What You Should Eat In Sicily

With so many amazing meals just begging to be eaten in Sicily, I narrowed the field down to the 15 best foods you need to eat in Palermo before you die. 

what you should eat in Palermo

You will find that Sicily is known for its food. The food here is considered the very best tasting, not to mention the best looking as well.

Spices and herbs (rosemary, mint, oregano and more) are able to thrive year-round here due to the generally mild climate.

These fresh ingredients are used in many of the local delicacies. Fertile soils produce an abundance of lemons and oranges every year, giving Sicily the moniker Land of Oranges (or sometimes Land of Lemons).

Other culinary staples of the island include pistachios, olives, almonds and prickly pears. You can always find some fresh fish and delicious meats from markets.

I cannot realistically list even the common Sicilian dishes here, as there would be hundreds of entries on the list.

From the greasy street eats to delectable confectionary, there are many options to choose from.

While I won’t list them all, I will attempt to do my best.

Top 15 Must-Have Dishes in Sicily

Below you will find a list of the must-eat foods when you are visiting Sicily.

While it might not be everything that you can find throughout the Island, these options are the most classic choices.

1. Torta Setteveli

seven veils cake
Setteveli cake

Also known as Seven Veils Cake, this is truly a work of culinary art.

Combining layers of dark chocolate and hazelnut, completed with a crispy layer merging both together, this is a rich and delicious Palermo pastry.

Ingredients: Flour, Sugar, Eggs, Yield, Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, Chocolate, Baking Powder, Corn Flakes, Almond Praline, Corn Starch, Butter, Vanilla, Milk, Whipped Cream, Bavarian Cream and Hazelnut Paste.

Average Calories Per Serving: 675 kcal

Best Places To Eat Torta Setteveli:

  • Pasticceria Oscar (Via Mariano Migliaccio, 39, 90145 Palermo)
  • Pasticceria Cappello (Via Colonna Rotta, 68, 90134 Palermo)
  • Pasticceria Aluia (Via della Libertà, 27, 90139 Palermo)

2. Cannolo of Sicily

sicilian cannoli
Sicilian Cannoli

Perhaps the most famous of all Sicilian pastries, the Cannolo (the plural form being Cannoli) is a party for your taste bud.

Foodies from all over the world are drawn the shores of Sicily to taste the authenticity of this amazing pastry.

The composition of the confectionary treat is a crisp outer pastry shell combined with sweetened ricotta cheese inside of it.

One of the oldest recipes for this Sicilian specialty originally came from a convent in Palermo.

Oo some occasions, more is added into the ricotta, such as chocolate chips or bits of candied fruits.

You will want to avoid the tourist-heavy locations, as they are rarely using fresh ricotta. Even worse than this, they leave Cannoli sitting in a refrigerator for hours on end to get soggy.

Ingredients: Flour, Eggs, Butter, Vermouth, Sugar, Lemon, Cinnamon, Ricotta, Chocolate, Essence of Orange, Candied Fruit.

Average Calories Per Cannolo: 205 kcal

Best Place To Eat Cannoli:

  • Pasticceria Costa – Via Gabriele D’Annunzio, 15, 90144 Palermo

3. Cassata

sicilian cassata
Sicilian Cassata cake

This amazing sweet, the Cassata Siciliana, is a famous delicacy here. Combining ricotta cheese, marzipan and candied fruit, this confectionary option will leave you speechless.

In fact, it is somewhat of a tradition to locals here, as it was started by Sicilian nuns and was only ever available around the Easter holiday.

Back in 1575, the Sicilian bishops of Mazara del Vallo comprised a document that spoke of cassata being “indispensable during the holidays.”

As if that weren’t enough, we also have a proverb. “Tintu e cu nun mancia a cassata a matina ri Pasqua” which means “Pity who does not eat cassata in Easter.”

Ingredients: Ricotta, Whipped Cream, Sugar, Chocolate Chips, Glucose, Sponge Cake, Icing Sugar, Vanilla, Almond Flour, Almond Essence, Royal Icing and Food Coloring.

Average Calories Per Serving: 520 kcal

Best Place To Eat Cassata:

Pasticceria Costa – Via Gabriele D’Annunzio, 15, 90144 Palermo


4. Panelle

panelle sandwich
Panelle

These 👉traditional street food items are essentially fritters that are made from chickpea flour.

You will find that they are often served in sandwiches that have been covered with sesame seeds. When served like this, it is known as Mafalda.

