Eating Cheap in Palermo

Written by Katie Parla on November 24, 2008

Palermo is loaded with stalls, bakeries and rustic osterie where street food on-the-go or a simple sit-down meal can be had for cheap. Among my favorite things to eat while out and about in the city are panelle (deep fried chickpea patties) served on a sesame seed roll sold at stalls in the city’s markets at lunchtime. Panelle are especially good around Piazza Ballaro’, the center of a bustling produce market and a great place to people watch while you chow down. Another local specialty, pane ca meusa (spleen and grated caciocavallo on a sesame bun), is best consumed at Franco U Vastiddaru at Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 102 on the edge of Piazza Marina…if your stomach can handle it.

The markets and back alleys of Palermo are home to small, family run bakeries serving another of my favorite street foods-sfincione (pizza with sweet, spongy dough topped with onion laden tomatoes sauce and bread crumbs. Sfincioni and other small hand-held snacks like calzoni, and arancine (fried rice balls stuffed with meat sauce and peas) are best at bakeries in the Borgo Vecchio.

For delicious, fresh, and cheap grilled fish and meat, head to the stalls in the Borgo Vecchio, open day and night. For crudi (raw fish), take Foro Umberto, the long road that follows the coast southeast past the Orto Botanico where fishermen sell ricci di mare (sea urchins) and cozze (mussels) straight out of the sea.

Throughout the Capo and Vucciria markets, there are no-frills osterie serving sit-down meals of mixed appetizers, basic pasta dishes and a mains, all depending on seasonal availability of produce, fish and meat. Most of them are open only at lunchtime and only on market days (Mon-Sat) so in the evenings and on Sundays, head to Piazza Olivella where students and young professionals gather for cocktails, beers and kebabs at the tables on the square.

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