Sicily – Messina – arancini and pituni

Like Palermo and Catania, Messina has some great street food…

Rosticceria Famulari (Initial A), Via Cesare Battisti,

This is a great place. A 24-hour friggitoria (fry shop) specialising in Arancini rice balls. What’s not to like? You may remember from my Catania street food post that there is a dispute between the east and west of Sicily as to how to shape them and what to call them. In Palermo, a rice ball is round and called an Arancina, whereas in Catania and Messina it has a pointed tip (in emulation of Etna) and is called an Arancino. In both cases, the plural is Arancini.

They have about twenty varieties on the menu and a few other items besides. The fact that they’re open 24 hours is a godsend for people like me who may have just got off a late train when all the restaurants are closed.

They even have a dining room with table service where you can sit down and watch the football, but that is only open until 11pm.

The walls are covered with pictures of customers from all corners of the world posing with unfeasibly large examples of rice balls.

On my first visit I had the classic Arancino al Ragù of which they serve a deluxe version here. As well as the usual minced beef, ‘cheese’, peas, carrots, onion, celery, rosemary, bay leaf and black pepper there is the luxurious addition of cured ham and mortadella with pistachios (A).

… with ‘una birra Messina fredda’ of course (B).

And the second time I went with a Peroni (B+) and an Arancino ‘Nduja; spreadable spicy Calabrian sausage with Gran Padano, Béchamel and ‘Formaggio’ which was also very good (B+).

The locals certainly seem to be passionate about them.

That said, there is another fast food in town…

Panificio Laganà (B+), 298 Via G. Garibaldi,

The kind teacher at the school where I was working brought me to this excellent bakery to try their Pidone for lunch.

Also known as Pitoni (which translates to pythons’!), they are very similar to what people outside of Messina province would call Panzerotti (when deep-fried) or Calzoni (when baked). They are also comparable to Maltese Pastizzi and Balearic Cocarroi, and of course Spanish Empanadas. Then there is also the Tunisian brik, and the Turkish börek. No doubt there is a common, most likely Moorish ancestor, perhaps similar to Arab sfihas and fataye. The common purpose of all these pastry turnovers is to preserve their contents for a longer period of time and make them portable.

In Messina Pidone are traditionally made with circles of spelt dough and filled with escarole (curly endive), fresh tomatoes, anchovies and tuma (a typical Sicilian cheese) and folded over into half-moons for frying, or more rarely, baked. I got a slice of Pizza Margarita al Taglio to go accompany mine. Both were very good (B/B+).

The teacher’s first choice would have been La Pitoneria at 8-10 Via Palermo, a specialist with lots of varieties, but unfortunately they were closed on the day I was there.

You’ll find all three places on my map.

Rosticceria Famulari, the first place, has them as well.

And there’s also a famous drink which I’ve put in the cafe post, coming next…

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