Ingredients: Salt, Bread with Sesame Seeds, Chopped Parsley, Pepper, Chickpea Flour.

Average Calories Per Serving: 377 kcal

Best Places To Eat Panelle:

  • Franco U Vastiddaru – Via Vittorio Emanuele, 102, 90133 Palermo
  • Ninu U Ballerinu – Corso Finocchiaro Aprile, 76/78, 90138 Palermo
  • Friggitoria Chiluzzo – Piazza della Kalsa, 10, 90011, Palermo

5. Crocchè

potato crocche
Crocché

Another popular street food item (also known as cazzilli), these are round shaped fried potato croquettes.

Often times they are paired along with the aforementioned Panelle in the Mafalda sandwich.

The two together are a union of deliciousness for your taste buds.

Ingredients: Potato, Olive Oil, Salt, Chopped Parsley, Bread with Sesame Seed, Pepper

Average Calories Per Serving: 390 kcal

Best Places To Eat Crocchè:

  • Franco U Vastiddaru – Via Vittorio Emanuele, 102, 90133 Palermo
  • Ninu U Ballerinu – Corso Finocchiaro Aprile, 76/78, 90138 Palermo
  • Friggitoria Chiluzzo – Piazza della Kalsa, 10, 90011, Palermo

6. Stigghiola

sicilian stigghiola
Stigghiola

Stigghiola is a great afternoon snack on this “best of” list. These are skewered innards (usually of lamb) that are seasoned with parsley and then grilled.

After they have cooked, they are cut into pieces and seasoned further with lemon and salt.

This is a timeless classic of Sicilian cuisine, pairing the melted fat and the crunch of the roasted meat.

Ingredients: Entrails of Lamb, Parsley, Lemon, Onions, Salt, Pepper

Average Calories Per Serving: 330 kcal

Best Place To Eat Stigghiola:

  • Street vendors all over the city

7. Pane con la Milza

milza spleen
Pani ca meusa

Its full name to those living in Palermo is Pane con la Milza o Pani ca Meusa. This is a sandwich that has been stuffed with the lung, trachea and spleen of veal.

Cooked over low heat in copper pans, this might sound very different to what you are accustomed to eating, but it is a tasty dish.

It is believed that this food is linked to old traditions of gastronomy here on the Island.

Ingredients: Trachea, Spleen, Lard, Ricotta Cheese, Caciocavallo Cheese, Bread

Average Calories Per Sandwich: 380 kcal

Best Places to Eat Pane con la Milza:

  • Franco U Vastiddaru – Via Vittorio Emanuele, 102, 90133 Palermo
  • Ninu U Ballerinu – Corso Finocchiaro Aprile, 76/78, 90138 Palermo
  • Porta Carbone – Indirizzo: Via Cala, 62, 90133 Palermo
  • Rocky Basile (street vendor) – Mercato Vucciria (morning till early afternoon) and Via Vittorio Emanuele 211 (evening)
  • Enzo Cucina – Piazza Marina, 8, 90147 Sferracavallo

8. Arancina

arancina ball rice
Arancina

The Arancina (also known by Arancino) is a rice ball that is stuffed with tomato sauce, peas and meat (Arancina con Carne) or stuffed with ham, béchamel and cheese (Arancina al burro) and then fried.

This is something that you can find about any time of the day or night around Palermo.

This is a reworked tradition derived from the Arab presence on the Island centuries ago.

They used to grab boiled rice and work in bits of mutton by creating small balls and then eat it that way. Sicilians decided that they would prefer different ingredients and to have their rice balls fried.

Ingredients:

Arancina al burro – Saffron, Salt, Rice, Flour, Butter, Breadcrumbs, Pepper, Oil, Mozzarella Cheese, Ham, Bechamel

Arancina con Carne – Saffron, Salt, Rice, Flour, Butter, Breadcrumbs, Pepper, Oil, Minced Meat, Tomato Sauce, Caciocavallo Cheese, Peas.

Average Calorie Per Arancina: 320 kcal

Best Places To Eat Arancina:

  • Pasticceria Recupero – Via Malaspina, 94/96, 90145 Palermo
  • Pasticceria Alba – Piazza S. Giovanni Bosco, 7c, 90143 Palermo
  • Bar Scatassa – Via Ammiraglio Rizzo, 65, 90142 Palermo
  • Pasticceria Massaro – Via Ernesto Basile, 26, 90128 Palermo
  • Bar Rosanero – Piazzetta Porta Reale, 6, 90133 Palermo

9. Pezzo di Rosticceria

Calzone
Calzone

These are brioche doughs that are baked or fried after being stuffed with various toppings.

