Posted by on 15 Mar 2023
Italy’s unparalleled beauty goes beyond its scenic landscapes and Renaissance art and architecture. Some visitors go to Italy for the art and culture, others return for the food.
Italian cuisine is culturally distinct and regionally diverse, characterised by bold flavours and fresh, quality ingredients from across the Mediterranean. From an assortment of pasta dishes to flavorful delicacies and gourmet specialties, you’ll never run out of delicious food choices in the country.
If you want to experience more authentic Italian dishes, we recommend trying Italian street food on your next visit.
10 Famous Street Food in Italy for Your Gastronomic Tour
Whether you’re looking for a good restaurant or just taking a stroll in the laid-back streets of Italy, you can find delicious street food along the way.
Panzerotti is a soft dough dish that resembles small calzones and empanadas. It's a pillowy dough pocket that is stuffed with ingredients commonly found in an Italian home–cheese, tomatoes, vegetables and/or meat sauce before it is deep-fried to golden-brown perfection.
The ingredients are usually influenced by regional produce, especially in the choice of cheese stuffing.
Gradually, the savoury, fried hand pie had evolved into some sweet variations as well. Sweet panzerotti are dessert versions turned into carnival treats and are usually stuffed with fruit jams, chocolate cream or a chestnut filling dusted with confectioner's sugar.
Panelle is possibly the simplest but one of the most flavorful Italian street food on the list. This dish consists of chickpea polenta cut into thick slices and fried in olive oil. These delectable and crunchy fritters are prepared like a sandwich or served alone with croquettes.
Panelle was originally introduced to Sicily by the Arabs between the 9th and 11th centuries. Chickpea fritters are drizzled with lemon juice and often served and enjoyed warm. These are put inside a bun topped with sesame seeds and fresh ricotta cheese.
Next is a Sicilian dish known as Arancini, or golden, deep-fried rice balls. Its name is the Italian word for “orange” since it looks like small oranges filled with cheese, meat sauce and peas.
These warm and delicious rice balls are rolled and coated in breadcrumbs before getting deep-fried to golden brown perfection. You can find carts selling these delectable treats during the festival in Santa Lucia, Palermo, every 13th of December.
This traditional cheese dish originated in Carnia, Italy, in the 15th century. Typically served as a single dish, Frico is an omelette cooked in a pan with onions, potatoes and butter. It is stuffed with Montasio cheese, a specialty cheese made from cow’s milk.
You can get friabile or morbido Fricos during your stay in Italy. Fricos are crunchy and fried in olive oil, while the morbidos are softer and can either be baked or fried. This Italian street food is best served hot with melted and gooey cheese.
Piada or Piadina Romagnola
Similar to Panelle, Piadina or Le piadine is typically enjoyed as a sandwich. This vegetarian-friendly Italian street food uses flatbread as its base and is stuffed with creamy soft squacquerone cheese and prosciutto or thinly-sliced Italian ham.
Back in the 19th century, Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli called Piadina the bread of poverty because it was a staple food of the poor. Le piadine are now freshly served at piadineria or street kiosks around Italy. These are best eaten just minutes after being pulled out of the cast-iron skillet to taste the soft melted cheese.
Polenta is an ancient dish in Northern Italy, commonly made from coarse corn flour. Contrary to its intense yellow colour nowadays, Polenta used to be darker when Romans first prepared it in the 16th century.
The ingredients of the traditional Polenta include spelt rye and buckwheat. Modern dishes now use corn flour cooked in water, often prepared as an alternative to bread and pasta. It can be served with mushrooms and tomatoes alongside fish and meat.
While Italy is famous for its ice cream known as gelato, other Italian delicacies are quite similar to it but also offer a unique taste. Crema Fritta, or fried custard, is a classic street food popularised in the Veneto region.
Crema Fritta is filled with breaded and deep-fried thick custard cream and comes in different flavours, such as vanilla and lemon. You can enjoy it lukewarm or well-chilled alongside a glass of vino.
Pani Ca Meusa
Another staple street food in Palermo, Italy, is the Pani Ca Meusa. This simple sandwich consists of strips of fried spleen or lugs from a calf. While it may sound appetising, Pani Ca Meusa is a traditional Italian street food that dates all the way back to the 15th century.
This local favourite comes with meat stuffed inside a soft vastedda bun. It is then topped with a squeeze of lemon juice and shredded caciocavallo cheese.
Porchetta is also an Italian street food favourite that eventually made its way to restaurants as a dish for special occasions.
This festive dish from the central region of Ariccia is made from a large strip of pork belly that’s rolled over on itself. It is first stuffed with liver spread, salt, garlic, rosemary, fennel seeds and other aromatics and spices.
The meat is then rolled up and tied before getting roasted over a wood fire. You can enjoy this around the streets of Italy with a serving of bread.
Your Italy holiday won’t be complete without having a cannoli. These crispy fried pastry tubes are oozing with rich, decadent ricotta cheese cream and chocolate. It’s also sprinkled with powdered sugar on top.
Taste the Most Delectable Street Food in Italy
There’s more to Italy than just pizza, pasta and gelato. With this list of delicious Italian street food in mind, you can look forward to a satisfying gastronomic escapade. Book holiday getaway packages or visit our website to learn more.