Tasting the Best Street Food in Sicily on a Palermo Street Food Tour

The Sfincione Pizza Seller in the Mercato del Capo Palermo

Palermo is famous for its street food.  Cheap and simple, street food in Palermo is a delicious way to try lots of local specialities as you explore the markets.  However, it can be a little intimidating to know what to choose and where to get it from, so I was thrilled when Palermo Street Food offered to take me on one of their tours to show me what was what.

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I had a complimentary guided tour courtesy of Palermo Street Food, but as always my opinions are my own and I maintain full editorial control.

Palermo is famous for its street food.  Cheap and simple, street food in Palermo is a delicious way to try lots of local specialities as you explore the markets.  However, it can be a little intimidating to know what to choose and where to get it from, so I was thrilled when Palermo Street Food offered to take me on one of their tours to show me what was what. #StreetFood #FoodTour #Sicily #Palermo #Italy #FoodinItaly

Street Food in Palermo

Palermo street food is delicious, filling and cheap.  That’s partly why it became so popular among the locals, as they wanted something quick and tasty to eat on their way to work or on a quick lunch break.  Now Palermo is renowned for having the best street food in Italy, so taking a street food tour in Palermo is a great way to learn more about the traditions, recipes and taste as many delicious foods as possible!

About Palermo Street Food

Describing themselves as “food sherpas” in Palermo, Palermo Street Food tour guides help visitors to discover the street food in Palermo as they show you around the local markets.  According to their website they visit some of the oldest and most important family street food vendors in the markets and get excellent reviews on Tripadvisor, so I was excited to see what the tour would be like!  

The Mercato el Capo fills the narrow streets of Palermo
The Mercato el Capo fills the narrow streets of Palermo

My Palermo Street Food Tour

My Palermo Street Food Tour in Mercato del Capo was different from the rest of the food tours I’ve taken around the world.  On this tour, the services of your guide are included in the price (30€ per person) and as you walk around the market your guide suggests food to try.  You only pay for the food you buy, but it is all super cheap so you will get excellent value for money.  

The Mercat del Capo & Street Food in Palermo

There are three main markets in Palermo, and Mercat del Capo was my favourite.  We began our street food tour of Palermo at the entrance to the Mercato on Via Porta Carini and kicked off with sfincione.   Sfincione is a type of street food pizza, made by a local bakery then distributed to market stalls who reheat the sfincione on a hot plate and sell it to hungry punters.  However, this isn’t quite like normal pizza as the sauce topping is made of a mixture of tomatoes, olive oil, onions and breadcrumbs blitzed together.  The base is thick, and crisp on the bottom and there is no gooey cheese, perhaps just a light sprinkling and an anchovy or two.  The sfincione seller was friendly although I couldn’t understand a word of the Sicilian dialect he was speaking, I gathered he wanted me to take his photo – so he is the cover star of the article!

Eating Sfincione - Tasty Street Food in Palermo
Eating Sfincione – Tasty Street Food in Palermo

Our next stop was for seafood.  I’m sometimes wary of seafood street food, but we visited the market in the morning and all the dishes were fresh and delicious.  Usually, on the food tours, the group would share a cone of fried fish together, but for one Giorgio thought it would be a bit much just for me, so the stall owner kindly offered me a mix of various dishes to taste. 

Seafood Salad
Seafood Salad

Swordfish is popular here, as are sardines which are plentiful in the waters around Sicily.  I tried a combination of caponata di pesce spada – swordfish caponata made with tomatoes, aubergine and peppers, with a touch of sugar to sweeten the sauce.  Then a polpetta di sarde con tomate – sardine meatball with tomato sauce and an octopus salad.  Everything was delicious!  We sat at a table at the wine bar next door where I had a glass of crisp white wine (it was 5 o’clock somewhere!) and enjoyed watching the market thrive around us. 

Cheers! A glass of local wine to wash down the street food in Palermo
Cheers! A glass of local wine to wash down the street food in Palermo

Sellers yelled out their special offers, calling to passing customers and joking among themselves as they re-adjusted the umbrellas to keep their precious wares out of the heat of the sun.  An elderly couple took the table beside us, families strolled past and busy workers hurried by.  A good market is never quiet!  Giorgio also pointed out how the church is part of the market, so much so that shops were set up actually inside the church building, ensuring a continuous row of stalls, and presumably providing rent money to the church; a win-win scenario!

