What to Eat in Palermo: 16 Treats You Should Not Miss
It probably won't come as a surprise to hear that as a major Italian city, Palermo has some truly incredible things to eat. After all, every city in Italy is a great food destination. And because Italian food is highly regional, you'll find items popular in Sicilian cuisine that you may not get anywhere else.
In a warm city like Palermo, life is lived on the street, and therefore, Sicilian street food is a huge part of the local culture. You'll find all kinds of delicious street food dishes for sale in the gorgeous alleyways of Palermo, and you could probably spend a very satisfying vacation doing nothing except enjoying Palermo street food. Drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Palermo, and you'll be ready to explore the city and find street food wherever you go.
Of course, finding wonderful street food will be much easier if you check out our guide to the best street food in Palermo. Palermo's many street foods are definitely a highlight of the local cuisine, but that's not all you'll find on offer here. Whether you want to try offerings from the city's best street chefs or would prefer a more leisurely meal in a sit-down restaurant, you'll find it easy to enjoy exceptional food in the capital of Sicily. And, for vegans and vegetarians, luckily, the cuisine of Palermo isn't based solely on meat. You'll see what we mean when you visit one or two of the best vegetarian restaurants in Palermo.
Palermo Food: Arancine
These fried rice balls are a Palermo street food staple. Arancine are usually filled with meat ragù, peas, and mozzarella, and then coated in breadcrumbs and fried until golden brown. You can find them all over the city, but for some of the best arancine in Palermo, head to Antica Focacceria San Francesco. Easily one of the most iconic Sicilian street food items worldwide, arancine can also be made vegetarian or just about any other way so that everyone can enjoy this classic Palermo street food on the go.
Palermo Food: Pasta alla Norma
This classic Sicilian pasta dish is named for the opera Norma by Vincenzo Bellini. It's a simple dish made with eggplant, tomato sauce, and ricotta cheese, but it's incredibly flavorful and definitely worth trying if you're in Palermo. You'll find this dish on menus all over the city, but one of the best places to try it is at Trattoria da Pepi. This unassuming restaurant is located in a residential neighborhood, but it's well worth seeking out for a delicious and authentic Sicilian meal.
Palermo Food: Cannoli
No trip to Sicily would be complete without trying a cannolo, and Palermo is the perfect place to enjoy this classic dessert. Cannoli are fried pastry shells filled with sweetened ricotta cheese, and they're best enjoyed freshly made. For some of the best cannoli in Palermo, head to Pasticceria Cappello. This historic pastry shop has been serving up delicious sweets since 1824, so you know they know a thing or two about making good cannoli.
Palermo Food: Spaghetti alla Trapanese
This dish is a variation on the classic pasta alla Norma, but instead of being made with ricotta cheese, it's made with a pesto sauce made from tomatoes, almonds, and basil. It's a delicious and unique take on a classic Sicilian pasta dish and one that you'll only find in Palermo. You can try it at Osteria dei Vespri, a cozy restaurant located in the historic center of the city.
Palermo Food: Pani ca Meusa
This is definitely one of the most iconic dishes in Palermo, and it's definitely not for the faint of heart. Pani ca meusa is a sandwich made with spleen and lung slices that have been cooked in lard, then placed on soft bread with lemon juice and ricotta cheese. It may not sound like the most appetizing dish, but trust us, it's delicious. You can find it at almost any street food stand in Palermo, but one of the best places to try it is at Chiosco Rossi.
Okay, this may not be the best choice for vegetarians or for anyone squeamish at the thought of eating offal. But there's no getting away from the fact that this is a classic Palermo street food, and one bite into this unusual sandwich will make you feel very much like you're eating the way the locals do.
Palermo Food: Cassata
This is another classic Sicilian dessert and one that you'll find on menus all over Palermo. Cassata is a ricotta cheesecake that's often made with candied fruit, chocolate, and marzipan, and it's definitely a treat worth seeking out. One of the best places to try cassata in Palermo is at Pasticceria Nino Uccello, where you can also enjoy other delicious Sicilian sweets like cannoli and granita.
Palermo Food: Granita
Granita is a refreshing Sicilian treat made from shaved ice flavored with fruit syrup or coffee. It's the perfect way to cool down on a hot summer day, and you'll find it all over Palermo. For some of the best granita in the city, head to Pasticceria Nino Uccello, where you can also enjoy other Sicilian sweets like cannoli and cassata. Just make sure you don't overindulge because a severe case of brain freeze is no way to spend your limited time in this fascinating city.
Palermo Food: Pasta con le Sarde
Pasta con le sarde is another classic Sicilian dish you can find easily in Palermo. It's a pasta dish made with sardines, fennel, and raisins, and it's definitely a unique and flavorful dish worth trying. One of the best places to eat pasta con le sarde in Palermo is at Antica Focacceria San Francesco, where you can also enjoy other Sicilian specialties like arancini, fried potato croquettes, and panelle.
