Palermo, Sicily, Sicilia, Italy, Travel Guide, Best things to do in Palermo, Top things to see in Palermo, Where to eat in Palermo, Street Food Palermo, pane con milza

Eating Out in Palermo

Many of the best things to do around Palermo revolve around food. Sicily and Palermo in particular is famous for street food and a unique local cuisine influenced by multiple invasions over the course of its history. Ingredients that were once brought from overseas can still be seen today including grains such as cous cous from the Phoenicians, and apricots, rice, saffron, raisins, pine nuts, nutmeg, and cinnamon from North Africa.

“Sicilians build things like they will live forever and eat like they will die tomorrow.”

Plato- Philosopher

Street Food

Ke Palle is perhaps Palermo’s most well-known spot for traditional arancine. Deep fried, crumbed, saffron rice balls, stuffed with a traditional ragu and mozzarella filling or other variations including mushroom, eggplant and sausage. Arancine have a long history dating back thousands of years to medieval times. It is very competitive between the various Sicillian cities with Catania being a huge rival to Palermo in this arena. In Palermo, arancine are made in a round shape vs Catania where arancini (spelt with an I on this side of the island) are made in a cone shape to resemble Mount Etna. Regardless of the shape or spelling, perfect arancine should have a golden, crunchy coating, bright yellow rice, served steaming hot with stretchy melted cheese, and a rich ragu.
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Via Maqueda 270, Palermo.

Franco U Vastiddaru is the go-to place for Pane con Le Panelle– fried chikpea pancakes in a white bread roll, as well as Pane con le Milza– bread roll stuffed with veal spleen, lung and other offal. The two are polar opposites with one being vegan and the other, a meat lover’s delight but this small shop front is somehow famous for both. It is said that many of Palermo’s street food traditions contain offal because the Jews that once resided here used to give charitable offerings of the meat off cuts they didn’t consume to the locals who were doing it tough during the war. Both of these street foods are typical to Palermo and served with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
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Via Vittorio Emanuele, 102

Markets

Markets are always the best places to observe daily life in any city. It gives insight into the rituals of the locals, what produce is grown in the area and how much things cost. A sensory overload with the sounds of foreign languages and dialects being shouted from the stalls and customers bargaining down their goods, the smell of street food cooking on the barbeque and all the colours of the local culture on display.  

Palermo, Sicily, Sicilia, Italy, Travel Guide, Best things to do in Palermo, Top things to see in Palermo, Where to eat in Palermo, Street Food Palermo, Mercato Ballaro, Markets, Produce Markets

Palermo has many markets in various areas of the city and Mercato Ballarò on Vicolo Del Carmelo is a lively one in the old town where you will see all walks of life. Unlike other markets of Italy which feel very wholesome and family oriented, this market is a lot more urban and you will have to keep a close eye on your belongings. Don’t let this deter you though. Fresh produce, seafood and just about everything but the kitchen sink is on sale here.

Palermo, Sicily, Sicilia, Italy, Travel Guide, Best things to do in Palermo, Top things to see in Palermo, Where to eat in Palermo, Street Food Palermo, Mercato Ballaro, Markets, Produce Markets

The best time to go is around lunch time so you can sit and enjoy some of the city’s best street food and traditional Palermitano dishes. Small eateries within the market offer local specialties for as little as 3 Euro per dish. Pull up a chair at a plastic table outside Umby & Tony for one of the tastiest polpette di sarde or sardine balls with pickled onions. Also do not miss their parmigianna of silky eggplant layered with tomato sauce and parmesan. 
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Palermo, Sicily, Sicilia, Italy, Travel Guide, Best things to do in Palermo, Top things to see in Palermo, Where to eat in Palermo, Street Food Palermo, Mercato Ballaro, Markets, Produce Markets

Just when you think you can’t eat any more, next door at Antica Caffetteria di Maria Agata you can top it all off with one of the best cannoli in town- a golden, crunchy shell piped full of creamy ricotta.

Restaurants

Bisso Bistrot is located in the historic centre of the city. Its facade may seem like an old bookstore but inside it’s a warm and buzzing restaurant that keeps people waiting in long lines for dinner. Arrive early or enjoy a wine in the street while you wait for your table. The swordfish ravioli was one of those dishes that stays in your memory forever. Using local and fresh ingredients the menu changes frequently. Dishes range from just 4-7 Euro.
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Via Maqueda 172a, Palermo, Italy.

