– Local knowledge such as this is the heart and fun of Anne’s U.S. Cooking and Lecture Tour “Feast of Umbrian Rural Cuisine” home events this February and March! Not to be missed, book this extraordinary Italian food evening at your home now!
Next time you’re in Palermo, head to Piazza San Francesco for the best in Palermo “street food” (but no longer on the street). Skirt around the crowded outdoor tables in the piazza facing the medieval church, go through the door of the crowded Focacceria San Francesco and join the camaraderie. No places on the ground floor? Head up the stairs to the second floor or on to the third. What’s drawing in the crowds? Sfinciuni (a rich Palermo pizza), pane con panelle (a chickpea Palermo street food favorite), huge rice balls, arancini, and cazzilli (palermitano dialect for what the potato dumplings resemble – and sorry, no translation here!)
But since 1834, this focacceria/friggitoria has been known for u pane c’a meusa (“bread with spleen,” – and correctly pronounced “pani c’a miévusa” in palermitano dialect, Nino, Pino’s old friend told me between bites). Once a humble street food of the working class poorest, these sesame rolls stuffed with deep-fried calves’ spleen and calves’ lung bridge all social barriers and all age groups these days. As we ate our orders, well-dressed elderly couples and young families, groups of university friends and businessmen at nearby tables shared pane c’a meusa flanked with with bottles of cold beers or chilled Insolia, a Sicilian white wine.
Some customers waited for orders to go at the huge vat as the meusaru (literally, the “spleen-cooker”) fried the spleen and lungs, drained them, slipped them into the sesame rolls (vastelle) and added shredded caciovallo cheese or a spoonful of ricotta for those who wished their order maritatu (“married”). He squeezed lemon juice onto the pane c’a meusa schiettu (“celibate” in dialect, i.e., on its own without additions) – and wrapped each sandwich rapidly in simple brown paper before handing it to the eager customers.
How do Pino and I order u pane c’a meusa? Schiettu, whether we eat it there at the Focacceria or at a street stand.
And if you can’t get to Palermo for this Sicilian street food goodness, you can find many of the temptations at the Antica Focacceria S. Francesco stand now in Terminal 3 at Rome’s Fiumicino airport! Only u pane c’a meusa missing. Maybe a skilled meusaru not available for hire in Rome?