy anchovies from Il Signore Paolo, he'd wrap them for you in newspaper. We loved that. His place in the market was in front of the church, the Immacolata Concezione al Capo. It was a really powerful position. The juxtaposition of the church, with it's exaggerated ornate baroque style, and Il Signore Paolo right out front, with his simple wooden counter... If you were lucky enough to have ever visited the church and then eat and anchovy from Il Signore Paolo, you know what we mean when we say that it was very special and beautiful. 

Something we will always remember about Il Signore Paolo is that he loved to share his culture. He loved to let people from all over taste and he was always welcoming. There are so many good things to be said about this man. 

Signor Paolo, grazie di tutto.


The Phallic Legend of the Cannolo

It is said that the very first dessert to resemble a cannolo was in Ancient Rome, around the time of Cicero. But, it was during Medieval times that what we think of today as a cannolo really came to life; invented in Sicily by Arab women!

As the story goes, the city of Qal at al-Nissa (or as it is called today, Caltanissetta), was home to many Saracen harems. The women of these harems were known to prepare sweets and desserts, they were the first to make a sweet similar to what we now call cannolo. Legend has it that the cannolo's phallic form was totally intentional! It was chosen to represent the the penis of the women's husbands. What a bunch of bad-ass medieval bakers, with a serious sense of humor! 

Later in history, when Sicily was conquered by the Normans and was thereby under Catholic rule, many women who previously lived in harems, became nuns. The cannolo tradition continued in the nunneries.

Of course, any mention of a phallus was completely done away with. Instead, the cannolo was said to represent a fountain of life water, the ricotta was said to be water. Less explicit, but still a symbol of fertility! 

What makes a Sicilian cannolo a REAL cannolo?

Cannoli, famous in all the world. They are a dessert. A a pastry. But did you know that cannoli are distinctly Sicilian? A dessert tradition born on the Island of Sicily. Many people do not realize that the cannolo is Sicilian, with origins deep in Sicily's history

But let's think about the modern day cannolo. What makes a Sicilian cannolo, today, different from the cannoli found in other cities in the world? 

The Ricotta

The ricotta cheese must be made from sheep's milk. Never cow. Usually, with mini chocolate chips mixed in. 

The Shell 

The shell is made with flour, wine, sugar, and fried in animal lard. Sorry vegetarians! Although, many of our friends in Palermo do prefer to use oil.

Candied Fruit

Canding fruit is a Sicilian art form. There is nothing better than real candied fruit.  In Palermo you usually find a delicious slice of orange peel.

La Festa della Pasta 'ncaciata

The pasta dish called "pasta 'ncaciata" is a typical Sicilian dish that is originally from Messina. This amazing dish is named after the way it is cooked: 'ncaciata style, aka, in burning embers. 

So how do you make this pasta dish? First you boil pasta to the point that it is more than al dente. Then, you mix the pasta with just a bit of the following ingredients: ground meat, salame, hard boiled eggs, fried eggplant, fresh caciocavallo, basil, salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and pecorino. 

In the past, before ovens were a common household appliance, people used to cook this pasta dish directly in their fires' ashes. That's where the name comes from " 'ncaciata;" it's the preparation method.  "U ncaçio" means "in the embers" in the Messinese dialect.

Today, pasta 'ncaciata is still cooked, in the traditional style, during a specific event called "la festa della Pasta 'ncaciata." This event is every mid-August in Novara di Sicilia, a little village in the province of Messina. This annual tradition is a beautiful moment when the old ways of doing this is experienced  and this pasta is cooked on the burning embers, as it used to be done, 'ncasciata style! Young and old Sicilians, along with travelers and visitors relive the atmosphere of a Sicily of centuries ago. 

The Legend of Palermo's Spleen Sandwich

Pani ca' Meusa, the epic spleen sandwich of Palermo! Around the year 1000 there was a large Jewish community in Palermo and many Jewish people worked as butchers. They traded their butchering skills for parts of the animals they butchered. Much of the meat they kept was organs and offal of cow.

How did they prepare the cow innards? They boiled them and served them with lemon and salt. This was an original street food in Palermo.

Around the same time, the Arab population of Palermo used to make a sandwich with ricotta and caciocavallo cheese. This was also an original street food in Palermo.

At some point, these two dishes became very common in all of Palermo. 

Centuries later, during the Spanish Inquisition, the Jewish people were tragically forced to leave The Kingdom of Sicily, Remember, during that time Sicily was ruled by Spain.

