Street Food in Italy: 20 Famous Dishes

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When it comes to food, Italy is indisputably one of the European countries which is renowned for its delectable cuisine and so it is no surprise that the country is famous for a wide variety of delicious street food, be it sweet or savoury, that you can devour while you are out exploring. You can find both vegetarian and well as non-vegetarian options, alongside some tasty beverages, being sold at street-side vendors or even at bistros. Furthermore, while some of these can easily be found anywhere throughout the country, some are delicacies specific to certain regions that you simply must have if you visit them! Here is a list of 20 street foods for you to try out on your trip to Italy.  

1. Sfogliatelle

Sfogliatelle or sfogliatella riccia originated in the Campania region of Naples and is a shell-shaped pastry that looks like clams or even like stacked leaves. It is prepared by flattening dough, brushing it with fat, rolling it multiple times and then cutting it into disks from the end so as to form pockets. These are then usually filled with ricotta cheese as well as candied peel of citron and almond paste and finally baked till the layers separate. You might even find another version of it called sfogliatella frolla which is made with shortcrust dough and does not have layers. The cheese inside pairs well with the sweet dough. 

2. Cannoli

One of the most popular street foods in Italy and a real treat if you have a sweet truth, cannolis are tube-shaped pastries from Sicily that are made by deep frying dough. Also known as cannoli siciliani, they are filled with sweet ricotta cream cheese or chocolate and are usually about 9 to 20 centimetres long. Powdered sugar is often sprinkled on top. 

3. Arancini

Basically stuffed Italian rice balls, Arancini primarily originated in Sicily but is a famous street food found all around Italy. They literally translate to “little oranges” but contain no fruit whatsoever. In fact, they are made with stuffing like al ragù (minced meat) ou al burro along with caciocavallo or mozzarella cheese and peas. They are often served with arrabbiata sauce.

4. Gnocco Fritto

Gnocco Fritto
Commonly had for breakfast around Modena and Bologna, Gnocco Fritto is a kind of Italian pastry that is also called crescentina, piadina fritta and torta fritta. The dough is made out of flour, salt, lard and a leavening agent; it is traditionally shaped like small rectangles and is fried till it comes out looking like a tiny pillow! The centre is hollow and can be filled with sliced or cured meat and cheese. You can have it with a frothy cappuccino that you can also dip it in. 

5. Arrosticini

Arrosticini originated in the Abruzzo and Molise regions of Italy and is a well-known meat dish that shepherds mainly consumed. It is basically skewers made with lamb, sheep, or even goat meat which is grilled on a charcoal fire called fornacella. Once cooked, the meat is cut tenderly and mixed with chunks of fat to be more succulent. You can buy Arrosticini from one of the many street stands in their regions or get it at a restaurant in Italy. 

6. Piadina Romagnola

Piadina Romagnola
The Piadina Romagnola, originally from Rimini where it was consumed by the poor, is a kind of Italian flatbread that is had as a sandwich. Maize flour is mostly used to make the bread which is then filled with items like tomatoes, prosciutto, creamy soft cheese such as squacquerone and wild arugula. Prepared on a griddle, it is best had hot. 

7. Porchetta

A delectable boneless pork roast that you must try when in Italy, Porchetta is a popular Italian street food that is originally from Rome and Ariccia. An entire boneless carcass is mainly stuffed with garlic, rosemary, fennel, salt and pepper and is spit roasted over wood for about 8 hours. Some versions might also include liver stuffing or none at all. It is then thinly sliced and served with bread, making for a juicy and tender pork sandwich. 

8. Cioccolata Calda

Cioccolata Calda
If you are visiting Italy in the wintertime and love beverages, then you must find yourself some delicious Cioccolata calda. It is Italian-style hot chocolate that is thick and creamy and often topped off with some whipped cream too. This beverage is nothing short of a comfort drink in the cold weather!

9. Scaccia

Scaccia is a kind of Italian stuffed flatbread that is typical of the Sicilian cuisine. This dish is prepared using very thin rectangle-shaped dough that is folded on itself a couple of times. It contains various kinds of stuffing like sauce, onion, ricotta cheese, tomato, eggplant, herbs etc. and is baked. You can have it hot or cold. 

10. Zeppole

Originally from Naples, Zeppole is a famous Italian pastry that every dessert-lover must try out. It is a deep-fried ball of dough, like a fritter, filled with jelly, custard, cannoli-style pastry cream, chocolate, or a mixture of butter and honey. The ball is then sprinkled with powdered sugar. Zeppole is popularly eaten to celebrate Saint Joseph’s Day.  