Ferramenta meaning ‘hardware store’ in Italian is exactly what this place used to be. It still looks like you could go inside to buy a hammer and nails with its dark green paint and old windows filled with miscellaneous objects. The restaurant space has kept the dark wood shelving, ceiling beams, old lamp shades and original chest of tiny drawers where I imagine little screws and bolts were once kept. With a few outdoor tables and a nice selection of wine and cocktails there is great atmosphere for an aperitivo with an artisanal cheese board. Otherwise, get comfortable, enjoy the jazz music and stay for dinner with fresh pastas and more.
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Piazza Giovanni Meli, 8, 90133 Palermo

Ferro di Cavallo has been operating since 1944 and is a restaurant that doesn’t fail to fill up fast in the evenings. They don’t take bookings so be prepared to get there up to an hour prior because lines can be long. Enjoy a glass of wine in the street while you wait and then enjoy your traditional style meal of seafood and local specialties, elbow to elbow with the table next to you. Pastas go for 5 Euro and main courses for 8 Euro so expect simple but very tasty, home style food. There are tables outside but inside is also cosy where the red walls are covered in paintings, old photographs and endless shelves of wine bottles. 
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Via Venezia, 20, 90133 Palermo

Osteria Ballarò for a more refined dining experience, features high ceilings with wooden beams and large sandstone arches for a nice dinner atmosphere. A number of rooms provide space for larger groups. There are options for both set menus and a al carte with a focus on seafood and modern interpretations of the traditional Palermitano dishes.
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Molo Sant’Erasmo, located in the port area is a sophisticated seafood restaurant and cocktail bar with outdoor seating right on the waterfront. Perfect for summer nights of Campari, oysters and pasta with prawns caught fresh every day from the local area.
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Caletta Sant’Erasmo, 90123 Palermo

Le Angeliche Bistro is found in the heart of the Marcato del Capo where the fresh produce inspires the week’s menu. The small bistro was created by 4 local women of Palermo as a tribute to their nonneor grandmothers who they admired. They describe their food as honest and the cosy space feels like stepping into your favourite aunt’s living room with a cute courtyard out the back, perfect for an afternoon coffee and cake. 
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Mercato Del Capo, Vicolo Abbadia, 10-14, 90134, Palermo

Osteria Mangia e Bevi is popular for a casual lunch and their signature pasta fritta or fried pasta served straight from the pan. The interior is cosy and rustic while outdoor seating is available for warm weather. Don’t be surprised to see locals snacking on pumpkin seeds and throwing the shells straight onto the floor. 
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Largo Cavalieri di Malta, 18, Palermo

Trattoria Ai Cascinari is a casual local’s spot, off the beaten track and what it may lack in atmosphere it definitely makes up for in the food department. Pasta al pistachio, pasta with squid ink, Palermitano salads and most of all the Cascinaro starter of veal, anchovy, cherry tomato, olive and origano are all traditional local dishes made with love. All of the antipasti including eggplant balls, sardine balls and the chickpea panelle are so good that you may not even make it to the main course. 
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Via d’Ossuna, 43, 90138, Palermo

Bars & Aperitivo

Vespa Bar located on Via Orologio just a stone’s throw from the Teatro Massimo, this is one of many bars in the area that do a competitive aperitivo. In this narrow lane way with door to door bars, an 8 Euro cocktail is accompanied by an enormous complimentary cheese board including pasta, mini sandwiches, olives, and more. Although aperitivo is traditionally for pre-dinner nibbles, this could be classified as an apericenawith cena meaning dinner, it’s more like a hybrid where nibbles quickly become an early dinner. 
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Via Orologio, 48, Palermo, 90133

Seven Rooftop Garden is the perfect place to spend your last night in Palermo. Splurge on one of the beautiful signature cocktails at the city’s highest rooftop bar and take in the sunset over the city.

Piazza Bologni is a quieter piazza in the historic centre where you can enjoy an aperitivo drink in the evening while people watching before dinner. Surrounded by historic buildings, there are still signs of past century’s bombings and earthquakes. Although some look as though they might crumble before your eyes, this only adds to the charming atmosphere of this old piazza.

Other than the above mentioned Via Orologio, some other areas to enjoy aperitivo drinks in the city are Via Quintino Sella, a street that’s home to many busy bars and also leads toward a Piazza known as Borgo Vecchio. During the day there are markets held here but after dark it transforms into a popular hangout.

For a real local’s experience that will take you to the heart of Palermo’s dirtier, edgier side is Piazza del Garraffello. This famous square is off of the old Vucceria market where every wall is covered in graffiti and the piazza is packed full of plastic chairs and happy drinkers. This is really a unique watering hole unlike anywhere else where DJs play and people dance in the piazza until 6am but you should definitely leave your valuables at home. This is an area known for experienced pick pockets and wouldn’t be suitable for young children or elderly. 

Sweets

Palermo and Sicily in general are famous for their traditional sweet treats. Cannoli, cassata, granita, and almond or pistachio biscotti.
Visit Pasticceria Costa and Spinnato dal 1860 for the best in the city.