Anyone who’s been to Italy knows that it’s a country full of delicious food. And you don’t have to sit down to be treated to some of the trendiest items out there. Enter street food. It’s cheap, authentic, and highly instagrammable. Not sure where to start your foodie quest? Use this guide to find the most iconic Italian street foods to ensure the best culinary exploration.
ARANCINI: Though arancini means “little oranges” in Italian, there’s nothing fruity about these amazing fried rice balls. Arancini are deep fried until they’re crispy on the outside but warm and creamy on the inside. Cheese and peas are the most common fillings, with minced chicken and beef sometimes added. Do yourself a favor and order a couple with a side of spicy arrabiata sauce. Want the most authentic arancini? Head to Sicily where they originated, all the way back to the 10th century.
OLIVE ALL’ ASCOLANA: It’s probably no surprise that olives would be on this list, but it’s not just the fruit you’re getting with this popular street food. Imagine olives stuffed with ground meat and parmesan that are lightly breaded and fried. Drooling yet? Your order will come in a paper cone or bag, piping hot straight from the street seller. Dive right in!
LAMPREDOTTO: Most loved by the locals, this dish may not sound particularly appetizing but it’s super flavorful. Ready for what’s inside? Lampredotto, the ultimate Florentine street food, consists of cow stomach cooked in a broth of tomato, onion, celery, and parsley. You can order it as is or choose to have it in sandwich form. It’s not for the faint of heart, but we’re confident you’re brave enough to try it.
PANI CA MEUSA: If we didn’t scare you off with the lampredotto, brace yourself for this one. Pani ca meusa is chopped veal spleen and lung steamed in lard, then stuffed into a sandwich. Again, it tastes way better than it sounds.
PORCHETTA ROMANA: If you’re still reading (nice job!), prepare to salivate. Porchetta is a juicy, savory boneless pork roast seasoned with salt and herbs and roasted on a spit. A great roast will be stuffed with garlic, rosemary, fennel, and other herbs. It’s served sliced and piled atop a crusty bread roll, making for one heck of a sandwich.
PIZZA AL TAGLIO You’ve been waiting to see pizza on this list, haven’t you? First, take everything you “know” about pizza and toss it out the window. Pizza al taglio, or, “pizza by the cut” is baked in large, rectangular trays and sold by weight. Savor your options, point to what you like, then ask for as much as your body can handle.
PANZEROTTI: While you’ve got pizza on the brain, listen up for this next one. Panzerotti closely resembles a smaller version of a calzone, or folded pizza. But guess what? It isn’t baked. It’s fried. You’re welcome. Traditionally, these pockets of pizza dough are packed with tomato sauce and mozzarella, but the ingredient list often includes ham, olives, and mushrooms.
PANELLE: What was once considered cucina povera (poor man’s food), is now a street food staple. You’ll be daydreaming about this fried chickpea polenta for years to come. It’s best eaten alone, but if you’re feeling fancy, make it a sandwich. Mmm, mmm.
POLPETTE: Spaghetti and meatballs? Forget about it. The polpette is really all you need. Look for these meatballs on the streets as well as in Venetian wine bars served as cicchetti. LINK HERE.
PESCE FRITTO AL CONO: The fried olives mentioned above aren’t the only deliciousness served in a cone. There isn’t much better than roaming the streets of Italy holding a cup of fresh, fried seafood. Is there? Don’t think so. You’ll get seafood fresh off the boat that is lightly battered and fried right before your eyes. Depending on the catch of the day, you may get a combination of fish, squid, or shrimp. Brighten it up with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
PIADINA: Both meat eaters and vegetarians alike will line up for this delicious dish. It’s essentially a flatbread made of flour, olive oil, salt, and water. You can get it served alone or stuffed with, basically anything, to create a wrap. Keep it simple and order it with tomatoes and mozzarella so you can taste the quality of each ingredient.
ARROSTICINI: Here we’ve come to one of the lesser known street foods, but certainly one of the most delicious. These long and thin skewers of lamb can only get tastier with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt. The meat is skewered and cooked on an elongated charcoal grill. The skewers rest on top of metal grills and hung directly over hot coals. For those who like a little heat, add some chile pepper flakes for a spicier take on this mouth watering street food.
GELATO: You’ve been waiting for something sweet, haven’t you? We’d be remiss if we didn’t include Italy’s most sought after dessert. Made from a creamy base of milk, cornstarch, and sugar, gelato is less creamy than ice cream but a lot more flavorful. Popular flavors include pistachio, stracciatella, and lemon.
ZEPPOLE: From bakeries to cafes to street fairs, you’ll find these deep-fried dough balls pretty much everywhere. While they are said to have originated in Naples and Rome, nowadays every city in Italy has put their own twist on zeppole. Depending on where you go, you’ll find zeppole filled with chocolate, jelly, custard, pastry cream, or even a honey butter mixture — but they’re always topped with powdered sugar. Make sure to eat them right out of the fryer!
CANNOLI: Last but not least, we had to include an easily recognized Italian street food, or, dessert. Please do us a favor and never, ever resist this tube-shaped pastry dough filled with ricotta cream. It’s worth every bite — especially the ones with topped with chocolate chips.