Over time, the people who continued to populate the island of Sicily, started to develop their own Sicilian identity.  According to the legend, at this point in history, in Palermo the two street food traditions were combined into the spleen sandwich closer to what we know today. 

Today, the meat for this sandwich is boiled and then fried in pig lard. The tradition of frying in lard was created to heat up the meat and it began because it gave the meat a soft texture. This softness meant that even people without all their teeth could eat it.

Today on the streets of Palermo, we often eat our Pani ca' Meusa Maritata style. To make this street food delicacy, cow spleen, lung, and trachea are boiled. Then, right before the moment of eating, they are fried in pig lard, put on a bun, and sprinkled with ricotta and caciocavallo.

Maritata means marriage. The idea is that the white cheese represents the bride and the dark colored meat represents the groom.

And there you have it!  



Filming Alex Polizzi's Secret Italy

If you watch British TV, you likely know who Alex Polizzi is. Not only is she a TV star, she is also a wonderful person with a sincere curiosity
for uncommon food. Our co-founder, Salvatore Agusta, had the pleasure of spending lots of time with her and showing her around Palermo's food scene. 

Alex is working on a project the "Alex Polizzi's Secret Italy." She was in Palermo, filming part of the episode about Sicily. We couldn't help but tell her all our secret places and favorite foods. It was such a pleasure to hang out with her.  

We had panelle, pani ca meusa, arancine. Here you can see us standing outside Nino u' Ballerino.

Basically we spent the whole day walking Palermo and talking about history and gastronomy. Grazie Alex, it was fantastic. Come again soon.

The New York Times: 36 Hours in Palermo, Sicily

Credit Andrea Wyner for The New York Times

Credit Andrea Wyner for The New York Times

Ingrid K. Williams of the NYTimes tore it up in Palermo on her 36 hour adventure. Dear Ingrid, thank you so much for coming to our city!  Our favorite part of her article is when she says:

"Palermo’s diverse street food — from arancine (fried rice balls) to stigghiola (barbecued intestines) — is legendary. For variety and a modicum of comfort, head to Nni Franco u’ Vastiddaru, a street-food restaurant with plastic tables and chairs on an adjacent piazza. The specialty is panelle, rectangular fritters of chickpea flour, served on a seeded bun. Pair that with the fritti misti, a mix of arancine and croquettes, or the pani ca’ meusa, a cheesy spleen sandwich. Dinner for two, about 20 euros."

Yes! Dinner for two about 20 euro. Affordable good food. That is Palermo! 

The Palermo Street Food Game

We at Palermo Street Food are always up for special requests and this special request tour was one of the BEST TOURS we have ever done. It was a blast! An amazing time! We had so much fun!

The Palermo Street Food Game is a fantastic way to get to know the street food in Palermo while bonding with your friends and co-workers. 

This is how the game works. We break your group up into to teams, "Stigghiola Team" and "Polpo Team." The two teams are paired with a local guide and have to complete a series of street food eating experiences around the city, kind of like an edible scavenger hunt.

But, everyone must listen carefully to their guide, because the winner is determined by a test of street food knowledge.  After all the items on the list have been completed, everyone meets back at the home base for the question challange.

The winners of this game were Team Polpo. The question that they answered for the win: Which was the Sicilian King that asked to change some of the original ingredients in the arancina to make it more useful for hunting? 

The answer? We're not going to tell! 

After the winner was named, we spent the rest of the evening eating and drinking in Vucciria to celebrate!

Ainsley Harriott & Palermo Street Food

What can we say? Working with Sir Ainsley Harriott was a great honor. To see Palermo's street food through his eyes was incredible. Our Salvatore says that Ainsley's energy, charisma, and appreciation for good food are amazing. Grazie mille Ainsley for coming to Palermo.  

Watch Ainsley Harriott's Palermo episode in 4 parts here:

Ainsley Harriott & Palermo Street Food Part 1


Ainsley Harriott & Palermo Street Food Part 2


Ainsley Harriott & Palermo Street Food Part 3


Ainsley Harriott & Palermo Street Food Part 4

Palermo in Travel & Leisure

According Travel and Leisure you cannot miss a visit Palermo during your holidays. The famous U.S. magazine wrote about our city in one of their epic must-travel lists. 

They wrote that "Palermo, Sicily, is another destination capturing the collective imagination. TripAdvisor has noticed a recent uptick in searches and positive feedback—and we’ve noticed compelling reasons to visit, like a surprisingly sophisticated wine scene and affordable independent hotels."

It is so true! Palermo offers to all travelers the most reasonable offers in terms of Fun, Food and Culture. Our Palermo Street Food tour is totally a part of this mission: history, taste, and friendly people. What makes Palermo special is not only the jovial atmosphere of the city but all the different adventures you can find inside the city. 

