Exploring Sicilian Food and Wine - Traditions, Sweets and Adventurous Eats


Sicilian Food - arancine balls in Palermo
Food memories always linger the longest for me. I can still taste the delicious Sicilian food and wine that we tried back in early May during our road trip in Sicily. Italy is definitely a foodie destination but Sicily takes eating to the next level. Here are my favorite picks for traditional Sicilian fare, sweets, and adventurous eats.

SICILIAN TRADITION

Arancini vs Arancine

Sicilian Food - Arancini balls in Siracusa
Sicilian arancini balls, delectable rice balls stuffed with various kinds of meat and cheese and then fried up to a golden brown are a dietary staple in Sicily. 
Sicilian Food - Arancine balls in Palermo
There is even a rivalry between arancini (what they are called in Catania) and arancine (what they are called in Palermo) about which variety is tops.
Sicilian Food - Arancine balls in Palermo

Sicilian Wine

Sicilian Food - wine bottles

We enjoyed sipping Sicilian wine nearly every evening on our road trip. From deep reds like Nero D'Avola to varietals like Nerello Mascalese grown in the volcanic soil in the shadow of Mt. Etna to citrusy Grillo, you can't go wrong quaffing a glass (or a bottle!) of Sicily's finest vino.
Sicilian Food - wine and crisps

In many restaurants, we ordered a carafe of Sicilian wine which would appear in a colorful chipped pitcher. Such great atmosphere!
Sicilian Food - carafe of wine

Fresh Sicilian Pasta

Sicilian Food - fresh pasta with seafood
Fresh pasta was a staple of our diet during our week long road trip in Sicily. With mix-ins ranging from seafood and crustaceans to brilliantly juicy tomatoes, expect to overdose on carbs when you visit Sicily. I regret nothing!
Sicilian Food - fresh pasta with tomatoes

Sicilian Orange and Onion Salad

Sicilian Food - orange and onion salad
When I first saw orange and onion salad on a menu in Siracusa, I was intrigued but skeptical about how the flavors would work together. It turns out that the Sicilians are on to something. The sweet citrus of the oranges pairs well with the sharp intensity of the red onions for a refreshing treat. Just make sure to bring your breath mints for afterward.

Sicilian Squid 

Sicilian Food - squid

Another tradition that we discovered in Sicily was squid served in a way that was not over-embellished. Simply cut it up, grill it up and give it a squeeze of lemon and you've got a perfect dinner.

Sicilian Seafood

Sicilian Food - fish

Sicily is an island and as such, seafood abounds. We enjoyed Sicilian seafood dishes ranging from whole fish filleted and served in a lemon sauce to mussels served with squid in a tomato sauce.
Sicilian Food - mussels

Snacking in a Secluded Sicilian Wine Bar

Sicilian Food - Sapori Doc wine bar in Modica
In the Baroque town of Modica, we were wandering around on our first night when we stumbled upon a partially hidden doorway in a small alcove just off the main artery running through town. We stepped inside Sapori Doc, a tiny wine bar run by a local Sicilian couple. 
Sicilian Food - grilled zucchini / courgettes
We selected a bottle of Sicilian wine from the shelf and paired it with grilled zucchini (or courgettes if you're from Europe!) and a staff recommendation of delicate pastry parcels stuffed with spinach, cheese, or salami.
Sicilian Food - filled savory pastry

Panini and Espresso

Sicilian Food - panini and espresso
Ah, panini...Fresh tomato and mozzarella pressed to perfection is the ultimate Sicilian tradition and fantastic with an espresso for a quick lunch.

Sicilian Panelle (Chickpea Fritters)

Sicilian Food - panelle - chickpea fritters
Panelle, deep fried chickpea fritters, are a staple street food in Sicily. We tried a perfect batch at Mercato del Capo in Palermo on our Streat Palermo street food tour. The panelle was served to us hot out of the fryer and had retained just the right amount of oil to make them delicious but not greasy.

Sicilian Focaccia

Sicilian Food - focaccia

Go into any bakery in Sicily like the one we visited in Monreale and ask them to cut you a slice of focaccia. Pay by weight and then sit outside to enjoy a quick and handy Sicilian lunch tradition.

Sicilian Serenade 


Sitting in a restaurant in Siracusa, I was surprised when the doors busted open and a troop of Sicilian musicians in traditional dress came in and began to serenade the diners. One of the musicians played and twirled a colorful jug that also served as a handy tip jar. I almost gave these guys a standing ovation. Great stuff.

SICILIAN SWEETS

If you have a sweet tooth, there is no question that you'll be able to sate it in Sicily. I love reminiscing about the treats we tried on this road trip. At least this time around, just thinking about them won't make me fat ;-)

Dolcini 

Sicilian Food - dolcini

Stand-up coffee shops in Sicily often feature a bakery counter with small nut and citrus based treats. Pick up some Sicilian dolcini to accompany a strong espresso.

