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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Italian Street Food

Food shopping in FirenzeImage by Nicoze via Flickr
By: Michele de Capitani

Italian gastronomic tradition does not only include restaurant dishes, or dishes that need a complex preparation and are to be eaten while sitting at a table, but also many kinds of street food, which are different in each region. Street food is very appreciated both by Italians, who like its traditional and intense flavour, its authenticity, its cheapness, and the possibility that it gives to eat quickly, and by those tourists that wish to discover every aspect of the places they are visiting, gastronomic culture included, and who prefer to shorten the time dedicated to eat in order to immerse themselves in visiting the city.

From north to south, all Italian regions offer different kinds of food, which are part of the local history and tradition, and which still survive, sometimes with some difficulties, in spite of the relentless advance of fast-foods and standardized food tasting the same in every part of the world. But if you are visiting Italy it is worthwhile to stop and have a snack in one of the kiosks or bars that sell traditional street food typical of the region you are visiting: besides having something tasty and cheap to eat, you can taste, in the true sense of the word, a piece of the local culture.

Imagining to plan a tour focused on Italian street food, we should add innumerable stops, and making a list of all the typical Italian snacks is not possible. If we start from the north, we may certainly stop in Liguria, and taste the famous focaccia Genovese (flat oven-baked bread from Genoa), which has been part of the history of the region since the 16th century. Nowadays you can find different versions of it, all excellent. In the north, but in the eastern part of Italy, a stop in Venice certainly has surprises in store for us: on the one hand it is more and more difficult to taste the fritolin (fried fish cones), on the other hand you can still stop in a bacaro (typical Venetian bar) and corner cicchetti (little snacks prepared with different ingredients, cold cuts, boiled eggs, pickles, anchovies) accompanying them with a glass of wine.

Going a little further south we find many kiosks offering piadine romagnole (Italian flatbread typical of Emilia-Romagna, a region which is also known for tigelle, gnocco fritto and many other fast dishes), while in Tuscany the street food par excellence is lampredotto (cattle stomach cooked with tomatoes, onion, parsley and celery and served as a sandwich filling). In Latium you must try the porchetta di Ariccia (pork slowly roasted with herbs and wild fennel) and suppl, balls of rice with tomato or meat sauce, while in Campania, notably in Naples, an important role is played by pizzas and focacce, like the parigina (flat oven-baked bread with ham and mozzarella). Our short gastronomic tour ends in Sicily, a region that has a lot to offer as far as street food is concerned: from arancini, fried rice balls filled with meat sauce, mozzarella and peas, to pani ca meusa, i.e. spleen sandwiches, Sicilian street food specialities are among the most appreciated and famous ones.

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