11. Suppli

Must-try street food originating in Rome, suppli or supplì al telefono are breaded deep-fried rice croquettes. They comprise rice that is pre-simmered in a tomato-based meat sauce as well as mozzarella. Sometimes ground beef might also be added.

12. Lampredotto

If you’re up for trying something new and unique, make sure to get yourself a lampredotto, a delicacy from Florence which is essentially the fourth and last stomach of a cow. It is boiled in a yummy broth comprising tomatoes, celery and onions and is usually served as panini di lampredotto. This is a sandwich made using bread rolls filled with sliced lampredotto along with some Italian salsa verde. 

13. Panzerotti

A renowned carnaval snack originally from Puglia, panzerotti or calzoni fritti is well-loved across south Italy. It is made using crescent-shaped pastry stuffed with various fillings, of which mozzarella and tomatoes are the classics. Some of the other combinations include onion, olives and tomatoes, spinach and ricotta, zucchini and mozzarella, prosciutto and mozzarella, etc. Moreover, you might come across sweet variations comprising ricotta, custard cream, or chocolate paired with pears, strawberries, peaches, plums, apples, and more. 

14. Olive Ascolana

Olive Ascolana
Olive Ascolana or Olive all'ascolana is a well-known appetiser from the Ascoli Piceno region of Le Marche and dates back to the 1800s. This dish is prepared by cutting green olives (Ascolano) away from their pits such that they can be shaped around a ball of meat, be it chicken, beef or veal, or pork. The meat is ground up, stewed in white wine, and mixed with some cheese after being sauteed with soffritto, a mix of diced vegetables. The olives are finally rolled in egg and breadcrumbs to be fried. You can have it with aperitifs, lamb chops, or white wine. 

15. Sfincione

A Sicilian dish, sfincione is a kind of flatbread or pizza that originated around Palermo and is commonly served on New Year’s and during the feast of San Giovanni. This dish is made using flatbread with a dense and fluffy crust that is topped off with an oregano-flavored tomato sauce consisting of anchovies, onions, breadcrumbs, and local cheese like ricotta, caciocavallo or tuma.  

16. Cuoppo Napoletano

The Cuoppo Napoletano is the perfect street food for you to have if you’re looking for something to munch on while out and about. It is basically a paper cone, called the cuoppo, that is filled with different kinds of deep-fried snacks such as dough balls, potato croquettes, small pieces of mozzarella, and even fried meat and seafood. Numerous vendors on the streets of Campania sell Cuoppo Napoletano. 

17. Gelato Brioche

Gelato Brioche
Also called brioche con gelato, gelato brioche is a traditional Italian dessert from Sicily that resembles a sandwich. It comprises a soft and buttery brioche bun that is stuffed with a generous amount of gelato. Some popular flavors are hazelnut, pistachio, cannoli, stracciatella, and tiramisu. Some versions also include chopped nuts and some powdered sugar for extra flavor. You would find it is often had for breakfast in Sicily, especially during the hot summer months!

18. Focaccia

Focaccia is a well-known Italian flat-leavened oven-baked bread that is said to have originated in the country’s Ligurian region and is somewhat similar to a pizza. The main ingredients to make focaccia include flour, salt, yeast, olive oil, and water. 

19. Sgagliozze

Sgagliozze, which is often referred to as fried polenta, is most commonly served after the St. Nicholas Cathedral mass at the square in Bari. It is a winter street food in the area and is basically a rectangular or square shaped polenta made using cornmeal flour, oil, water, and salt for seasoning. If you want to feel like a local, grab yourself some hot sgagliozze and walk around the streets of Bari!

20. Granita

Also known as granita siciliana, granita is a semi-frozen dessert that is originally from coastal Messina in Sicily and dates back over 4,000 years. It is made with water, sugar and fruit flavouring and is an excellent choice for vegans since it does not contain any milk products. Although it is available throughout the country, its texture varies from place to place owing to the freezing techniques; it can either be smoother with a more crystalline texture or can be coarser. Some of the popular flavours include jasmine, mint, coffee, lemon juice, almonds, mandarin orange, black mulberries etc. Moreover, you can have it with coffee, almonds or even with brioche. 

Italy is every foodie’s dream, and if you love to eat, you’ll find plenty here that will appeal to your taste buds. Almost everywhere you go, you’ll find street-side carts or vendors selling mouth-watering snacks, both sweet and savoury, that will not only keep your stomach full while you are out and about but will also give you a good idea of the country’s diverse cuisine since these street foods, although readily available nearly everywhere, come from all parts of Italy.

This post was published by Arushi Bhowmick

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