Some of the Market stalls are inside the church
Some of the Market stalls are inside the church

We also ordered some more food from the next stall to eat at the table, verdure in pastella – deep fried vegetables in a thick dough, like fritters.  I tried cauliflower, artichoke and aubergine, which were very tasty – and an interesting way to eat some veggies!  I also watched the stall holder for a while too, who had learned the recipe for the batter from her grandmother.  She swiftly chopped the vegetables, re-arranged the platters of the part-cooked veggies and deftly tossed the orders into the fryer and served them up just as quickly, with a sprinkle of salt. 

Deep Fried Peppers
Deep Fried Peppers in Batter

When I paid here I also made use of the toilet in the wine bar, as the name street food suggests, there aren’t too many opportunities for a bathroom break in the market, so make the most of it while you can!

Even though we had only just begun, I was starting to feel a little full – make sure you take this tour on an empty stomach!  Next stop was a shop with a counter inside, which by 12pm was starting to fill up.  Here we tried some typical hot snacks, including the scrummy arancina alla carne, arancini rice balls filled with meat and cheese and deep fried.  I also tried some panelle e crocche, two light snacks often served up together as a starter in restaurants.  Pannelle looks like thin slices of potato which are fried up rather like flat fries.  However, they are in fact made from chickpea dough.  Crocce are basically potato croquettes but with a hint of mint and lemon juice.  Filling and tasty.

A Cheesy, Meaty Arancino Rice Ball
A Cheesy, Meaty Arancino Rice Ball

After that, I was pretty stuffed, which was another (but not the only) contributing factor in me skipping the next food stop.  Veal feet and head are not the most appealing food items at the market, but the cold meat and offal served with a squeeze of lemon is dirt cheap, and apparently quite tasty, although I suspect it has become less popular over the years.  The stall owner here was friendly, and chatted to Giorgio like an old friend, letting me take pictures even though he probably assumed I wasn’t going to buy anything from him. 

Cow's Feet - a less appetizing option on the Palermo Street Food Tour
Cow’s Feet – a less appetizing option on the Palermo Street Food Tour

Usually, there is another stop on the tour to a place selling spleen sandwiches, another delicacy of Palermo, but by then my stomach was churning and we decided to skip that and head straight for dessert.  I felt a bit disappointed in myself for not being more adventurous, but as I was so full I would have struggled to eat anything more than dessert.  There is a separate space in my stomach for dessert, and I always have room for a sweet treat!

Anyway, before dessert, we also had time to walk a little to let my food baby subside a little.  We ended the tour at a café next door to the restaurant I’d eaten at the previous evening.  Inside a beautiful building with original frescoes on the wall – and incredible cakes!  I’d had a large canolo (the BEST Sicilian dessert in the world) the day before, so I went for two mini pastries, one a strawberry tart, and the other filled with mascarpone cream.  Seriously, mascarpone cream is incredible, and I don’t know how I’d managed to live without it for so long!! 

Canoli and other delicious desserts are a fitting last stop on the tour
Canoli and other delicious desserts are a fitting last stop on the tour

Once I’d troughed my dessert, I strolled back with Giorgio to where we met and carried on back to my bed and breakfast for a sly nap.  Sicilians compete with Spanish people for the best siesta times – the riposino usually lasts between 12pm and 3pm, when smaller shops and businesses close down.  It is a great time to take advantage of some peace and quiet, especially after a big lunch!

What I loved about the Palermo Street Food Tour

This tour was unlike any other I’d taken, in that you pay a flat fee for the guide, then pay for whatever you eat and drink.  This helps to keep to a strict budget if you need to, but I was surprised by how cheap and good value everything we ate was.  I spent less than €20 on a varied and exciting lunch, which was worth every penny.  Not drinking the wine or just choosing one dessert would have saved me a few euros, but what’s the point of taking a food tour if you don’t eat any of the food? 

