Have you ever eaten swordfish?

Eating and drinking in Sicily: a culinary journey of discovery

Sicily not only has great beaches and a lot to see, but also very tasty food. Sicilian cuisine is thousands of years old and has influences from different Mediterranean countries. No wonder that a lot has come together over the centuries. In this report you will find out which delicacies await you and your palate in Sicily.

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Couscous, dates and almond biscuits? Isn't that something you tend to find in a Moroccan restaurant? That's true, but also in Sicily.

This is because the Arabs ruled Sicily for a long time and brought these ingredients with them from Africa.

This is exactly how the Greeks, Spaniards and French did it and so you will not only find typical Italian food in Sicily, but many Mediterranean cuisines together on one island.

In addition, the climate in Sicily is particularly favorable for growing vegetables and fruit.

Thanks to the fertile volcanic soil around Mount Etna and the always warm sun, everything tastes super juicy and intense.

In this article you will find everything there is to eat in Sicily and what you should definitely try.

Sicilian specialties that you should definitely try

Sicily has a lot of traditional dishes and there are even differences between the different provinces of the island.

For example, you will find the Arab influences especially on the northwest coast, while on the southeast coast, typical Greek ingredients are used for cooking.

You can not only eat well in restaurants, but also on the street. Sicily also has a very strong culture of street food.

Regardless of whether you are a vegetarian or vegan or if you are passionate about eating fish or meat: There really is something for everyone in Sicily.

Even if there are regional differences, you will always find some dishes. They are simply Sicilian through and through. The following are part of it and you should definitely try them:

Pasta con le Sarde

Pasta con le Sarde is the ultimate Sicilian pasta plate. These are ribbon noodles, the cooking water of which is flavored with wild fennel.

Capers, fresh sardines, raisins, anchovies, pine nuts and grated almonds are added to the pasta (i.e. spaghetti or bucatini).

Pasta alla Carrettiera

Another very typical Sicilian dish, which, by the way, is great for vegetarians, is Pasta alla Carrettiera. These are ribbon noodles or lumache (pasta in the shape of a snail) with a sauce made from raw tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and basil. Sometimes there is also grated sheep cheese.

Pasta alla Norma

You can also find this dish in every Sicilian restaurant. Pasta alla Norma consists of macaroni pasta, tomato sauce, fried eggplant, salted ricotta cheese and fresh basil.

Involtini di Pesce Spada

These are small, breaded swordfish roulades on a skewer that are either fried or baked. Inside there is a filling of tomatoes, green olives, capers and basil. The roulades are usually served as a second course. We recommend!

Trapani-style couscous

As the name suggests, this dish is very typical of the province of Trapani, but you can actually find it on all coasts of Sicily. Couscous is prepared with fresh Mediterranean fish.

Caponata

A simpler dish that can be found everywhere is the caponata, a mix of different vegetables that are pickled in sweet and sour tomato sauce.

Eggplants and tomatoes belong to the caponata as standard, but depending on the region, spinach, Brussels sprouts or peppers can also be included. You usually get Caponata as a side dish or as a starter.

Street food in Sicily

Street food was already available in Sicily in Roman times and is not just a snack, but a real lifestyle. It is so rooted in Sicily that typical street food snacks can be found on the menu even in the chicest restaurants.

Sicilian street food is hearty, smells meter wide and is super popular; you should definitely not miss it! The following snacks are among the delicacies that you will find at every street food stand in Sicily:

Arancini

The number 1 street food in Sicily is arancini. These are hand-sized, deep-fried travel balls with different fillings, for example with ham and mozzarella or minced meat and peas.

Arancini are actually intended as street food, but because they are so popular, most restaurants also have them as a starter.

Panels

Typical street food, which is also served in restaurants, also includes panels, i.e. small, deep-fried flatbreads made from chickpea flour.

Panels are one of the oldest dishes in Sicilian street food and were invented by the Arabs.

Crocché

If you like it a little simpler, but don't want to miss out on the street food experience, there are also normal potato croquettes, in Sicilian crocché or cazzilli. By the way, you can often find them together with panels in the bun.

Pani ca meusa

Pani ca meusa is the Sicilian dialect for “pane con la milza”, which means something like “spleen bun”. Yes, more for the die-hard, but a real delicacy and very popular in Sicily.

You get a sesame roll with fried beef spleen, a squeeze of lemon and your choice of melted sheep's cheese or ricotta.

