Savouring Italy’s street food

Adam Jones | 12/12/2018
frittura di pesce. Fried seafood. Street food in Italy.
Frittura di pesce

With its international image of tablecloths, candles, and hearty multi-course meals, Italy might not be the first place that pops into your head when you hear the words “street food.” If you stop and think about it for a moment though it makes sense — Italian street food has been going back for thousands of years.

Let’s start in Rome, since it’s one of the places in Italy you’ll most likely be exploring on any Italian culinary vacation. Street food in Rome is a varied affair, with a lot more options than you may first imagine. Make sure you add street food to your list of what to eat in Rome.

We’ll begin with one of Italy’s most famous exports — pizza al taglio. This is pizza by the slice, usually rectangular and sold by weight. The pizza is cooked in rectangular cast iron pans, then reheated when you buy. Roman pizza is crispy and focused on toppings. Make sure you try a capricciosa pizza, featuring: ham, tomato, mushrooms, olives, artichokes and an egg.

Much like Roman history and culture, street food is wide and varied. Take filetto di baccala as an example. Battered and deep-fried cod remains a popular on the move favourite enjoyed by young and old alike. You might also enjoy supplì, a deep-fried rice ball that is the Roman take on an arrancini. Served in a little paper cup this ball of fried rice, mozzarella, tomato sauce, and mincemeat is a delight and sure to hit the spot on a busy day exploring Rome.

The Eternal City doesn’t have a monopoly on street food, however. If you’re visiting Italy on a budget, you’ll want some tips on affordable street food in other notable Italian cities, such as Florence.

Street food in Florence is a bit more outside the box than what many folks are used to eating on the go. Florentine classics include trippa and lampredotto, both of which are made from offal, a.k.a. organ meats. Trippa is tripe, the edible part of a cow’s stomach. Lampredotto is a more local specialty: the fourth stomach of a cow, braised for hours with onion, parsley, tomato and celery. Cooked slow and low lampredotto ends up with the soft consistency of lovely roast beef. Both delicacies are usually served as a sandwich, on a crispy bun with a bit of the broth and some green or spicy sauce, depending on your taste.

Last, but not least — street food in Venice. Almost completely surrounded by water, Italy is a maritime culture, but no city more so than Venice. This is reflected in popular street food of the area such as frittura di pesce. This paper cone will only set you back a few Euros and is usually filled with a variety of different fried seafood. It may contain calamari, prawns and latterini (a small white fish cooked and eaten whole).

Italian street food is a cornucopia of variety and seasonality; we’d encourage you to ask the locals for their favorites as you travel around the country. Buon appetito!