When it comes to street food, Italian might not be the first kind of cuisine that comes to mind. However, the Italian culture is rife with a wide assortment of delicious street foods designed to tantalize your taste buds!
The great thing about Italian food is that it tends to have a homely feel, and thankfully the street food is no different. Maybe even more so than eating in a restaurant.
With this in mind, we are going to be taking a look at some of the tastiest street foods to have come from Italy that are sure to get your appetite rising! Let’s get started.
A humble dish that originated from Naples, this traditional Italian street food will be served in a paper cone and contains a variety of deep-fried delicacies. A standard Cuoppo can include the following:
- Mini Panzerotti: Stuffed dough pockets
- Potato Croquettes
- Fried Seafood
There are also meat-based takes on the Cuoppo Napoletano too, making this a particularly versatile Italian street food dish.
This savory, fried turnover has a striking resemblance to a calzone due to their shape, though there is a specific difference between the two Italian dishes.
Whilst calzones are oven-baked pastries, panzerotties are fried turnovers. Panzerotti originated in Puglia, and they are usually stuffed with food such as cheese, tomato, ham, pesto, or combinations of these ingredients.
An ancient street food dish, Trapizzino has its origins in Rome and is a simple combination of white pizza (which is essentially just plain, cooked pizza dough) that is stuffed with some delicious fillings, such as chicken and peppers.
This Sicilian dish is an infamous one when it comes to Italian street food. Arancini are decadent rice balls which are then stuffed before they are coated with bread crumbs and deep-fried.
There are various fillings that arancini can be stuffed with, but some of the most common include mozzarella cheese, caciocavallo cheese, peas and ham with cheese or ragù.
There is no denying that deep-frying might not be the healthiest option when it comes to snacks, but it is certainly a delicious one, and arancini is a prime example of that!
It’s hard to think of Italian food in general without immediately thinking of the famous, frozen dessert treat that is gelato! Gelato is known for being in the same family as ice cream, but it has its differences.
Artisanal Italian gelato tends to be low in butterfat- containing around six to ten percent butterfat- in comparison to other frozen desserts.
As well as that, gelato also has around 70% less air- due to a slow churning process- which offers a rich density that ice cream doesn’t tend to have.
There is also the added benefit of gelato having a lot more flavoring than other desserts, meaning that even if you aren’t a fan of standard frozen treat flavors, you are more likely to find something to your tastes with the variety of flavors that are possible with gelato.
Pizza al Taglio
It would definitely be a crime to talk about anything to do with Italian food and not mention pizza. Street food in Italy has its fair share of options when it comes to pizza, but Pizza al Taglio is one of the most well known and popular.
The name translates very literally to “pizza by the cut” or “by the slice”. These are basically just rectangular slices of pizza that are cut out and wrapped up for the consumer to snack on as they walk.
As you are sure to know, there are no limits to the kinds of toppings that you can have on pizza, but some of the most common that you will find on Pizza al Taglio include plain sauce with cheese and basil (the infamous Margherita), tomato sauce alone (Pizza Rossa), garlic, rosemary and olive oil (Pizza Bianca) or other toppings such as ground meat, onions, potatoes, prosciutto, sausage, olives, salami, artichokes, asparagus and much more!
Many now make their own pizza at home for even more healthy and delicious variations.
Sandwiches are a popular snack across the world, but the Italian street food take on the sandwich is known as Tramezzino. But what makes the Tramezzino unique from your run-of-the-mill sandwich?
Well, it tends to be made with a chewy and crustless white bread and is known for its triangular shape. Some of the most popular fillings of this street food snack include prosciutto, tuna and olives.
Meat lovers, it is time for you to rejoice at this next choice of street food. Porchetta Romana is a simple yet delicious street food choice, referring to stuffed pork that has been slow cooked on a spit and stuffed with herbs, rosemary and garlic.
If it is being served as street food, you are likely to see it being sliced to perfection before it is placed between some slices of grilled bread and served as a sandwich of sorts. However you choose to eat it, Porchetta Romana is sure to satiate the tastes of meat enthusiasts.
Olives are another staple of Italian cuisine, so it is no surprise that there is a street food variation of them. Olive all’Ascolana are olives that have been breaded, fried and then stuffed with meat.
For a bit of an extra kick, there is also a version of this snack that incorporates spicy ground meat.
Lampredotto- originating in Florence and known as a “classic Florentine sandwich”- is not a snack for the squeamish or for the faint of heart, but if you are willing to give it a try, it is a seriously tasty treat.
This Italian comfort food is made from the fourth stomach of cow, also known as the abomasum. Don’t let that put you off, though!
The stomach is cooked in tomato broth, seasoned with herbs, topped off with a choice of either salsa verde or spicy sauce and served in a particular bun known as a panino con lampredotto. A slightly different take on street food, this sandwich is definitely worth a try if you are willing to give cows stomach a go!