Polpo bollito

Polpo bollito is boiled squid that's cut into small pieces and served with a dash of lemon and parsley.

Traditionally, Polpo bollito was only served as street food in the past. Today you can also find it on many menus in the region.

Sicilian desserts and sweets

As if that weren't enough, Sicily in Italy is the region where the best desserts are available. Mountains of cream-filled croissants, marzipan tarts and cannoli pile up in Sicilian bars.

Not to mention the pastry shops: just to admire the works of art made of marzipan, fruit and chocolate, it is worth going in.

Cassata

The most famous Sicilian cake is the cassata, which is also available in small mini tarts in many bars. You will recognize it immediately, because it consists of bright green almond dough, decorated with candied fruit and a ricotta filling.

Cannolo

Another dessert that no bar or restaurant in Sicily is missing is the cannoli. These are crispy rolls of dough with ricotta cream filling, chocolate sprinkles and candied cherries or orange peel.

Can be found in Germany now and then, but in Sicily it is a completely different taste experience. My absolute tip!

Frutta di Martorana

The eyes eat with these small marzipan fruits. In pastry shops you can often find mountains of small apples, peaches, bananas or other types of fruit in the shop window, but they are not real, but made of colored marzipan. But they look very similar to the real ones.

Granita

A glass of granita is a must on a stroll through downtown Palermo. Granita is like our slush ice cream, only much more flavorful and creamier.

The original Sicilian recipe is a secret and has been passed down for generations. Granita is usually available with a fruit flavor, and sometimes also with a coffee flavor.

Ice cream

Sicilian ice cream is probably the tastiest ice cream in all of Italy. The ingredients that are used in the making are just super fresh and flavorful.

The ice cream burger that you can get in almost every ice cream parlor in Sicily is very Sicilian. The ice cream of your choice is placed in sweet, thick bread (the so-called brioche). Sicilians also like to eat the brioche for breakfast in summer.

Drinking in Sicily

Sicily not only offers a lot of delicious food, but also some drinks. There are both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks that you should definitely try.

Sicilian wine

Of course, Sicily also has some good wines, especially reds. However, the Sicilian liqueur wines are particularly famous, i.e. the wines that have between 15 and 22 percent alcohol content. These are the typical Sicilian wines that you can get in every restaurant:

Marsala: The Marsala is an internationally known fortified wine and comes from the region around the city of Marsala, on the west coast. The Marsala is dark and thick and is served in small liqueur glasses after a meal because of its high alcohol content.

Nero d'Avola: The Nero d’Avola is the Sicilian red wine par excellence and is exported all over the world. There are several types of Nero d’Avola, but it originally comes from the region around Noto and Syracuse. In the meantime this wine is grown all over Sicily.

Grillo: The Grillo is one of the few white wines in Sicily. It is mainly grown in the west of the island, between Marsala and Trapani. The Grillo wine is a dry white wine with 13 percent alcohol content.

Beer in Sicily

Sicily lacks the climate for growing hops, so beer is not a traditional drink here. But young people like to drink beer and there are plenty of bars and pubs in the cities. You can get all international and Italian beers there.

There are also a few small breweries, especially in Palermo, that are run by the younger generation. People are very keen to experiment there and they have some home-brewed beers that are very tasty.

My tip for a visit to a brewery in Palermo:Ballarak in Via Castrofilippo 20. Very tasty beer and food!

The Italian beer company Birra Moretti invented a Sicilian version of its beers and that is the Birra Moretti alla Siciliana. It is brewed with the zagara blossom, the blossom of the orange tree. The beer also tastes a bit flowery and orange.

Limoncello

The lemon liqueur Limoncello is also very popular in Sicily. You can probably find it on every menu. Often the limoncello is served after a meal.

Whole lemons are not in the limoncello, by the way. Only the yellow part of the lemon peel is used for the liqueur.

Soft drinks

With the wealth of fruit that grows all over Sicily, fruit juices in Sicily are of course particularly delicious.

In bars and breakfast places you can always order a freshly squeezed fruit juice or smoothie made from different types of fruit.

Even at weekly markets there are always stalls that only sell fresh juices. The following are very traditionally Sicilian:

Fresh pressed orange juice: When you travel through Sicily, you will always notice huge plantations with small, evergreen trees. These are Sicily's oranges, the most popular type of fruit in Sicily. Sicilian oranges come in different varieties, from blood red to almost purple or very light yellow. A glass of freshly squeezed orange juice is a must in Sicily.