I loved the Mercato el Capo.  As we walked around, Giorgio chatted to everyone and I felt like I belonged there instead of being a gormless tourist.  I love visiting markets but sometimes get overwhelmed with what to eat, and end up just walking through them, too scared to order anything!  But with Giorgio explaining what everything was, and taking me to each stall, introducing me to the owners and advising me what to choose this street food tour was a fabulous experience.

Hanging out at the Mercato el Capo
Hanging out at the Mercato el Capo on my Palermo Street Food Tour

Anything I didn’t Like? 

I think learning about the more unusual (unappetizing) street foods is really important and interesting, but perhaps trying the more “challenging” foods would be better at the beginning of the tour to try them while we were still hungry and had time to taste more delicious foods afterwards!  Once I was full of tasty things, I really didn’t fancy the less appealing foods, which was a shame!  

Overall, I would definitely recommend Palermo Street Food Tours, but try to be braver than me and try everything!  If you’d like to book a street food tour in Palermo with Palermo Street Food, you can find all the information on their website here.   

BOOK YOUR TOUR NOW

Where to Stay in Palermo

I stayed at the lovely Kalamonjo Suite&Rooms which was peaceful and comfortable.  The same owners also have another B&B very close to the Mercato del Capo called La Dimora del Capo, which also gets excellent reviews.

For hostels in Palermo, check out Balarm Hostel which gets great reviews, for dorm beds at around €17.50 per night.  You can also see all of the options for hostels in Palermo on Hostelworld here.

BOOK YOUR HOSTEL NOW

Or check the options on Airbnb, like this gorgeous loft apartment.   If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip!  Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code and my full Airbnb guide or click below for your Airbnb coupon.

GET $40 AIRBNB CREDIT

If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip to Sicily, get a quote now from World Nomads.

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Palermo is famous for its street food.  Cheap and simple, street food in Palermo is a delicious way to try lots of local specialities as you explore the markets.  However, it can be a little intimidating to know what to choose and where to get it from, so I was thrilled when Palermo Street Food offered to take me on one of their tours to show me what was what. #StreetFood #FoodTour #Sicily #Palermo #Italy #FoodinItaly #StreetFoodTour #PalermoStreetFood

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Last updated: April 14, 2019

 

8 thoughts on “Tasting the Best Street Food in Sicily on a Palermo Street Food Tour

  1. Milijana says:

    Being a pescatarian, ‘Polpetta di sarde con tomate’ with a glass of wine (red wine in my case please) sounds divine to me!
    I would love to do a Palermo street food tour!!
    More I travel, more I enjoy exploring local cuisines.

  2. Chris Bloomfield says:

    Everything looked so good, till the cows feet! I have never done a food tour, but after reading this I am going to look into taking one. Sounds like a fun was to learn about local food.

  3. Trisha says:

    You absolutely proved that a trip to Italy is never complete without food! I agree that the cow”s feet should be the first stop! HAHA! Back home we normally eat this too. I think it will be perfect to add some chillis. And the wines must be great as well! Would love to try this tour.

  4. sherianne says:

    Street food pizza??? I want one! Super curious about the sardine meatball! That’s is something I never would have imagined. Verdure in pastella sounds yummy, and the cannoli to die for. Love the atmosphere as well, sounds like an amazing tour

  5. Linda (LD Holland) says:

    This is a street food tour that I really would want to do. So fascinating that the tour guides are called food sherpas. It does suggest that they will find places we might not find on our own. Interesting that the sfincione are made in a local bakery and then distributed to market stalls. But they look delicious. We are big seafood fans so we would try all the seafood and octopus we could find. I can see why you might skip spleen sandwiches! Especially to save room for those canolo. Now I am hungry! Thanks 🙂

  6. Rosemary says:

    Sounds like a great concept where you only pay for what you eat. The veal feet and head actually sound worth trying, though not the most appealing 🙂 Like you, I have a separate stomach for dessert. Fun post to read 🙂

  7. noel says:

    OMG everything looks amazing except for the cows feet, I can’t imagine. This is definitely my dream trip to visit and eat all of Sicily

  8. Claudia says:

    I love a good street food tour! That Mercat el Capo looks like it’s filled with foodie treasures. Arancini are one of my favourite Italian foods, so glad you got to enjoy one, and sweet rich canolo are to die for. It’s unique that you pay for what you eat, but that does indeed keep costs down which seems very fair.

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