“We are what we eat” is a book written by an American professor and it was also the foundation of my graduate thesis, which is the reason why I get excited every time I hear someone expressing the same concept using different words.
Few months ago I contacted Giorgio (yes, same name!), a tour guide who works for Palermo street food, because I wanted to be a part of a street food tour in my own city, and there he was… telling us that food becomes a tool that helps us discover our city Palermo, our culture and our tradition. Yeaheeee!
Basically, everything that we see and taste around us, is just the result of this complex and multicultural mix we live in.
It was literally music for my ears!!!
To give you a bit of context, in Palermo the street food started centuries ago as a matter of business as well as creativity, because people that were not nobles nor wealthy had to find a way to sell food that was tasty, affordable and easy to be eaten in an open space or while standing.
We started our tour from the famous open market called Porta Carini (or Capo). Here you can find a very simple version of the sfincione, the typical local pizza, a soft and thick sponge baked and seasoned only with tomato sauce, salt and pepper, and of course oil of olive.
Some Palermo dwellers though might say that this is a too simple version for their taste, because there is another one prepared at home or sold in bakeries that is a lot richer as it has layers of anchovies, caciocavallo cheese, breadcrumb on top and sometimes pieces of artichokes.
Entering in the street of the market we stopped at different venues to let the tourists try our delicacies: panelle and “cazzilli” (potato croquettes), the renowned arancine, the mix of fried small size fish, called “paranza” and finally the vegs in “pastella” (batter) and some aubergine rolls.
Of course we could not miss the spleen sandwich, which is another iconic food of the town that has its origin in the Jewish culture.
I know that we are walking but you need a strong stomach to process all of that, so Giorgio headed to a traditional kiosk where you can choose among several drinks.
From the fresh orange or pomegranate juice that gives you energy, to the mint or almond drinks that are very refreshing. You have plenty of choice but among all there is one that is considered a real bomb, meaning it will make you digest all type of heavy food, even a grenade, as we would say in Sicily.
It is called “Autista” (Italian word for Driver) and is a drink made of lemon syrup, sparkling water and a pinch of bicarbonate of soda.
It is very tasty, extremely digestive but also quite challenging to drink, as the ingredients together cause a chemical reaction, so you have to be very quick in drinking it all before it comes out of the glass. Here on the right… a very happy “customer” with what is left of it. Ah ah!
And let me tell you: digestion??? Mission accomplished!!!
Finally at the very end of our tour we arrived in Piazza Pretoria and through there we went to the Bar Stagnitta, (in Discesa dei Giudici) to get some authentic eastern Sicily granita, a creamy slush with different flavors (here on the left almond and pistachios).
The founders of Palermo street food, Salvatore and Danielle, describe their tours as a proper adventure!
They started this business while seeing travelers struggling with the high-context nature of street food in Palermo. It can be intimidating! But there is no reason for that. Street food vendors are wonderful people, and the food itself is incredible and not to be missed.
They organize street food tours, Art&Food tours, cooking class and wine tasting. The tours are organized in the morning from 10:30-13:30 and also in the evening from 18:00 on.
Tours are usually about 3 hours. They are all walking tours in the city center. They offer tour in Italian, English, (Giorgio here on the right), French and Spanish and of course you find them on social media too.
If you visit Sicily, and Palermo in particular, make sure you make the most out of it! And if you love food and want to spend a fun morning, getting to know the local cuisine… then definitely palermostreetfood.com is the way to go. Enjoy!