Palermo Street Food: Try Sfincione Palmermitano

The cover story of our April issue was one of our most delicious ever – devoted to Palermo and the savory and sweet street food you can enjoy in the vibrant markets of Sicily’s capital city. Our Sicily expert Allison Scola went in-depth on everything from Pane ca’ meusa (veal spleen sandwich) to cannoli. Here’s an excerpt on the food pictured above – sfincione Palmermitano: 

Not to be confused with pizza, sfincione is more like what Americans call foccaccia. Different still, it is a spongy bread with a mixture of tomato puree, anchovies, caciocavallo and pecorino cheeses, sautéed onions, oregano, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and olive oil baked into the top of it. It’s best when enjoyed warm and drizzled with olive oil.

In Bagheria, the town where some of my Sicilian family lives, which is about 40-minutes east of Palermo by car, sfincione is thicker—I’ve had it both red and white. White, i.e., without tomato, has fresh ricotta baked into it. Contrary to Italian-American tradition, my family, as do most Bagherese, customarily eat sfincione on Christmas Eve. They reserve their holiday banquet for Christmas Day.

Because tomatoes only arrived in the 16th century when they were brought by the Spanish from the New World, food historians believe that white sfincione has Jewish origins and it’s an older recipe than red sfincione. Look for the sfincione vendor daily, on the corner of Via Maqueda and Via Sant’ Agostino from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.