This Buzzing, Colorful Island Has Some Of The Best Food In Italy, According To Rick Steves

Located on Italy's southernmost tip, Sicily is the epitome of a dreamy Italian haven. This picturesque island is Italian at heart, but its culture has been influenced by nations of the world, including the Greeks, Romans, and Spaniards. A melting pot of traditions, architecture, and exquisite food, Sicily is a unique and wondrous gem with several areas deemed UNESCO World Heritage Sites. How's the food, you may ask? While considered an island, Sicily is an independent region of Italy, delivering the same indulgent dishes as its mainland counterparts, like Florence and Rome. However, its position in the Mediterranean means Sicily's culinary scene reflects marine-focused dishes. The island's world-class cuisine even received a shout-out from travel expert Rick Steves, celebrating the region's diverse yet splendid culinary crossroads.

According to La Cucina Italiana, some of Sicliy's most classic dishes are the result of seven fundamental ingredients. From Ragusano cheese and Ribera oranges to Bronte pistachios and Nero Siciliano (Nero black pig), Sicilian dishes are the byproduct of the island's bountiful harvest. Dishes in Sicily start with a simple base, yet result in impeccable flavors and bold, inventive blends. Its unique location means the menus you'll read in Sicily aren't restricted to pizza, pasta, and other traditional Italian plates. Instead, you'll find a marvelous mix of Middle Eastern, African, and Greek dishes, as well. If you're looking for a bit of all the best, head south to Sicily, the culinary headquarters of this European region.

Eat like a local with these native dishes

Sicily's near-perfect topography supports the production of many native ingredients that translate to staple foods in Sicilian culture. According to Steves, you'll still find all the most common items, like pasta, tomatoes, and olives on this Italian island. However, locals in Sicily cook with flavors from around the world, borrowing from the best of its neighboring nations. The result is a transcendent foodie scene that's rich in both Italian specialties and global food phenomena. It's rare to come across anything fried in Italian kitchens. However, Sicily is known for bringing back comfort food that stems from its Arab neighbors, making it the only region in Italy where you can indulge in deep-fried pasta. Grain lovers will love couscous al pesce, a west coast staple in the village of Trapani that's born from North African cuisine. Paying homage to its Spanish roots, we have Spanish cocoa beans to thank for cioccolato di Modica, a local dark chocolate that's a rich blend of bitter and sweet-tasting notes. 

If authentic pizza and pasta are what you're after, this Italian island has you covered with a vibrant collection of specialty Sicilian pasta. Whether you're craving food from the land or sea, anelletti al forno and spaghetti ai ricci are two local staples that won't disappoint. Sicilians also go above and beyond with their house-made pizzas, using a special crust known as sfincione — it's often served with layers of anchovies and tomato sauce.

Eat like a local at these roadside food stops

Much like American vending carts selling an assortment of fast-food-like bites, street food is a budget-friendly favorite along the Sicilian coastline. Similar in style, yet with enhanced quality, it's not uncommon to break for lunch or dinner at one of these roadside food carts. Street food is the best food on this Italian island. According to Steves, Sicily's capital, Palermo, is particularly rich in sizzling quick comfort eats. Panelle, or fried chickpea fritters, are a traditional staple among Sicily's street food scene, and these flattened morsels are a satisfying treat to pick up out on the town. A distant cousin of the American bagel, pane con la milza is a thick, fluffy sandwich-like dish consisting of two sesame rolls filled with meusa (or cow spleen) and caciocavallo cheese — a Sicilian specialty! 

A heavenly indoor bistro, try a sample or two from Focacceria del Massimo. According to Forbes, this family-run bistro features street-food snacks as well as lavish pizza, pasta, and seafood plates. This small antica in Palermo sells everything from swordfish rolls and butter beans to classic ragù with beef and veggies. You've heard of gelato, but have you ever tried brioche with gelato? It's a local specialty on this island, consisting of creamy gelato wedged between two brioche buns with twice the cream and flavor — a match made in heaven, we'd say! You can find this decadent dessert dish at Gelateria Lucchese, an adorable gelato shop not far from the coastline in beautiful Palermo.