Palermo Food: Sicilian pastries
Cannoli deserves its own place on this list, but the truth is, Sicily has tons of iconic pastries that make a perfect finish to a meal or just a delicious snack on their own. You'll find pasticcerias throughout the city that can give you a crash course in the amazing food available in Sicily for those with a sweet tooth. Along with cannolis and cassata, try delicious almond paste, marzipan, and other artfully crafted confections that are almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Palermo Food: Panelle Sandwich
If you want to try something really unique to Palermo, then you need to get your hands on a panelle sandwich. This sandwich is made with fried chickpea fritters, and it's definitely one of the most popular street food items in the city. You can find panelle sandwiches all over Palermo, but one of the best places to try them is at Bar Le Spuntinelle.
Panelle not only makes great street food to eat while exploring the city, but it's a good alternative option for those who want to eat like a Sicilian without tucking into a spleen sandwich. This vegetarian-friendly option is one of the best Palermo street food items out there and a must-try while you're in the city.
Palermo Food: Orange Salad
One of the best things about Palermo is the fresh, seasonal produce that's available throughout the year. This means that you can enjoy dishes like this orange salad, which is made with oranges, fennel, and olives, that are absolutely packed with flavor. This dish is perfect for a light lunch or as a starter to a more substantial meal, and it's definitely a unique way to experience the bounty of Sicily's Orange Coast.
Given the hot weather of a Sicilian summer, you're not always going to want to eat a heavy meal, so refreshing salads like this one are the perfect choice for something light to eat while you explore the city. It's also great for you, which can't be said for a lot of the street food available in the city, so mix things up with this delicious and traditional dish and make sure you're getting all your vitamins.
Palermo Food: Frutta Martorana
As you'll see from a visit to any pastry shop, Sicilians pride themselves on sweet treats that look almost too good to eat. That's definitely the case with these candied fruits, which are as much of a treat for the eyes as they are for the taste buds. Frutta Martorana are made with almonds and marzipan, and they come in a variety of shapes and colors, making them as much of a work of art as they are a delicious dessert.
You can find frutta Martorana all over Sicily, but they're especially popular in Palermo during the Christmas season. If you're lucky enough to be in the city during that time, make sure you try some of these unique candied fruits because they really are a taste of Sicilian culture that you won't find anywhere else.
Palermo Food: Carne di Cavallo
In this traditionally impoverished region, just about anything is on the menu. This next dish won't be for everyone, but there's no getting around the fact that it is a classic part of Sicilian culture. Carne di cavallo, or horse meat, is definitely an acquired taste, but it's one that you should try if you're looking for a truly authentic Palermo experience.
Horse meat has been eaten in Sicily for centuries, and it's still a popular dish today, especially in poorer areas of the city. If you want to try it, head to Il Capo Market, where you'll find stalls selling horse meat sandwiches. It's not for everyone, but it's definitely worth trying if you want to eat like a true Palermo local.
Palermo Food: Sfincione
If your vision of street food in Italy involved lots of pizza, you may be surprised when you arrive in Palermo. Pizza, after all, comes from the mainland city of Naples, and while you'll find pizza all over Italy, it's not as popular in Sicily as you might imagine. Instead, Sicilians put their own spin on this classic street food with sfincione, a thick, doughy pizza that's more like a focaccia.
Sfincione is a popular street food all over Sicily, but it's especially prevalent in Palermo, where you'll find it sold by vendors all over the city. It's usually topped with tomatoes, onions, and anchovies, and it makes for a hearty and filling meal. If you're looking for something a little different from the classic Italian pizza, sfincione is definitely the way to go.
Palermo Food: Timballo
You may not think of pasta as one of the more classic street foods, but leave it to the Sicilians to find a way to eat it on the go. Timballo is a layered dish of pasta, meat, vegetables, and cheese that's baked in a special pan and then cut into slices, making it easy to eat on the go.
Timballo is a popular street food all over Sicily, but the people of Palermo really eat it up. Almost any pasta can be made into a timballo, so you'll find meat-based and vegetarian options wherever you go. That makes this another example of the best Palermo street food on what is a crowded list.
Palermo Food: Caponata
If you're looking for a delicious and healthier food option in Palermo, look no further than caponata. This dish is made with eggplant, tomatoes, onions, and a variety of other vegetables, and it's usually served as a side dish or appetizer.
Caponata is one of those dishes that can be served in a million different ways, but the most common recipes show the still-strong Arab influence on Sicily. Caponata is often made with eggplant, vinegar, pine nuts, and raisins, making for a tasty and refreshingly zesty dish that's one of the most traditional recipes in the region. It's often served cold or at least at room temperature, which can be relief in the heat of a Sicilian summer.
You won't get very far in Palermo without discovering that Sicily has a culture and cuisine all of its own. And much of that culture is based around the popular street foods served in the city, making this an ideal destination for food-based travel. Sampling the best street food Palermo has to offer will not only fill your belly but will give you great insight into the culture and history of the island.
And if you're worried about consuming too many calories on your trip, check out the best hikes in Palermo to get some exercise and not feel guilty about how much you eat. With one delicious Sicilian specialty after another on offer here, there's no point trying to resist. Just enjoy the best food in Palermo and worry about your waistline when you get home.