On its Italian-only website, the AFDSF oddly tags on an English tagline to its name: “Since 1834, The Italian Street Food”. I love it, in that way you love awkward attempts at wielding your language by those forever unfamiliar.
As I travelled through Sicily with my mum and her friends recently (which I have since dubbed ‘rolling with retirees’) who are neither adventuresome nor foodies – I had to be pragmatic. This was the only restaurant I had time to research and put on my hitlist, and given that its trademark dish involves spleen poached in lard, I knew it would be a challenge.
But it just so happened to be the halfway point on the always wonderful Lonely Planet Sicily’s walking tour, so pass by we did and even though we had already just eaten massive pizza’s for lunch, I made them stop to check out their crowning glory: panino con la milza, or: veal spleen sandwich.
Spleen is thinly sliced and slow-cooked in lard in a massive circular pot at the centre of the cafeteria style eatery. A brioche bun in split, with ricotta cheese smeared on one side, veal spleen is then piled high and a sharp shredded cheese is then piled high before the sandwich is brusquely chucked at you over the barrier on a paper plate. Finish it with a squeeze of lemon and you’re set.
I was nervous and (unfortunately) full when we arrived, meaning I lurked around the barrier, eyeing the sandwiches before the man behind the counter insisted I join him for a few shots (despite how angry he looks). I decided even if I wasn’t hungry it’d be worth sampling – and when it came to a grand total of €2,50 I didn’t really think I’d wasted money.
It was delicious. Salty, greasy tender spleen was complimented by the creamy cheese and cut through with the acidity of lemon. It tasted mostly like slow-cooked beef with the slightest hint of that pungent ‘offal’ organ taste to cut through and make it a slightly more moreish experience for the slightly evolved palette.
Seeing that I didn’t gag and spit out the sandwich, my mother bravely sampled it as well. “Roast BeefSandwich!” she declared, which is as close to an endorsement as any coming from her.