During our recent visit to Palermo, one day we ate lunch at the historical Antica Focacceria San Francesco, which has been in existence since 1834. Customers pay for their meal, get their receipt, then fill their tray and finally sit at one of the old tables with marble top in the inviting dining room. The menu includes traditional Sicilian dishes, like the involtini di pesce spada that were part of our meal.
Swordfish is readily available at the historical fish market we had recently visited, La Vucciria. I noticed that all vendors there display the prized fish in the same way, with the body laid out so that it is easy for them to make slices (really thin ones are needed to make involtini) and the head raised, so that the sword points up, as if ready for a duel.
The filling for the involtini is made of pangrattato (bread crumbs) seasoned with (as far as I could tell) pinoli (pine nuts), uvetta (raisins), ubiquitous fresh prezzemolo (parsley), succo di limone (lemon juice), sale e pepe (salt and black pepper).
The filled involtini are lightly oiled and rolled into bread crumbs, then kept aligned with wooden skewers and placed in a baking pan. Foglie di alloro (bay laurel leaves) are inserted in between the rolls. The end result is a delicious dish of delicate flavor. Since we were quite early for Italian standards, we had to wait a few minutes for the involtini to be ready: our reward was eating them hot from the oven.
At the Focacceria you can taste traditional Sicilian street food, like panelle (fritters made with chickpea flour) and arancine or arancini (fried balls of rice, meat sauce and peas). Across the square from the Focacceria there is a gelateria where you can top off your meal with an espresso, or Sicilian gelato served in a brioche.