The Best Things to Eat in Palermo, Sicily

I Can't Believe I Ate All of That On Such a Short Trip
Brioche bomba con crema e ricotta

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There was one evening during our four-night stay in Palermo when we canceled a dinner reservation. We were just too stuffed from lunch and snacks and the build-up from our meals the days before.

Discovering new-to-us dishes, flavors, and food combinations is one of the highlights of traveling around Italy. But it can be trying on the body, especially when you feel obliged to order something for every course at lunch and dinner.

Our feeding frenzy in Palermo was not much different than our travels before. But there are two challenges with eating in Sicily.

First, the variety of foods in Sicily — how they differ from what’s available on the main land — makes you want to try a little bit of everything. That goes whether you are dining in a fine restaurant or walking past market stands. Secondly, snacks can easily double as meals. For example, arancine (fried, stuffed rice balls) are the size of baseballs or, in fact, oranges (they are named after the fruit that they resemble).

I wanted to pace myself. But I also wanted to eat it all. When I got home and made a list of all the things I ate all or part of, I’m not at all surprised that my scale registered a much higher-than-expected number when I weighed myself a week later.

So, here’s my list in no particular order. I’ve linked to recipes and write-ups of the particular foods where I could find them.

Arancina from Palermo
Photo from Visit Sicily


“Little orange balls” (see photo above) are feminine in Palermo, so arancina/arancine (not arancino/arancini as typical in eastern Sicily). I had one filled with ragù (on two occasions) and another with prosciutto cotto and mozzarella. Like pani ca’ meusa, these can be found all over Palermo. But we got them at Antica Focacceria San Francesco and at Panineria Chiluzzo.

Antico Forno di San Francesco, Palermo. Wonderful spot for street snacks and casual fare.

Pani Ca’ Meusa

Another word for meusa is milza. Milza is spleen. So this Palermitano street food is simply a spleen sandwich. We got one at Antica Focacceria San Francesco.

Spaghetti Trapanese

We didn’t go to Trapani for pasta Trapanese, but to the Mercato Ballarò. Trapani-style spaghetti is dressed with a pesto of tomatoes, roasted almonds, garlic, and peperoncino and it’s delicious.

Fish for sale at Ballarò market
Fish for sale at Ballarò market
  • Shrimp: Fried, Grilled
  • Sarde a Beccafico – sardines stuffed with breadcrumbs, raisins, pine nuts, and deliciousness.
  • Pasta Cefulanense – also known as “Cefaludese” or Pasta a Taianu, it’s made with a sauce of tomato, eggplant, and beef. Quite rich!
Olives at Ballarò market
Olives at Ballarò market
  • Caponata– Both traditional eggplant caponata and a modern take made with apple
  • Cannolo – I ate one of these because it’s kind of a requirement if you’re visiting Sicily. But I have to admit that I have never been too wild about cannoli. Sorry!
Brioche bomba con crema ricotta e pistachi

Brioche bomba con crema e ricotta

I ate this while sitting in a piazza in the shadow of the 12th century Norman-era Duomo di Cefalù. I ate the whole thing. Why eat a cannoli when you can eat this???

Chiacchiere siciliane
Chiacchiere siciliane


We bought chiacchiere from a bakery in Monreale and munched on them as we walked. Crispy and light (if you ate them in moderation). Ours were not dusted with powdered sugar, as is often the style.

Pane Semolina

Another food that we bought at the bakery in Monreale was semolina bread. “This is typical New York Italian but you can’t find it anywhere in Italy,” gushed my husband. “Except here in Sicily.”

It wasn’t until I had a bite of the simple white bread dotted with sesame seeds that I understood his excitement.

Melanie Renzulli

Melanie Renzulli

Melanie Renzulli has been writing about travel to Italy for more than 20 years.

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