Hailed by many as the home of Italy’s finest cuisine, Palermo is nothing short of a haven for foodies.

There’s no denying that the Sicilian capital has mastered many of the Italian staples while also crafting a lengthy list of homegrown dishes and delights of its own. Arancini, cannoli, stigghiola, crocchè (potato croquettes)  and panelle will likely ring a bell with most of you.

With so much incredible fare available, you could spend months sampling the city’s mouthwatering cuisine. Sadly, most of us don’t have schedules to afford such a luxury, so instead, check out my picks for the foods you can try on some of our Palermo food tours.



I felt it was only right to kick off this list with one of Palermo’s most revered inventions, those heavenly deep-fried rice balls we call arancini, or often, arancine. Crunchy and golden, thanks to the breadcrumb exterior, you’ll spot arancini at just about every restaurant and food stall.

Like a lot of Sicilian food, arancini came to be due to the influence of Arab culture on the island. During the 10th century, rice was introduced to locals who went on to take the popular ball-shaped rice and meat snacks to the next level.

Nowadays, you’ll find a number of different ingredients packed alongside the rice inside each ball, including creamy mozzarella, sweet peas, or savory ham.

Where To Eat It?

A seemingly endless array of spots dish out delicious arancine, but I Cuochini has been among the best in the business since the 19th century.

This simple grab-and-go spot is a popular stop if you’re on a street food tour, it focuses on only a handful of key baked goods, and their arancini balls are among their most sought-after offerings from the Sicilian street food scene.

Whenever I’m in Palermo, I make it my mission to pick up some ragù-filled arancini, and the rich meat and saffron rice get better every time. I always order a couple of them, but I never get the chance to finish them because they’re so big.

I Cuochini (€) – Via Ruggiero Settimo, 68, 90139 Palermo PA, Italy, Monday to Saturday, 8:30 am to 2:30 pm

Pasta con le Sarde


Among the most flavorful of all the top Sicilian dishes is the delectable pasta con le sarde, which translates to ‘pasta with sardines.’ Despite the simple name, this dish is anything but, with a base made from a blend of fennel, pine nuts, anchovy, olive oil, and raisins.

Dating way back to the Middle Ages, it’s believed that pasta con le sarde was born as a result of a Byzantine general finding both sardines and fennel as he desperately tried to feed his soldiers. Over 1,000 years later, his unconventional mix of ingredients has become a symbol of Sicily.

Whether the general knew it or not, the sweetness and mildness of the fennel beautifully levels out the brackish taste of the sardines. Palermo locals have put their own twist on the dish, adding toasted breadcrumbs for an extra crunch.

Where To Eat It?

Trattoria da Pino is a no-frills spot that looks super low-key, but it happens to be where you’ll find a particularly delicious take on this famous pasta dish.

Homely, affordable, and casual, Trattoria da Pino serves up one of the tastiest plates of pasta con le sarde I’ve ever tried. Mild sardines fresh from the Mediterranean, homemade al dente spaghetti, and hints of butter from the pine nuts; these guys really have perfected their recipe.

Trattoria da Pino (€) – Via dello Spezio, 6, 90139 Palermo PA, Italy, Monday to Saturday, 12:00 pm to 3:30 pm

Pani ca Meusa


Essentially a spleen sandwich, I was as skeptical as you might be when I first learned what a pani ca meusa comprises. Made from the boiled and fried veal spleen and lungs, this street food classic has pungent, meaty flavors that somehow become more enjoyable with every bite. 

This Sicilian snack, also often called pani con la milza, has stuck around for centuries and was developed by local Jewish butchers who cooked and flavored leftover meat with lard and lemon.

The intense meat is cut into thin strips, placed inside a sesame-topped bread roll, and often filled with tangy caciocavallo cheese, thick ricotta, or a combination of both.

Where To Eat It?

Right opposite the marina is a long-time favorite of mine, PortaCarbone. This trendy, Mediterranean-style joint is often the first place I visit each time I arrive off the ferry, and the hearty sandwiches always hit the spot after a long day of traveling

Like many of the eateries on this list, PortaCarbone is loved by locals and visitors alike, so you can expect to wait for over 30 minutes for a pani ca meusa. This wait time will seem irrelevant as soon as you tuck into your carnivorous sandwich, which can be paired with lemon or cheese here.

PortaCarbone (€) – Via Cala, 62, 90133 Palermo PA, Italy, Monday to Friday, 7:30 am to 10:00 pm, Saturday, 7:30 am to 12:00 am, Sunday, 11:00 am to 10:00 pm



A veggie-packed appetizer that’s a hallmark of Palermitan cuisine, caponata uses some delightfully colorful ingredients. Consisting of eggplant, zesty tomato sauce, capers, and olives, caponata is teamed with vinegar, pine nuts, and raisins to add depth to the flavor profile.

