Antica Focacceria San Francesco: Palermo Street Food Excellence
On a summer night, 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 (the air-conditioning even better up there) 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) and the huge rice balls, arancine, entice a few guests.
But since 1834, this focacceria/friggitoria has been known for u pane ca meusa ( 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 shared pane ca meusa (“bread with spleen”) 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 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 ca 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 ca meusa? Schiettu.
And whether we eat it there at the Focacceria or at a street stand.
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