The Best Sicilian Cannoli

Sicilian Food - cannoli

Sicily is famous for cannoli and we tried this sweet ricotta filled confection a number of times on the trip. Marco, our Streat Palermo food tour guide, pointed out that the best cannoli are actually filled on the spot while you watch to preserve the integrity and crunch of the pastry tube. So good...
Sicilian Food - cannoli

The Best Gelato in the World in Noto

Sicilian Food - best gelato in the world at Dolceria Costanzo in Noto

In Noto, one of the Baroque Hill Towns of Sicily, we tried the gelato that was rated number one in the world at Dolceria Costanzo. A deep dark chocolate combined with ricotta and served with a small piece of waffle cone and an edible spoon was the perfect mid-afternoon snack. Note that Dolceria Costanzo takes a siesta in the mid-afternoon so time your arrival carefully. We went around 4 pm just after they had re-opened for the afternoon.

Sicilian Gelato in Brioche in Palermo

Sicilian Food - gelato in brioche in Palermo

Palermo nearly blew my mind. I didn't think it was possible to make Sicilian gelato better until I got here. Instead of serving gelato in a cup or cone, shops in Palermo serve you an ice cream sandwich on brioche. Amazing...and portable.

Granita, Sicilian Water Ice

Sicilian Food - granita and brioche

Granita is another Sicilian specialty. On a hot day, supping on a glass of lemon water ice with a brioche on the side to quell the inevitable 'brain freeze' that accompanies this dessert is heaven.

Sicilian Cassata in a Cafe

Sicilian Food - Cassata and espresso
Stand-up cafes abound in Sicily, especially in Palermo. We visited one of the oldest and best cafes in Pasticceria Massaro. A mini-cassata, a pistacchio fondant covered cake, and an espresso are the perfect fuel for an afternoon of urban exploration in Palermo.
Sicilian Food - Pasticceria Massaro in Palermo

Sicilian Citrus

Sicilian Food - bowl of lemons in Monreale

When life gives you lemons...make lemonade! Sicily has a lot of lemons (and oranges) and you'll find them in everything from gelato to cakes to chocolate to limoncello and more. 

Chocolate from Modica

Sicilian Food - Modica chocolate samples
Any town known for chocolate rates highly in my book. A town known for its own very special kind of chocolate that is unique in the world skyrockets to the top of my list.
Sicilian Food - Modica chocolate samples
Modica chocolate doesn't use milk or butter in the production process thus resulting in an intense (and a bit grainy) mouth feel that then melts away to reveal additional flavors housed within. Most shops have samples to taste. We tried everything from straight up 70% dark chocolate to varieties of Modica chocolate infused with citrus, cardamom, liquorice, red wine grapes, and more. If you're not careful, you will end up with a suitcase full of Modica chocolate bars to take home. Seriously, it happened to us. Once again, I regret nothing!

ADVENTUROUS SICILIAN EATS

So far, we've discussed traditional Sicilian food and the copious sweet treats you can find on the island. For those foodies with a sense of adventure, there is plenty for you too.

Donkey Mortadella Pizza

Sicilian Food - pizza with donkey mortadella

In Siracusa, we tried pizza, a very traditional dish, but served with donkey mortadella on top. I'd never had donkey meat before. It was a bit strong but delicious on our pizza. I'd definitely eat it again.

Satisfy Your Sense of Adventure with Streat Palermo Food Tours

If you're feeling adventurous but want to try some of the more unusual Sicilian food specialties in a safe environment, I recommend Marco's Streat Palermo food tour. We visited street food vendors that I would have been too shy or nervous to approach on my own and really broadened my food horizons as a result.

Raw Shrimp in the Market

Sicilian Food - raw shrimp

Marco pointed us to some of the freshest Sicilian seafood in Mercado del Capo and the vendor offered us a raw shrimp to try. Down the hatch!

Sicilian 'A Frittula

Sicilian Food - vendor serviing a 'A Frittula

We were in for a special treat. The 'A Frittula vendor was around the day we visited Palermo so we got to try this Sicilian street food specialty where cartilage and other parts of the cow that are normally discarded are cooked up, doused with a squeeze or lemon and salt and served. The fatty meat with the citrus cutting through it and just the right amount of salt was actually delicious.

A Sicilian Spleen Sandwich

Sicilian Food - spleen sandwich

The pièce de résistance of our Sicilian food odyssey was the spleen sandwich. I'm proud to say that I tried it and even liked it. The spleen kind of had the texture of mushrooms and even tasted a bit like mushrooms. It was only when I thought about what I was eating that my stomach turned into a knot. I'm happy to say though that I managed to finish my portion, a half sandwich. I can now tick the Sicilian spleen sandwich off the bucket list :-)

As you can see, Sicily offers the opportunity to make all kinds of food memories. If you are a foodie or if you just enjoy broadening your food horizons when you travel, definitely consider a Sicilian road trip. You'll definitely return home satisfied, if not a few pounds heavier.

Read More About our Road Trip in Sicily

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Sidewalk Safari: Exploring Sicilian Food and Wine - Traditions, Sweets and Adventurous Eats
Exploring Sicilian Food and Wine - Traditions, Sweets and Adventurous Eats
Learn more about the foods to try in Sicily, from traditional to sweet to adventurous. A photo-rich post by travel blogger, Jennifer (aka Dr. J) from Sidewalk Safari.
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Sidewalk Safari
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