Pani ca’meusa or with lampredotto, folpi, piadine, fried stuffed olives Ascolana style or fried pizza. Italy has a wealth of street foods which offer great quality and taste, while being affordable and sustainable. There is nothing better than stopping off at a stand to eat a traditional dish for just a few euros. Slow Food proposes an enticing tour of Italian street food in true “slow” style.
Tigelle and piadine in Romagna
The piadina is the king of street food in Romagna, a symbol of this area and bulwark of an-cient traditions which tell of fast-working expert piadaiole (women who made piadine) pre-paring the dough at home every day. Nowadays piadine are sold from stands throughout the region and they may be eaten with culatello cured ham (the culatello di Zibello is part of the Slow Food Presidium), salami (such as mariola), mortadella and any type of cheese, although piadina is traditionally served with squacquerone, a fresh and creamy soft cows’ milk cheese which is typical of the region. Piadina can also be eaten in a sweet version, with chocolate spreads or jam. Stands and stalls in Romagna also sell tigelle, little round flatbreads filled with everything you can fit in, and crescioni, (similar to a stuffed folded-over piadina) , traditionally served with foraged greens and herbs and potatoes, but nowadays also with sa-lami and local cheeses.
In Florence, excellent meat creates excellent offal
Panini with lampredotto, a local specialty of abomasum beef tripe including the reticulum and the rumen, or poppa e matrice (cow’s udder and womb), with tongue, cheek, veal calf leg, veal cartilage, calf testicles, tripe in tomato sauce or served with green sauce, lampredotto in zimino (in a tomato, spinach, onion and garlic sauce), braised cheek, tripe salad, udder and tongue. The long list shows clearly that Florentine cuisine makes the most of all those parts of meat that are normally discarded but are the main ingredients of a number of other traditional Tuscan dishes, such as the biroldo della Garfagnana, made from pig’s head, heart and tongue, with nothing going to waste, in perfect keeping with the Slow Food style! Alt-hough these cuts are not commonly held in great esteem, Florence’s street food will have you eagerly anticipating it before you even taste it. The meat is normally cooked in large sauce-pans and when the lid is lifted, forgotten aromas stimulate your appetite and overcome the reluctance of even the fussiest eaters. Moreover, Tuscany is renowned for its high quality cattle breeds such as the Maremmana, the Garfagnina cow and the Calvana.
From the stalls to the streets: olives Ascolana style
From the Marches region, here is street food loved by adults and children alike: Ascolana style fried stuffed olives. Originally, the pitted olives were stuffed with herbs, but by the 18th Century people started to use meat as a filling, as done today. The stuffing is made of minced beef, pork and chicken browned with chopped celery, carrot and onions. The olives are then coated in flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs and then deep fried. The ingredients and the recipe are rich and rather complicated, and indeed it is thought that the dish has middle class origins rather than from among the poorer classes, as is the case for much of the other types street food. Despite this, Ascolana style olives enjoy the status of street food for all intents and purposes. The olives traditionally used are those from the tender Ascoli cultivar, which is protected by a producers’ consortium and registered PDO status: to use any other, maybe cheaper variety of olive, is an insult to the quality of these little balls of deliciousness!
Arrosticini, or rustelle, at the foot of the Gran Sasso mountain
Just saying their name whets one’s appetite … arrosticini, the local specialty of Abruzzi lamb kebabs are sold everywhere ,and they are delicious, very cheap and therefore even more tempting. They are also known as rustelle, and are a specialty of the area on the eastern foot-hills of the Gran Sasso, but are also found throughout the region. The high quality meat from local lamb breeds such as the Sopravvisana, is cut into very small pieces, stacked onto wood-en skewers and grilled over charcoal in a long metal trough locally known as a furnacella. They are eaten with bread, oil and pork products such as the salsicciotto frenato (a kind of sa-lami).
Naples. The undisputed home of fried food.
Naples is, first of all, pizza. The dough has to be left to rise slowly, and becomes soft, sweet-smelling and delicious. But street food has a host of other interesting dishes which require frying at some point, almost as a rule: pasta fritters, fried pizza, cuoppo of fried fish, panza-rotti (fried savory pasties)… In the narrow streets of the Spanish Quartier they also serve per e muss (foot and head), also known as musso ‘e puorco or musso d’ ‘o puorco (pig’s head) although the only part of the pig used is the foot, the head is veal. These cheap variety meats are boiled, cooled, chopped into small pieces and served cold, seasoned with salt and lemon juice. Fennel, lupin beans, olives and chili pepper are sometimes added.
In Apulia bombette di capocollo, puccia salentina, and focaccia barese
If you didn’t come here to eat, what did you come for? Going to Apulia means eating well and, unless you are a real stoic, eating a lot. Even if you don’t go looking for it, good Apu-lian cuisine will find you, as it is not unusual to come across food trucks and stands serving the main regional street food: bombette di capocollo (such as that from Martina Franca), puc-cia salentina, focaccia barese, pasticciotti, rustici… But you haven’t truly visited Apulia if you haven’t sampled its panzerotti, deep-fried half-moon shapes of dough stuffed with toma-to and mozzarella. The ingredients are few and simple, which makes their quality fundamen-tal. The difference could be made by using Regina tomatoes from Torre Canne or Fiaschetto from Torre Guaceto, both Slow Food Presidia.
Palermo has an unparalleled range
Last but not least, Sicily. If we had to identify a birthplace for Italian street food, it would in all probability be Palermo. The variety of foods on offer is unrivaled (and indeed an app has been developed to help newcomers find their way around them!): in the markets of Ballarò, Vucciria and Borgo you can still come across buffittieri, the traditional street hawkers who will let you taste their special arancine, panelle (fried chick-pea polenta squares), cicireddu (fried small fry), boiled octopus, pani ca’meusa (bread rolls with veal spleen, lung or trachea fried in lard), cazzilli (potato croquettes), sfincione – a thick, soft pizza topped with tomato, onion and anchovies, but also caciocavallo cheese such as that from Cinisara cows’ milk, stigghiola (grilled lamb, chicken and kid entrails) and lots more besides.