“Street food makes the history of a country”

The four corners of Palermo

The Quattro Canti [Four Corners] are four lavishly decorated façades creating a sort of theatrical wings around Palermo's Piazza Vigliena; they were built between 1608 and 1620.
But what does this neat urban scenography hide? Four lively neighborhoods, whose everyday life revolves around one of Palermo’s most defining features: the food markets and their loud stalls. Palermo has always been into street food, even before street food was a thing. And the traditional food markets of the city now cast a major influence in the modern food scene.

“Street food makes the history of a country” - Gualtiero Marchesi
Among the most characteristic aspects of Palermo, the food markets around the four corners of the city (Capo, Ballarò, Vucciria and Borgo Vecchio) have always been a thing. But if it is true what Gualtiero Marchesi said, that “street food makes the history of a country”, casting a look at the city is enough to discover how, in the Sicilian capital city, the passion for food is mirrored everywhere, even in its architecture, and the importance its food and food markets have always had for Palermo is clear.

Palermo: Capital of the street food

For a long time, it has been considered the city centre, a place for elegant strolls and for news and gossip to be shared—and, back in the days, a market for servants seeking masters. Today it is the ideal starting point to visit Palermo’s markets and their stalls, which have gone unchanged through the decades (sometimes centuries) and put Palermo back on the map as the European capital of markets and “street food”.

From simple dishes to hip food

What started as a way of cooking cheap and simple meals or re-utilizing food scraps which would have otherwise ended up wasted is now regarded as a main attraction for tourists from all over the world. Palermo’s markets and their stalls have gone unchanged through the decades (sometimes centuries), and represent now a major source of inspirations for both trendy street food and high end restaurants and celebrity chefs.

The “abbanniate”

Sicilian street food has come a lot ahead of the times also for the related communication strategies: the so-called abbanniate.

The first catch phrases and gastronomic storytelling

You can hear in Palermo’s markets—the spiels merchants used to promote their products since the Middle Ages—can be considered among the first advertorial catchphrases and slogans, and also as an example of gastronomic storytelling in its early stages.

Farm cuisine for a sustainable gastronomy

Quarume, musso, stigghiola, pani ca meusa, rascatura: the city’s cuisine has always revolved around peasant's dishes and scraps, coming ahead of the present low profile, sustainable cuisine.

Panormvs, the Palermitan Street Food Festival

That of the street food in Palermo is, as to say, a long-time leadership. A record which the city has confronted with only in more recent times: In 2015 the first Street Food Festival took place in the city—it was called Panormous—organised in collaboration with Expo.

STG: Guaranteed traditional speciality
In 2015 the city administration asked for an European intervention to protect TSG (traditional speciality guaranteed) food of their local gastronomy. Palermo has been recently nominated the European capital of street food in a ranking by Virtual Tourist, and organised tours of the best Palermo's street food stalls are gaining increasing popularity.

Chef Giorgio Locatelli and what inspires him

Palermo’s street food represent now a major source of inspirations for both trendy street food and high-end restaurants and celebrity chefs.
The Sicilian food, and especially Palermo's street food, are the main inspiration behind the recipes by the Michelin starred Giorgio Locatelli.

A must-see for the greatest chefs

Every celebrity chef, from Jamie Oliver to Anthony Bourdain, has stopped by Palermo in the making of their TV shows.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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