Similar to the Sicilian Arancini, the Suppli is a breaded and deep-fried rice croquette. However, this variation of the recipe originated in Rome.
These deep-fried delicacies are a little different from arancini in that they are usually filled with mozzarella, whilst the rice that is used to create the Suppli balls are pre-simmered in a meat sauce with a tomato base.
We’re heading back into dessert territory with this item on the Italian street food menu. Cannoli are another hugely popular dessert all over the world that has its origins in Palermo, Sicily.
They consist of a crispy pastry dough which is shaped into a tube before it is fried. Cannoli are known for their creamy filling consisting of a sweet ricotta cheese, but this is sometimes mixed up with other ingredients such as chocolate chips.
Traditional Sicilian Cannoli tends to be finished off by dipping each end of the dessert into toppings of some kind, such as pistachios, before being topped with candied fruits like cherries or oranges.
Whilst we are on the topic of dessert, the Naples based pastry that is Sfogliatella Riccia is known for its crunchy, thin layers that offer a unique texture that somehow manages to be both spongy and crispy at the same time!
The filling of these sweet treats tend to be made with ingredients such as wheat semolina, nuts, sugar and limoncello before being topped off with powdered sugar.
This is a must-have for street food fans who are looking for some Italian street food that is a little bit sweeter.
A traditional, Sicilian focaccia bread, Sfincione is a popular street food in Palermo, Sicily, thanks to its simple yet delicious nature.
The focaccia bread from which the Sfincione is made is flavored with an oregano flavored tomato sauce, though there are certain additions that can be included, such as anchovies and onions.
The bread is topped with breadcrumbs and cheeses that are local to Palermo, such as tuma, ricotta, or provolone.
Originating in the Emilia- Romagna district, Piadina Romagnola is a griddled flatbread that tends to be eaten as a sandwich when it is served as street food. Popular fillings for the flatbread treat include soft, creamy cheeses, prosciutto or tomatoes.
This snack was once considered a meal for the poor, as it was made with maize flour, which was a cheap and readily available ingredient that even those in poverty could often get their hands on.
Despite these humble beginnings, Piadina Romagnola has definitely become a staple in regional Italian cuisine as well as a popular street food choice.
Moving back to street food that works excellently for those with a sweet tooth, we have the delicious Crema Fritta. Another deep-fried treat, Crema Fritta consists of deep-fried custard cream with a gooey, soft inside and a crispy exterior.
When eaten as street food, they tend to be loaded into a paper cone so that you can nibble on them as you wander. Crema Fritta works excellently with toppings such as cream and honey, if you are looking to make it just that little bit sweeter.
Can’t get enough of these deep-fried Italian dessert treats? Then look no further than these gorgeous Zeppole, which are another simple yet delicious option when it comes to the sweeter side of Italian street food.
Zeppole are simply crispy dough balls that technically could be classed as part of the doughnut family. They tend to have fillings that are similar to doughnuts, such as jelly, cream, custard or chocolate.
They also have a similarity to certain doughnuts in that they are dusted with sugar before they are served.
Much like pizza, it is hard to think of Italian cuisine without thinking of pasta dishes. One of the most famous Italian pasta dishes is spaghetti and meatballs, and whilst this next street food dish doesn’t include spaghetti, it does offer a unique twist on the meatballs of that particular dish.
Polpette are meatballs that can be made with a wide range of meat, such as beef, pork, chicken, or fish. There are even vegetarian takes on them that substitute the meat for veggies such as eggplant, zucchini or artichokes.
The Polpette can be served in line with more classical styles, but the street food iteration sometimes involves breading and deep-frying them to create the perfect finger food.
Another street food treat that is one for the meat lovers out there, Arrosticini- originating from Abruzzo in Italy- are meat skewers that are made with a kind of meat known as castrato, referring to the meat that comes from castrated mutton or sheep (or sometimes even castrated lambs).
This meat tends to be grilled in a specific way, that being on a charcoal-fired, elongated brazier known as a fornacella. This is another highly popular Italian dish with humble beginnings, starting out as a meal synonymous with shepherds that lived in the remote, mountainous areas of Abuzzo.
The arrosticini could be made easily by the shepherds from any leftover sheep meat they had on hand. The dish evolved over the years and made its way to the street food scene by using particularly tender meat cuts. These cuts will feature chunks of ovine fat that add to the succulence and sophistication of the dish.
So, there you have a comprehensive guide to some of the most delectable and delicious Italian street foods! Whether you prefer the savory or the sweet, there is no doubt that Italian street cuisine has something for everyone.
Hopefully, you have been able to find something here that has made your mouth water enough to consider giving Italian street food a try.