Palermo Street Food: Inside an Airport!

February 8, 2016 / Food & Wine

– 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!)

In front the the focacceria, the medieval church, San Francesco
Antica Focacceria San Francesco, Palermo
Panelle, cazzilli, arancine al ragu and arancine al burro, too
Sfincuini, traditional  Palermo pizza- caciocavallo needed!
All that's needed to make the pane con meusa maritato o schietto

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.

All eager for pane ca meusa at the Focacceria San Francesco
With family and friends for pane con meusa at the Focacceria

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.

Il meusaro at work
- schietta or maritata-

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?



Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

16 Responses to “Palermo Street Food: Inside an Airport!”

  1. Gian Banchero

    Mamma mia!!!! The shown price list must be Roman!!! In Palermo street food isn’t that expensive. Sicilian foods bought on the street are just as good as in a restaurant plus having the food cooked and eaten on the street enhances the flavor and keeps an ancient tradition going.

  2. Bernardine Codella

    We’d heard of this place many times, so on our last trip to Palermo we stopped by. We found it to be over-rated and disappointing. If you want actual street food you should stick to the streets.

  3. Rosemary Connelly

    You live quite the life Anne! Thank you for sharing it with us. We loved the pane, panelle, crochette we had at the Palermo street market when we lived in Sicily!!! To do for!!

  4. Anna Retsker

    Annie, thank you for sharing this with us. I’ll stop by this place when I go to Palermo in early May.

  5. Marie Giacalone

    I especially enjoy your posts about Sicily. The next time I travel there I am going to review all of them- thank you!

  6. Beat me to it Anne! I think next time we should give readers the recipe for making pane ca’ meusa at home, although I’m not sure we’ll be swamped with takers!

  7. Bev Oliveri

    Oh Anne! These foods remind me so much of the food I enjoyed as a child. Sicily is a must tour for me in the very near future. Do you offer any tours?

  8. Toni Solow

    Thanks for the great article and tip on Rome airport! Will check it out on our next trip!!

  9. Suzanne and Jack

    Your notes are always so wonderfully descriptive and from them emerge more of the wonder of Italy and its cultures. Many thanks Ann.


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