Saint Lucy was a 4th century Sicilian martyr, born and executed in Syracuse. She’s thought to be responsible for ending a famine 1582, and Sicilians honor her feast day on December 13th by abstaining from bread.
When I was just a teenager in Ohio, Pizza Hut brought out its stuffed crust pizza. A revelation! It made… so much sense! Stuff the crust of the pizza with cheese! For the next week, I couldn’t sleep and talked of nothing else. How could no one have thought of this before?
When you sit down in a small, family-run trattoria in Palermo, something like Trattoria Family Michele & Iolanda, expect to have the freedom of choice snatched away from you. You’ll enjoy whatever plate you’re given to eat, but you won’t have much say in what that plate is.
Thinking about Sicilian food nearly always sets the stomach to growling. Perfectly-baked pizzas, al dente pasta smothered in a rich ragú, fried arancine, swordfish filets, cannoli, pani c’a meusa. Mmmmm… Hold on, wait just a second. That last one, I don’t recognize that. “Oh no? Well then, my friend, we must educate you. Pani c’a meusa!”
Cozy and familiar, with great prices and a friendly waitstaff, Il Vicolo is a lovely little seafood restaurant in the southwest corner of the Albergheria. Don’t let the neighborhood’s relative grime keep you away.
One of the stranger fruits we’ve encountered in Palermo has been the cactus pear, which is sold at just about every market stand in the city. Fico d’India is native to Sicily, despite its name, and a popular snack with Palermitani. We had to try it.
After a couple hours spent wandering the alleyways of Bagheria, we had worked up quite an appetite, and sought out a restaurant recommended by a couple readers: the Antica Osteria Zza’ Maria. The word “Zza” alone was enticement enough to visit; it looks like a typo, or the sound a flamboyant snake might make, but is actually Sicilian for “Aunt”.
One of our Palermitano readers recently told us that although the most famous nickname for the city is la Felice (“The Happy One”), Palermo is more well known around Sicily as la Licca (“The Glutton”). I think both apply. As I munch down yet another cannolo, I am both happy and gluttonous. Yes, I know I’ve got cream smeared across my face and cookie flakes on my shirt. So what? BURP
I would say it was a pretty successful night. We had discovered Mikalsa, a cool bar within walking distance of our apartment, and heard an incredible concert by Renzo Rubino, a local artist trying to make it big. Plus, we became instant addicts of Mikalsa’s home-brewed beer called Panormus, in honor of Palermo’s original Greek name.
Sicilian cuisine continues to spring wonderful surprises on us. I had been completely unaware of the existence of sfincione, or Sicilian Pizza, until we visited Monreale. And now, I’ll never forget it.