Read more about it on our TripAdvisor.

So, what you are waiting for? Come and visit us!

From New York to Palermo by Bicycle

This post was written by Palermo Street Food's co-founder Danielle Aquino Roithmayr for Palermo's Rosalio blog. Yes, it is in Italian, but give it a try anyway! 

Se avessi un’auto la userei. Questa è stata certamente una delle prime frasi che ho imparato usando il tempo congiuntivo/condizionale; ed è proprio così.

Salve a tutti mi presento, sono Danielle Aquino, vivo da un paio di anni a Palermo e mi occupo di cibo artigianale: forse mi avete visto qualche volta in bicicletta in giro per Palermo. Sono la ragazza americana che molto cauta, con un caschetto protettivo, percorre giornalmente il marciapiede di via Libertà/via Notarbartolo, spaventata a morte dal traffico cittadino.

Il mio è solo un po’ di umorismo, non è poi così male il traffico palermitano, basta solo farci l’abitudine ed il gioco è fatto. Quel che è certo è che non manca mai una buona dose d’adrenalina; ad esempio oggi una signora guidando una Fiat 500 azzurra col telefonino rigorosamente al suo orecchio mi ha quasi appiattito quando ha deciso, cosi con naturale freschezza, di girare a destra senza utilizzare le frecce segnaletiche. Mi è persino capitato di rischiare d’esser catapultata all’interno di quello che qui a Palermo si definisce tecnicamente “lapino chino ‘i frutta e verdura” ossia un fruttarolo ambulante. Sarei comunque atterrata sul morbido tra melanzane e zucchine biologiche siciliane! Comunque, come ho detto, sono casi poco frequenti.

A Palermo per chi va in bici c’è poi un costante problema: dove incatenare la bici? Fortunatamente Io ho un lucchetto fortissimo che ho comprato negli Usa, fatto per resistere ai furfantelli di New York City che poco hanno da invidiare ai loro colleghi siciliani.

Se vi state chiedendo come abbia fatto a portarlo a Palermo, be’ posso dirvi che non è stato molto semplice. Ogni aeroporto in cui facevo scalo ho sempre dovuto dare mille spiegazioni sulle ragioni per cui avevo deciso di portarlo con me da New York, mentre una volta giunta a Roma e poi qui nel capoluogo siciliano nessuno mi ha più chiesto nulla, quasi come se fosse una routine viaggiare con un archetto blocca bici.

Ma ne è valsa la pena perché sto bene con il mio lucchetto newyorchese, almeno fino ad oggi. In ogni caso, ribadisco che questa città non è proprio fatta per i ciclisti urbani e tante volte mi “siddia” proprio incatenare la bici, così se devo solo comprare un gelato, in questa stagione sempre una ottima brioche con gelato ai gelsi e cioccolato fondente oppure se decido di prendere un caffè – senza zucchero per favore – lascio la bici vicino alla porta del bar e prego santa Rosalia di ritrovarla al suo posto.

A proposito di bar e caffè, una volta mi è capitata una strana avventura mentre mi trovavo in un bar per soddisfare la mia costante dipendenza da espresso. Ad un certo punto, mentre chiacchieravo con il barista, entra nel locale un signore sulla quarantina, probabilmente un manovale intento a concedersi una delle sue frequenti pause di lavoro. Sproloquiando con fare del tutto isolano (i siciliani sono tutti assolutamente dei grandi attori cominci) diresse lo sguardo verso di me ed il barista, chiedendo un caffè americano e prendendo spunto dalla cosa per sostenere che gli americani dovrebbero tornarsene tutti in America «perché è li che si sta bene» anzi, a suo dire, «tutti i siciliani dovrebbero andare a vivere in America perché qui non vale la pena continuare». Io vivo da qualche tempo qui e, alla lunga, ho assimilato anche un po’ di gestualità siciliana che non fa mai male. In quella circostanza, frenando quanto più potevo la mia risata, ho semplicemente annuito senza dire una parola. Non appena quell’uomo si è allontanato dal bar io ed il barista ci siamo guardati in faccia e siamo scoppiati a ridere. Mi capita spesso di essere scambiata per italiana ma più raramente che decidano di affrontare con quel genere di argomento con me. Anche in quella occasione avevo lasciato la bici fuori senza catena, ma per fortuna mi aspettava esattamente dove l’avevo lasciata; come si dice da queste parti “a postissimo!”.

Click here to read the original post on the Rosalio.