Almond milk: Almond milk belongs to every Sicilian household, especially in summer. Almonds are an ingredient that can be found in many Sicilian dishes and desserts anyway. It is very refreshing, especially at high temperatures, and you can order it in any bar.

How do you eat in Sicily?

In Sicily, people don't just eat to satisfy hunger. No, eating in Sicily is a real ritual.

It starts with the fact that there are several courses for every meal. Even with a simple midweek lunch, Sicilians never have just one plate of pasta, but at least one starter or a small dessert.

When you sit in the restaurant and look at the menu, it is always divided as follows:

antipasti

First there is the antipasti, i.e. the starters. These are, for example, small portions of pickled vegetables or cold cuts together with different types of cheese, small fish snacks or mini street food portions such as arancini or panelle. For Sicilians, the starter is simply part of it and is actually always ordered when visiting a restaurant.

Primi

Then comes the Primo, the first course. It's always a plate of pasta, gnocchi or a risotto. The list of the first courses is usually quite long, because there are just so many pasta dishes in Sicily.

Secondi

If you can after the antipasto and the primo, then comes the secondo, the second course. This is usually a fish or meat dish, or something vegetarian like an omelette.

If you want a side dish, you have to look in the “Contorno” section, because the side dishes are always ordered separately. This is mostly cooked vegetables or lettuce.

Dolci

Finally, there is the dolce, the dessert. You always have the choice between fresh fruit, ice cream or traditional desserts such as tiramisù, cannoli or sorbet.

All of this is rounded off at the end with a espresso and if you like, a glass of liqueur. They are supposed to help digest the food better.

Don't worry, Sicilians don't usually order all of that - mostly an antipasto and a primo, or an antipasto and a secondo with a side dish.

Unless, of course, it's a public holiday. Such lunches or dinners then last several hours and there are even several variations for each course.

And if you're ever invited to a Sicilian wedding or Christmas party, don't eat anything for at least a few days beforehand!

Mealtimes in Sicily

In Sicily, but that actually applies to the whole of Italy, people generally eat later than here. If you go to a restaurant at 7 p.m. in the evening, you will likely eat all of your own.

Dinner in Sicily starts at 8:30 p.m. at the earliest, and in summer even at 9:00 p.m. You're probably wondering how they can hold out until then?

You can do that through the “Merenda”. Merenda is a small snack time between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. This is often enjoyed at the street food stand with an arancino or a slice of pizza.

Lunch time, on the other hand, is similar to ours, i.e. between 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. This is also the time when restaurants are busiest.

What are the prices for food in Sicily?

As everywhere in Sicily, restaurants in tourist areas are more expensive. If you want to have breakfast on the Cathedral Square in Palermo, the prices are higher than a few meters further down a side street.

There are also price differences between the different regions of the island. On the east coast, which is very popular with tourists, the prices for lunch or dinner in a restaurant are higher than, for example, on the south or west coast, where there are fewer tourists.

In general, however, it can be said that compared to other European holiday destinations, the food in Sicily is quite cheap.

So that you can get an idea of ​​the prices, I have put together a few examples here.

They generally apply to the tourist areas of Sicily, such as the old town of Palermo or Syracuse.

Off the beaten track, it can also be cheaper.

A bottle of water at the kiosk: 1 €
Cappuccino: 1.50 to 2 euros
Croissant with cream filling: 1 to 1.50 euros
Arancino at the street food stand: 1.50 euros A glass of beer: 3 to 4 euros
Lunch or dinner in local restaurant: 15 to 20 euros per person
Lunch or dinner at the street stall: 4 to 10 euros per person

My advice: You save the most when you shop or eat in the supermarket or the weekly market. There are many snacks at the weekly markets, where you can get various plates of pasta or meat and fish dishes at very reasonable prices.

Do you have a real appetite for Sicilian cuisine? Very good! Then you now have two options:

Option 1: You book a flight to Sicily and try out all the goodies on the spot. Be sure to read our hotel tips for Sicily and our general travel tips for Sicily beforehand.

Option 2: You simply bring the Sicilian cuisine home and try it out for yourself. We recommend the wonderful Sicily cookbook by Andreas Hoppe.

No matter what you choose. You are definitely not doing anything wrong with either option.

Do you have any more tips on what to eat or drink in Sicily? Then we look forward to your comment.