Italian street food is an essential part of this country’s culture, and this is certainly the case in Sicily’s largest city, Palermo. Palermo street food vendors line the streets, alleys, and many piazzas throughout Palermo’s many neighborhoods. There are a few local delicacies that are served via food carts and deli stands that epitomize Palermo food culture. Think crispy arancini rice balls, panelle & crocche (fried potato croquettes) and the infamous spleen sandwich pani ca’ meusa. All of these hearty handhelds are served throughout Palermo, and all are delicious. For an afternoon sweet treat, don’t forget cannolis, or an evening gelato after dinner.
Sampling the incredible street food of Palermo will require every hand you have to spare. Make things easier on yourself by dropping off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Palermo, and you'll be ready to tuck in on your way into town from the Palermo airport.
The Best Local Street Food Vendors in Palermo
Pani Ca' Meusa Porta Carbone
While this dish might make vegetarians squirm, this iconic handheld might be the most common and delicious street food in Palermo. Known throughout the rest of Italy as Pane con la milza, this sandwich is stuffed with veal spleen and other organ meats with onions. It's one of the most iconic street foods in Italy, let alone Sicily. The description might not sound appetizing, but the results are as tasty as any sandwich in Palermo. The meat is cooked in copper pans with lard, which gives the sandwich a rich and juicy flavor profile, and the buns are often homemade and toasted for a lovely crunch.
Porta Carbone is the best destination for this infamous sandwich. On weekends and late afternoons, crowds of locals drive or walk to get a spleen sandwich from their favorite vendor. Basically, every Palermo street food tour will have this infamous sandwich on offer.
Passami ù Coppu
Located near Fontana Pretoria, this no-frills deli and restaurant serves classic Italian favorites in a relaxed setting. Passami ù Coppu isn’t quite fast food, but it’s an approachable and inexpensive neighborhood street food spot that offers comfort food to locals and tourists alike. They hang their hat on serving some of the best arancini in Palermo. These crispy fritters are ultra-popular as a snack or light meal. Wood-fired pizza and sandwiches are also on offer.
Passami ù Coppu also serves amazing authentic Italian sweet treats. Homemade biscotti, gelato, and cannolis are incredibly popular in the afternoon, so bring the kids! This is a solid place to grab an espresso when you’re heading out to explore the neighborhood, sightsee, or do some shopping!
Premiata Enoteca Buttice
This cute wine bar is a nice mix between a proper Italian restaurant and deli counter service. Enoteca Buttice has a casual atmosphere for sitting down for a meal or ordering carryout. Sandwiches, a selection of cheese, and arancini are the best options for carrying out a picnic on the piazza. There are also some great local wine and cordial options for popping in for a quick drink and some street food bites! Premiata Enoteca Buttice is located near the Mercato Del Capo, so it’s a nice stop before or after Palermo’s best shopping destination.
Zio Totò/Uncle Totò (A Palermo Street Food Legend)
Uncle Toto is not only one of the more colorful characters in Palermo, he’s been a constant fixture in the Old Town neighborhood. Famous for serving some of the best street food in Palermo out of his three-wheel Ape Piaggio, which is a hybrid motorcycle equipped with a flatbed for storage or commercial use on the back. These tiny vehicles are vital for street-food vendors who need to navigate the narrow streets and alleys of Palermo’s ancient Old Town District.
Uncle Toto’s specialty is the traditional Sicilian street food favorite known as Frittola (or Frittula), a piece of meat boiled at high temperatures in lard and then pressed to remove moisture. These bits of meat are then stored in a Panaru, or wicker basket covered in cloth. Street vendors famously dip a napkin into the mysterious contents of these wicker baskets and withdraw a crispy, savory, rich, and salty serving of meat. Much like the Pane con la milza, Frittola is not for the faint of heart. There is a mystery as to what parts of the animal are even used to create this iconic snack, but the undeniably amazing flavor has kept this dish a favorite amongst locals and adventurous travelers from all over the world.
Uncle Toto’s colorful stand and throng of admirers/customers can be found throughout Old Town, but Fontana Pretoria or Via Roma are your best bets. If you can’t find Zio Toto, don’t despair, Frittola is served throughout Palermo’s Old Town district.
Located near Piazza Castelnuovo and the stunningly gorgeous Palchetto Della Musica garden, this casual eatery serves up some of the best street food in Palermo. The selection of brioche, cannoli, croissants, and other tasty sweet treats are perfect with an espresso or latte. If you want a full meal, try some of their dishes with fresh mozzarella and perfect prosciutto. Their Sicilian Dumplings are also a favorite. While this spot might resemble a cafe more than a Palermo street food stall, it certainly brings the best flavors of any casual eatery.
Friggitoria da Davide
This deli counter is Palermo’s go-to spot for outstanding authentic sandwiches. After ordering a simple sandwich with fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, and olive oil, you’ll know why the Italian deli has become a staple in American cuisine. Their salmon and crostini is another refreshing sandwich that’s perfect for the scorching Summer afternoons in Sicily. Their homemade lemonade is another way to beat the heat! This spot gets extremely busy around lunchtime, especially with street food tours, so head there early, or wait out the crowds for a late-afternoon meal in the piazza.
