Pizza is one of the foods you can find all over Italy, either in pizzerie or rosticcerie (places that sell pizza and other baked or fried things), but that’s more to Italian street food than that.
Italian regional cuisines are very rich and developed, this means that each area offers a variety of typical dishes that cannot be found in other parts of Italy. This is also true when it comes to street food.
So, without wanting to be thorough, I’m going to try and give you a glimpse of a few, delightful options when it comes to grab a bite in Italy:
– Panzerotti: they are sorts of fried Calzoni (folded and closed pizza), but made with a different dough – with potatoes – which is softer than the one used for pizza. Usually this delicious treat is stuffed with tomato sauce and mozzarella, sometimes with the addition of ham. The region where they originated is Apulia (Italy’s heel), but they’re also common where I come from (Calabria), as well as in the rest of Southern Italy. In my region is traditional to serve a small version of Panzerotti on December 24th at lunchtime. They are filled with tomato and mozzarella, with or without anchovies.
– Arancini/e: this authentic Sicilian food consists in a fried ball of rice, traditionally filled with minced meat sauce, peas and cheese. Today you can find many toothsome variations to the basic recipe, with ingredients including ham, spinach, aubergine, bechamel sauce, gorgonzola cheese, pistachio and many more, including sweet versions. The name comes from the Italian arancia which means “orange”, in fact it actually resembles an orange for its colour and shape (even if in some parts of Sicily, Arancini are conical). Although the best ones are sold in Sicily, you can find them all over the South of Italy in rotisseries (in Italian, rosticcerie).
– Supplì: a snack made with rice, pretty similar to Arancini but not exactly the same, born in Rome. They were originally prepared with chicken giblets and minced meat, with tomato sauce or not. At some point another ingredient was added, a piece of mozzarella/cheese just in the centre. From this variation a new name was born, Supplì al telefono (literally “on the phone”), because when you split them in halves, the melted cheese will form strings resembling those of telephones.
– Olive Ascolane: Green olives stuffed with ground meat, breaded and deep fried. They are the pride of Ascoli-Piceno, in the Marche region. The olives used to prepare this dish are a special variety only grown in that area. You can find Olive Ascolane in most pizzerias all over Italy, served as starter or side dish.
– Piadina: it is a flat-bread made with flour, lard, water and salt typical of the area of Emilia Romagna. It is served filled with different ingredients such as cheese, Italian salumi and vegetables, or with sweet fillings like jam or Nutella. It can also be used as a substitute of bread. Also this speciality can be bought in most Italian cities nowadays, in specialised shops called piadinerie.
– Porchetta: a rich and flavoursome pork roast originated in Ariccia, in the area of Rome, but popular all over the Country. The pork is de-boned, salted and generously stuffed with garlic, fat and herbs, rolled and then roasted. The result is very tasty with a combination of textures: most of the meat is tender but the external parts get deliciously crunchy! In Ariccia there are specialised restaurants called fraschette, very genuine and rustic establishments where to enjoy Porchetta sitting down and drinking Vino dei Castelli (local wine, produced indeed in the area of Castelli Romani), but it can also be enjoyed in a panino as a street food.
– Panini: the word “panino” (singular) literally means “little bread” and refers to a category of baked products, but it is also used to indicate any kind of bread with a filling; The most traditional type of panino is very very simple: just bread with ham, mortadella (Italian cold cut) or other salami. It is a quick but substantial meal, sold in salumerie (stores that sell salami), grocery stores and supermarkets. If you’re looking for something different, you will have many options to choose from. Nowadays there are many different panini places all over Italy, some more traditional, while others prone to experiment and innovate. A recent alternative to normal panini is Cornetto salato, basically a croissant used as a sandwich, and filled with savoury ingredients.
– Panelle: again a street food originated in Sicily, and difficult to find anywhere else, made of chickpeas flour and deep fried. They are usually served together with other fried treats, or as a filling for a panino (the famous pane e panelle).
– Caldarroste: very popular in winter and especially around Christmas time, caldarroste are basically big chestnuts, roasted in a special perforated pan. They are usually sold directly on the street in paper cones.
– Crocchette: deep fried balls of mashed potatoes, often with a stringy cheese heart and/or diced ham. You can easily find them in rosticcerie all around Italy, as well as in some restaurants where they are served – mostly in mixed platters – as starter or side dish.
Not all Italian street food is savoury! Here’s something for your sweet appetites:
– Zeppole: delightful South Italian dessert, originated in Naples but also typical of Calabria, consists in a fried or baked pastry filled with crema pasticcera (a sort of custard), and topped by a sour black cherry. You can find them in any period of the year, but they are traditionally made on March 19th – Saint Joseph’s day and also Dad’s day. For this reason they’re also called zeppole di San Giuseppe.
– Cannoli: you’ve probably already heard of this classic Sicilian dessert. A crispy tube of fried dough filled with a cream made with ricotta cheese, and completed with candied fruit, chocolate chips or chopped pistachio. To get the best from a cannolo you should it immediately after it is prepared, to preserve the crunchiness of the external part. That’s why perfect cannoli are filled just before being served.
– Gelato: something I never imagined before going to live abroad, is that Italian ice-cream could be famous worldwide. To be honest, I think I’ve never had ice-cream outside of Italy (except, of course, the industrial kind) so I can’t really tell why our gelato seems to be different from the rest; but I found a post about that you may want to check out. It is mostly sold in gelaterie, served in edible cones or in cups, but you can also ask for a gelato-filled brioche, higher in calories but still a delightful option when you’re hungry. A new trend for creative gelato makers is the use of savoury ingredients in their creams: not only herbs and spices, but also meat and fish. I have to say, though, this is not something you can find in any gelateria, I personally haven’t seen it anywhere so far.
That’s it for now, but I’d like to hear from you! What’s a popular street food in your Country? I’m very interested in different culinary habits and traditions, so don’t be shy and feel free to comment!