12 best street food one must try in Italy
Many people don’t associate Italy with street food, but they would be missing out on a country that offers regional specialties and unique eats. Fortunately for visitors, Italian vendors are masters at making quick and delicious food for next to nothing. From the port towns where fresh seafood is piled into paper cones to specialty fried olives stuffed with meat; here are 12 of the best street foods in Italy, and don’t you dare leave this country without trying at least five.
Pesce Fritto Al Cono
Is there anything better than wandering the streets of Italy, eating fresh seafood out of a paper cone? We didn’t think so. Many Italian port towns offer this awesome street food and visitors can enjoy this delicious treat while wandering the streets. When they say fresh seafood they mean fresh, the catch of the day is brought in from the fishing boats each morning and vendors buy directly from them. The seafood is then lightly battered and fried right in front of your eyes. Depending on the catch of the day you may be treated to a mixture of fish, shrimp or squid. Make sure to squeeze a little lemon on it for an extra kick and enjoy eating it with your hands or the spear provided.
These deep-fried balls of dough are literally everywhere in Italy, from bakeries to cafes to street fairs. They are said to have originated in Naples and Rome but nowadays every city and town has put their own unique twist on them. These mini beignets or donuts can be found filled with jelly, custard, pastry cream, and even a butter/honey mixture. They are usually topped with powdered sugar and range in consistency depending on where you get them. Although many people rush to the bakeries to get these delectable treats, they are often the best found from the food stalls that pop them right out of the fryer, into a paper bag and into your hands.
It may just be the simplest of all Italian street foods but don’t let that fool you, this food is both popular and delicious. Essentially parallel is just chickpea polenta that has been cut into thick slices and fried in olive oil. Called fritters, they are served with croquettes or piled high and served as a sandwich in between a bun. Many people choose to squeeze a little lemon on them or top them with a little pecorino romano. Often known as peasant’s food or food for the poor man, that doesn’t seem to keep tons of locals and visitors from lining up and ordering them at many street stalls.
The name means “little oranges” in Italian but don’t be surprised to find there is nothing fruity about these amazing rice balls. These golden deep-friend rice balls are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Started in Sicily in the 10th century, this snack is popular all over Italy and comes in a plethora of varieties. The most common filling is cheese and peas, sometimes with minced chicken or beef. The most common mistake tourists make is ordering just one of these rice balls so do yourself a favor and order at least 2 or 3, with a side of tangy arrabbiata sauce, for the perfect meal, straight from one of the stalls on the street. If you want the best you have to go to the original source and head to Sicily for true authentic arancini.
This Sicilian food specialty is mainly found on the streets of Palermo, and visitors here looking to try something unique should definitely have a go at this street food. It actually consists of intestines of a lamb, or sometimes a chicken that has been washed in water, seasoned with salt, skewered and grilled. The seasonings often include parsley, onion, and other pot herbs and many times the intestines are skewered around a leek. The good news about this particular street food is that it is indeed tastier than it sounds and we suggest heading to an outdoor market after a few bottles of wine and indulging in this weird but otherwise delicious street food.
It is the ultimate Florentine street food; cow stomach, cooked in a tasty broth of tomato, onion, celery, and parsley. It’s not visitors to the country that go nuts over this dish though, expect to line up behind lots of locals who swear by this delicious street food. Yes, we said delicious, although it doesn’t particularly sound appetizing, this dish is highly flavorful. You can get it as a standalone on a plate or choose to have it in sandwich form. If you do choose to have it in sandwich form, ask them to dip the bun in the cooking broth and top it with salsa verde for the ultimate Lampredotto!
Pani Ca Meusa
It is another unique food from the streets of Palermo, a sandwich known as a traditional Sicilian sandwich. It is in fact made up of chopped veal lung and spleen. In Palermo you will find them being hawked on every street corner, convincing you that they are in fact delicious. Strangely enough, if you can get past the fact that you are ingesting spleen and liver, these sandwiches are in fact quite tasty. The meat is tender, the grated caciocavallo cheese is amazing and the bread is both nutty and soft. Most people like to squeeze a little lemon on the sandwich for a little extra zest. Just imagine that you aren’t eating a lung and spleen and chances are you will find this sandwich delicious.
It is one of the few vegetarian-friendly options for street food in Italy, but we promise that meat eaters will be lining up to try this delicious dish as well. This dish is actually a specialty of Emilia-Romagna and cooked roadside on a terracotta plate. Nowadays most vendors use metal pans or griddles to cook it though. The dish is essentially a flatbread that is made of flour, olive oil, salt, and water. It can be served alone or stuffed with anything you like, essentially creating a wrap. Locals advise keeping it simple and ordering it with mozzarella and chicory for a healthy and cheap street food eat.
Fried custard, do we really need to say anymore? Crema Fritta is actually thick custard cream that has been breaded and then deep fried, turning it into one of the most delicious streets foods available in Italy. Diamond in shape, these goodies come straight out of the fryer and into a paper cone, so you can enjoy the delicious gooey treat while wandering the breathtaking streets of Italy. Warning; you won’t want just one of these amazing desserts.
Think hot pocket, but a million times better, and you get the basic idea of a panzerotti. This half moon shaped pastry is similar to a calzone but with lighter dough, and in our opinion even more delicious. A combination of cheese and tomatoes make up the filling of this street treat, which is then fried until crispy and flaky. Although you can find panzerotti’s in every restaurant, and pretty much in every country, nothing beats eating this off a napkin in the middle of the street. Look for the stall which has the longest line and head there. With a plethora of options for fillings, you will be devouring this cheesy parcel in no time.
These fried olives are a culinary signature in the Le March region, a region that lies between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea. Essentially the green olive is stuffed with spiced ground meat, lightly breaded and fried, sometimes even stuffed with parmesan. The green olives that make up this incredible tasting dish are actually only found in this region and therefore you will need to head here to try these. They can be found in wine bars but the best ones are often found in a paper cone or bag, straight from the street sellers. You will be hard pressed to find a snack this size that offers such great flavor and punch.
It is perhaps the street food that is most widely found across Italy, and it’s no wonder why people love it so much. This succulent, fatty, savory boneless pork roast is seasoned with salt and herbs and roasted on a spit until perfection. It is often stuffed with garlic, rosemary, fennel, and other herbs. You will find porchetta as street food in Rome and Lazio, or by pitchmen with their typically white-painted vans. The typical way porchetta is served is sliced and piled on a crusty roll, making for one savory sandwich. Insiders tip: make sure to ask them to “hold the liver”.