Dainotti's Apericapo / Dainotti's Cibo di Strada
Located inside iconic street food institution the Mercato del Capo, this stand serves all the classics. Authentic staples like Arancini and Frittola are on offer, and both are some of the best examples available in Palermo. You might have to jostle with locals and other visitors to finally order one of these delectable snacks, but it’s absolutely worth the wait. Once you’re done chowing down, walk through the market to find your next snack or a souvenir!
Fish M Chips
If you’ve (somehow) had your fill of authentic Sicilian snacks or meat dishes, this stylish spot near the Mercato del Capo serves the best casual seafood in Palermo. There is a variety of fresh fish on the menu, including deep-fried fish n’ chips, grilled octopus, caponata, and loads of seasonal specials. They have a small bar area with views of the streets for a local beer or wine, which pair nicely with the deep-fried potato croquettes. It’s the perfect spot for eating a late afternoon lunch or happy hour. You might not find it on any of the street food tours, but its delicious menu provides excellent value, and the flavors are worth the short walk from Santa Lucia or Capo Market.
Formangiando Made in Sicily
This is one of the most popular restaurants (and best delis) in Palermo. It is near the Palchetto Della Musica, and many regulars and visitors will order at the counter and walk with their sandwiches, crocche, and arancini. Their most famous dish has to be their porchetta, but you’ll find a sandwich that fits your taste on their small but excellent menu (seriously, try the ham). There is local wine available as well, so Formangiando Made in Sicily is a popular spot for eating and drinking after touring the gardens.
Where to Find the Best Street Food Spots in Palermo
Known locally as Mercato di Ballarò, this market is located near the iconic medieval tower Torre di San Nicolò di Bari, and is a popular destination for tourists looking for a casual lunch in between sightseeing activities. You will start to hear the merchants and street food vendors from a few blocks away. There are many stands and stalls set up at Ballaro Market, with an incredible variety of goods and foods on offer.
This might not be as famous as the Mercato di Capo, but it is by far the most authentic encapsulation of life in Sicily. Many locals prefer this market because of the incredible prices, but it’s becoming popular with savvy travelers. For only a few euros, you can feed a sizable group with delicious Sicilian street food specialties like chickpea fritters, croquettes, pane e panelle, and even pizza. These are the perfect snacks for the market as they are handheld and easy to walk and eat!
Capo Market (Mercato di Capo)
Near the Monte de Pieta Storage Facility, this is the most famous public market in Palermo. Modeled after the architecture left by the Arabs during their ancient occupation and development of the Island of Sicily, this market is a sight to behold. There is a labyrinthine feel to this market; the alleyways and lanes feel as though you’re navigating a maze. You can enter Capo through the Porta Carini, which is an ancient city gate and definitely worthy of a selfie.
Entering the market, you’re immediately greeted with the shouting and haggling from the many food vendors and merchants. You’ll also notice the aromas from the many fryers, grills, and even ovens. Like Mercato di Ballaro and many of Palermo’s town squares, you can find arancini, croquettes, a spleen sandwich cart, and dozens of other vendors serving various Sicilian delicacies. One standout has to be the Sfincione, which is a flatbread resembling a slice of pizza topped with aged caciocavallo cheese, tomato sauce, and onions. There are also many food stalls selling fresh produce, which is a nice change of pace considering all the fried foods on offer (going on a hike is another way to counteract the over-indulgence). Tropical fruits are particularly delicious, as these producers sell them fresh directly to the consumer at the market. Overall, the bright colors and bustle of the market is a can’t-miss experience in Palermo, and certainly worth checking out!
La Vucciria Market
This is one of the more relaxed markets in Palermo and can be a nice alternative to the bustle of Capo and Ballaro. You’ll find old men playing card games, families playing in the square, and students from the local University lounging in the sun. You’ll also find some amazing street food in this market. The stalls in La Vucciria Market offer everything from pani ca’ meusa, to arancini, to fried chickpea fritters. You’ll also find a variety of fresh produce from the farms outside the city. Overall, this is a nice relaxing atmosphere to walk around and enjoy.
Palermo Street Food Tour
Hosted by some of the most knowledgeable and passionate local foodies, this walking tour of Palermo’s Old Town District (easily one of the best neighborhoods in Palermo) will allow visitors to experience the entire story of this city’s street food scene in just a few hours. The guides will walk each group through the most historic parts of Palermo, explaining the rich history of each town square, historic building, and neighborhood. Even better, you get to stop by many of the best Palermo street food vendors along the way. You’ll get to sample the best arancini, panelle, crocche (croquettes), and treat yourself to a cannoli at the end. During these tastings, the guides will explain each iconic dish’s history, including how it was invented, and its importance to the Sicilian people.
There are stops at Capo market, the Piazza Beati Paoli, The Quattro Canti, The Pretoria Fountain, and the Cathedral of Palermo. This is easily the best way of learning the history of Palermo and experiencing its vibrant street food culture.
Palermo has been an important city for centuries, and it remains a vital artifact of the ancient history of Sicily and the Mediterranean. Each winding alley, town square, and market has a rich history to explore. Walking through this city can be an extensive undertaking, which is one of the reasons why street food is such a vital part of life in Palermo. Because every distinct street food has its own story and significance, they contribute to the overall experience of visiting Palermo. So let Bounce take care of the bags, while you explore every market, take a street food tour, and learn Palermo's incredible story. Just make sure you try the arancini and croquettes!