Below you will find the most traditional (and famous) 👉pezzi di rosticceria in all of Sicily.

  • Calzone (baked brioche with ham and mozzarella)
  • Rollo con Wurstel (baked brioche with wurstel)
  • Rollo con Prosciutto e Mozzarella (baked brioche with ham, béchamel and mozzarella)
  • Pizzotto (baked brioche with mozzarella and ham with tomato sauce on the top)
  • Spiedino (fried brioche with minced meat, tomato sauce and peas)
  • Ravazzata (baked brioche with minced meat, pepper, peas and tomato sauce)
  • Pizzetta (Small pizza with soft and thick dough, usually consists of tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.

Ingredients of Dough: Flour, Salt, Sugar, Yeast, Lard

***Other Ingredients Vary Based on Pezzo Chosen***

Average Calories Per Pezzo: 300 – 450 kcal

Best Places To Eat Pezzo di Rosticceria:

  • Bar Scatassa – Via Ammiraglio Rizzo, 65, 90142 Palermo
  • I Cuochini – Via Ruggero Settimo, 68, Palermo
  • Pasticceria Matranga – Viale del Fante, 54, 90146 Palermo
  • Bar Lucy – Via Francesco Crispi, 256, 90139 Palermo
  • La Romanella – Via Giacomo Leopardi, 12, 90144 Palermo

10. Pasta con le Sarde

sicilian pasta sarde
Pasta con le Sarde

Directly translated this means “pasta with sardines.” This is a traditional Sicilian dish. This is an elaborate combination of flavors, with the base being wild fennel and sardines.

In addition to this, most recipes feature: pine nuts, raisins, toasted almonds, saffron and other strong flavors.

Ingredients: White Onions, Anchovy, Saffron, Pine Nuts, Breadcrumbs, Fresh Sardines, Olive Oil, Almonds, Pepper, Raisins, Salt, Wild Fennel, Raisins

Average Calories Per Serving: 205 kcal

Best Place To Eat Pasta con le Sarde:

  • Trattoria da Pino* – Via dello Spezio, 6, 90139 Palermo

*In Palermo, Trattoria Da Pino is known as Piscia e Trema, which means “Pees and Trembles.” The nickname was actually given to the owner (Pino Pipitone) by his close friends after a mishap that occurred in a bathroom after a few cheerful drinks with them.


11. Sfincione

sfincione siciliano pizza
Sfincione

This word is actually derived from the combination of the Latin “spongia” (sponge) and the Arabic “sfang” (pancake).

This is meant to describe the consistency of the dough, as it is porous and spongy.

Somewhere in between a pizza crust and bread, this soft creation is then seasoned with tomato sauce, onions, caciocavallo cheese, anchovies and oil.

The origins of this dish come as a traditional meal from Bagheria, a small village only 8 km from Palermo.

You will find that most often you will find 👉Sfincione being sold by mobile street vendors moving from place to place on 3-wheeled vehicles (Ape Piaggio).

They might seem like they are shouting at you (and sometimes actually shouting) but don’t be alarmed.

The phrase you keep hearing “Scairsu r’uagghiu (and) chin’i pruvulazzu” means “little oil and full of dust”. Sounds appealing right?

This is actually telling you about the quality of the dish, as too much oil will make the bread less soft. The dust refers to the texture of the dressing that is used.

Ingredients: Flour, Sugar, Yeast, Olive Oil, Salt, Anchovies, Tomato Sauce, Oregano, Caciocavallo Cheese, Onions

Average Calories Per Serving: 250 kcal

Best Places To Eat Sfincione:

  • Sficionari (Street Vendors of this specific dish) all over Palermo.
  • Panificio Graziano – Via del Granatiere, 11/13, Palermo

12. Frittola

sicilian street food
Frittola

A frittola is only available through the process of slaughtering a calf.

While the bones are typically used for industrial purposes, the pieces of meat, lard and cartilage are boiled down at a high temperature and then browned in lard.

After this, it is seasoned with a slew of spices like bay leaf, pepper and saffron.

You will usually find this food being stored in a “Panaru” (wicker basket covered with a cloth), which helps to keep the temperature high.