As is often the case for many great dishes, caponata was traditionally considered a poor man’s meal. Derived from the word capone, an expensive fish typically paired with sweet and sour sauce, locals used the same seasonings with stewed eggplant to create a cheap alternative.

My favorite way to eat caponata is with fresh crostini, though pasta and polenta are also excellent accompaniments. Subtly sweet, sour, and savory all at once, caponata is just as gorgeous whether it’s served hot or cold.

Where To Eat It?

With its old-fashioned sea-inspired interior and sleek outdoor terrace, Il Culinario is the perfect fusion of old and new. As fond as I am of the environment and the Politeama – Libertà area in which Il Culinario is set, it’s the caponata that has turned me into a loyal customer.

No matter what you have in mind for your main course, you have to start your meal with a nourishing serving of caponata for your starter. I love soaking up all the punchy and refreshing flavors from the aubergine and the sweet kick from the tomatoesl.

Il Culinario (€€)Via Principe di Belmonte, 87, 90139 Palermo PA, Italy, Every day, 12:00 pm to 11:00 pm



Something I love about Palermitan cuisine is how much more diverse it is than you’d expect, and panelle is yet another example of this. Who would’ve thought that chickpea fritters could be such an appetizing snack?

Though it’s thought that the Arab control over Sicily brought about the process of grinding chickpeas to form chickpea flour, there’s little information about when the Sicilians used this flour to form a dough they would later deep-fry.

Crispy in texture, slightly nutty to taste, and ever-so-appetizing, panelle is formed by combining the chickpea flour with water, salt, pepper, and parsley, all coated in a light batter. Divine in their own right, I find panelle even more enjoyable in a warm bread roll.

Where To Eat It?

At this point, it’s probably becoming obvious that some of my most beloved eats in Palermo are from simple street food stalls, and Friggitoria Chiluzzo is one of them.

A modest stand with a bunch of always-busy tables out front, Friggitoria Chiluzzo is my go-to for panelle-stuffed paninis, known as Mafalda. The soft bread against the crackling fritters is a lovely juxtaposition of textures, and the way it’s served in old newspapers is a nice touch.

Friggitoria Chiluzzo (€)Piazza della Kalsa, 11, 90133 Palermo PA, Italy, Monday to Saturday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm



Alongside gelato, cannoli is Italy’s most universally known sweet treat, and these tube-like Sicilian pastries deserve all the acclaim they get. With the crispy dough on the outside, a smooth ricotta cheese filling, and a touch of vanilla, cannoli will tempt even the most strong-willed visitors.

There are some mixed opinions about just how cannoli came about, but it’s thought to be linked to the sugary tendencies of some of the Arab princes who ruled over Sicily in the 900s.

Any keen foodies reading this will probably have indulged in a cannolo or two before visiting Palermo, but nothing can prepare you for how much better they taste in their birthplace.

Where To Eat It?

I happened upon Pasticceria Cappello on my way to Palermo Cathedral, and let’s just say it ended up being an incredibly worthwhile detour. 

These guys have quite the line-up of cakes, pastries, and candied fruits, but the pistachio-covered cannoli instantly caught my eye. Between the crunch from the shell, the creamy ricotta, and the earthiness from the pistachios, every bite was an explosion of flavors and consistencies.

Pasticceria Cappello (€€)Via Colonna Rotta, 68, 90134 Palermo PA, Italy, Thursday to Tuesday, 7:00 am to 9:30 am



We all know and love Neapolitan pizza, but that doesn’t mean you should rule out one of the best-loved dishes from the Palermo street food scene, a rectangular-shaped take on this doughy masterpiece called sfincione.

Born in Palermo, many speculate that sfincione evolved from focaccia, an older, chewier bread, and was later layered with various toppings as locals experimented with ingredients and flavor combinations. 

Sicilian-style pizza is traditionally much thicker and is usually topped with mildly acidic tomatoes, salty caciocavallo or mozzarella cheese, and, quite often, sardines.

Where To Eat It?

Panificio Graziano is a buzzing, laidback osteria in northern Palermo, where sfincione, or Sicilian pizza, is the star of the show.

Grab a seat out front and sample this old-school spot’s spin on classic sfincione, and be sure to branch out and try the quattrogusti, a prosciutto, and mushroom-topped variety and a personal favorite of mine. 

Get ready for dense, spongy pizza dough, notes of umami, and a sweet explosion of flavors from the tomatoes; it’s no wonder sfincione is always mentioned as one of the best street foods in Palermo.

Panificio Graziano (€€) Via del Granatiere, 11/13, 90143 Palermo PA, Italy, Monday to Saturday, 7:00 am to 3:00 pm and 4:30 pm to 9:30 pm


These are among the most perfect examples of Palermo’s diverse culinary scene, but this list is by no means exhaustive. 

Keen to delve a little deeper into the city’s gastronomic culture? Join one of Eating Europe’s Palermo food tours and discover the succulent fare that awaits in every corner of the street food markets in the Sicilian capital.

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