The Street Food movement in Italy has been promoted widely through the media, there are various guide books published which show where to taste the best take away food Italian style, fresh local products and produce cooked in open air markets right before your eyes and ready to be eaten on the street. This trend is echoed all around Europe, the Middle East and Asia where markets provide a wonderful experience for tourists to emerge themselves into local culinary habits.
Unfortunately the publicity of Street Food has been blemished by those who try to cut corners and ignore hygiene requirements, in Sicily.
Live Sicilia reported from Catania in May 2014 of a case in Catania of someone who brought an aluminum container of French fries, as he opened the lid he found a terrible surprise: a dead cockroach at the bottom of the potatoes. He called the police and reported the incident and they promptly sent a patrol car to examine the food vendor in question. The police agents and vets from ASP association arrived at the ‘Panificio’ or bakery on Viale Liberta’, which also claimed to be a ‘gastronomia’ (gourmet food) and ‘salumeria’ (cold meats vendor). At the end of their investigation of the site the police arrested the owner for selling harmful food products.
The police report stated that despite the fact the bakery’s balconies were being repaired and the food had no protection whatsoever from the dust of the undergoing restoration work. Secondly the food was not maintained in the correct temperature hot or cold so the foodstuffs were not conserved and were easily accessed by foreign bodies and insects.
Even more alarming was the fact the entire store was infested by cockroaches which had infested all of the food with their excrement. Live insects were found living in the containers which held the fresh ricotta cheese and in the refrigerator.
This stomach turning investigation resulted in an arrest and the closing down of the illegal food selling activity. Now while this incident didn’t happen in an open air market the dangers are still very real. Don’t take for granted that the food will be hygienic everywhere you eat.
Please don’t take this as a deterrent to experiencing Street food in Sicily, but be aware, make sure the place looks clean and there is refrigeration. The best way to be sure is to watch the locals, Sicilians are very fussy with their food and will only accept fresh well cooked products, so it’s safe to say if there are a large group of locals in line at a street food vendor, odds are it’s worth waiting in line.