Ingredients: Meat, Saffron, Bay Leaf, Lemon, Pepper, Salt

Average Calories Per Serving: 380 kcal

Best Place To Eat Frittola:

  • Frittulari (Street Vendors of this dish) all over Palermo.

13. Fish

sicilian polpo
Polpo bollito

This is one of the easiest things to find (and one of the most delicious things to find) across the entire Island.

There are all kinds of options: tuna, sea urchin, swordfish, grouper, clams, mussels, sea bream, scorpion fish, octopus, snapper and amberjack are just a few of the many options the Island provides you.

The Trattoria (folksy eateries found in the old markets) and some small street restaurants by the sea are the best stops to get the best fish dishes.

Here are some of the creations that you just have to try while you are here:

  • PastA Coi Ricci (Spaghetti Sea Urchin) – This is a taste that you will only get in Palermo. While the dish might be simple, it has something to offer every seafood fan.
  • Spaghetti Cozze e Vongole (Mussels and Clams Spaghetti) – This is an excellent dish to bring the flavors of the sea to your taste buds. Select ingredients amplify the flavor of the clams and mussels in this seafood favorite.
  • Polpo Bollito (Boiled Octopus) – This is a dish that everyone needs to try. Typically an appetizer, this traditional Sicilian offering is one of the many things we do with octopus (as the nearby sea is teeming with them).
  • Impepata di Cozze (Peppered Mussels) – This is an inexpensive dish that is very rich with deep flavors that is a favorite throughout the entirety of southern Italy. These mussels are boiled and then simply seasoned with lemon and pepper for a flavor that really pops.
  • Sword fish Rolls – This is prepared by cutting swordfish thinly and stuffing it full of different ingredients, such as: breadcrumbs, tomatoes, olives and capers. This is another traditional dish of the Palermo (and Catania) area.
  • Sword fish with Breadcrumbs – This is a great way to break away from the traditional grilling of a swordfish, and appreciate some great breading while you are at it. The breading used for the dish is something locals call “muddica”. Interestingly enough, this fish is not fried. So even with the breading, it remains a light entrée.

Best Places To Eat Fish:

  • Trizzano – Via dell’ Arenella, 5, 90142 Palermo
  • Il Delfino – Via Torretta, 80, 90147 Palermo
  • Le antiche mura – Via Mattei, 1, 90149 Palermo

14. Ice Cream

sicilian ice cream
Brioche con Gelato

There is something about ice cream that can make a summer in Sicily even better.

This has been a long standing tradition on the Island since the Spanish first introduced it to the area in the middle of the 16th century.

Of course, a form of ice cream was being made by Arabs here in Sicily even before this, though the recipe consisted of water, sugar and spices cooled down with ice and salt.

You might be a “classic cup” of ice cream kind of person, but if you are taking my recommendations (which you should), you would have your ice cream along with a brioscina (sweet bread). These two flavors together are indescribably amazing.

Ingredients: Milk, Cream, Sugar and Eggs (Other Ingredients Will Vary Based On Type of Ice Cream Chosen)

Average Calories Per Serving: 200 kcal

Best Places To Eat Ice Cream:

  • La Vela Gelateria (Piazza Bordonaro,Ten,90142 Palermo)
  • Stancampiano (Via Aquileia, 60, 90144 Palermo)
  • Brioscia (Via Mariano Stabile, 198, 90141 Palermo)

15. Pizza

sicilian pizza palermo
Pizza

You might see this as a no-brainer, but if you come to Sicily, you have to eat some pizza while you are here.

While this can be said for any Italian city, Palermo (along with other southern cities like Rome and Naples) offer the best pizza you will find anywhere in the world.

Ingredients: Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. (Other Ingredients As Toppings)

Average Calories Per Serving: 400 kcal

Best Places To Eat Pizza:

So, there are the top 15 eats in all of Sicily. There are so many more that didn’t make the list, that you could spend your whole vacation dining and still not try it all.

But there are plenty of good things to do, so don’t waste all of your time eating.

Here’s a quick tip before I say goodbye: check out the 5 things you should know before you head out to the restaurants here in Palermo. .

Ciao!

Don Tano Bongiorno

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About Don Tano

I’m full-blooded Sicilian born from the noise of the Vucciria market and the gentle sound of the waves of Mondello. I grew up eating “pane e panelle” and “pasta con le sarde”. But most of all, I grew up with an awareness: Palermo is a beautiful city to live intensely and to love without question!

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