Eating in Sicily
Sicilian cuisine has inherited something from all its different inhabitants. Even the English, who were in Sicily only for a short time, gave a major contribution with the invention of Marsala wine.
That’s why Sicilian cuisine is so rich in interesting combinations of flavours. However, most of its success has to be credited to the unrivalled exuberance of the island, which gives high quality gastronomic products: wines owe much to fertilizing lava; the sea is rich in tuna and swordfish; caper is the king of minor islands.
The animated street markets in Palermo are an explosion of colours and flavours. “La Vucciria”, “Il Capo”, “Ballarò” and “Borgo Vecchio” are the best places to taste the so called “street food”, once referred to as “cibo dei buffettieri” (buffet food) from the French “buffet”.
Lovers of strong tastes will appreciate “stigghiole”, lamb, goat or pork bowels flavored with onions and parsley and grilled over coals. Itinerant sellers on bike-carts carry “frittola” (fat trimmings of pork) in baskets with a cloth on top, to keep it hot. It is served very spicy on a piece of wax paper. “Quarume” - boiled tripe - is prepared in big cauldrons and served hot. On the sidewalks in front of fry-shops you may find stalls preparing “pani ca’ meusa”, a roll stuffed with spleen and offal of calf, boiled and then sautéed with lard in big vats. There are two versions: “schietto”, flavoured with salt and lemon, or “maritato”, with a sprinkle of grated caciocavallo or ricotta cheese. Another specialty is “pane e panelle”, a roll stuffed with fritters made of chickpeas flour, salt and water.
Street food also includes boiled octopus - well arranged on stalls and served sprinkled with lemon juice - and vegetables like potatoes, artichokes or French beans, all boiled in salt water, in accordance with the season, or roasted onions and peppers.
Crossing the threshold of a fry-shops is very dangerous for one’s figure: “anelletti al forno”, warm gateaux (gattò in palermitan dialect) of rice or potatoes, “sarde a beccafico” (stuffed sardines), marinated fish, fried or roasted eggplants, “trigghiola” (fried small red mullets), fried cardoons and cauliflowers, baked artichokes, “cazzilli” (potato croquettes), “caponata” (fried eggplants cubes cooked with tomato sauce, onions, capers, black olives, salt, pepper and vinegar), “sfincione” (soft pizza topped with tomato sauce, onions, salted sardines and caciocavallo cheese) – they all make one’s mouth water, displayed with all their flavours on colorful stalls.!
In autumn the piece de résistance are “caldarroste”, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, which will warm you in the dull wet fall afternoons.
Sicily is a treasure trove for cuisine lovers. It is endowed both with excellent agricultural and livestock product. Vineyards and olive groves cover the whole island. The former spread mostly on a wide part of western and south-eastern Sicily, giving high-quality wines such as Marsala, Nero d’Avola, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, or Malvasia; the latter are more characteristic of the slopes of Mount Etna and the valleys surrounding Trapani and Agrigento.
Livestock husbandry is excellent on the luxuriant setting of Madonie Mountains, giving a high quality production of cheese, meat and salami which we strongly advice you to taste.
Fruit and vegetables production is also rich in variety: eggplants, tomatoes, artichokes, bread beans, citrus fruits, grapes, prickly pears, capers and the outstanding pistachios from Bronte and Zebib from Pantelleria. Tuna and swordfish are worth mentioning not only for their gastronomic value but also because their traditional fishing technique its exciting for interested spectators.