How I fell in love with arancine in Sicily – plus the recipe to make them

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When the ferry docks in Palermo, the food writer heads straight to a waterside bar to devour these delicious deep-fried rice balls
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Every evening at 8pm and 8.15pm, two ferries leave the port of Naples and cut their way across the inky Tyrrhenian Sea to Palermo. The one that leaves second arrives first, at 6.45am, while the other docks at 7.30am, or thereabouts. We are always late booking travel for our annual summer trip to my partner’s hometown in Sicily, so take whatever we can get. And 45 minutes is unimportant when summer is before us. Also it means we can sleep longer in the cabin, we tell ourselves. Of course, we don’t sleep longer. We are up on the deck watching the day arrive and the port, with its backdrop of heaving mountains, get bigger. Our appetites grow, too, as we near the island, and for one thing – arancini.

And not just any arancini, but those from a bar a couple of kilometres from the port on Via Simone Gulì. Our car, an old boxy Fiat Panda, knows the route well, and scuttles down the ferry ramp, past the prison and port workshops to the yacht harbour, Marina Villa Igiea. On a main road, near the busy port and surrounded by apartments, Bar Turistico is, at 8am, as bright and angular as a 1980s hairdo, full of locals, port workers and tourists, the air thick with the scent of coffee.

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