Remember the time when you just had to say, “Mom, I’m hungry!” and your mother would instantly fix a quick snack for you, mostly out of leftovers from the previous meal or with a couple of random food items available in her kitchen? All she had to do was wave her magic wand (umm, a knife, whisk or spatula to be more precise!) and out came a delicious treat!
Times have changed, but the little child in us still craves a tasty treat every now and then. Perhaps that is why on our way back from work we often stop at a food cart or while treating our kids with gelato, we order one for ourselves too (and then spend hours in the gym burning off the calories!). Hunger is one thing and a little indulgence quite another. Street food successfully unites these two experiences and provides the ultimate satisfaction. That is the reason why it is slowly becoming the hottest food trend!
Italian Street Food – As Diverse As the Country Itself
Globalization and urban development has brought age-old culinary traditions and secret recipes out of little kitchens and made them available to the masses to relish – anytime, anywhere. As Italians, we feel very happy (and extremely proud) to see Italian street food being enjoyed by people around the world. In Italy too, where at-home cooking is still quite popular, the street food concept is catching up at an incredible rate. Young, old, foodies or health freaks – there is something for everyone to enjoy!
If you thought that the only Italian thing that came in a cone was a gelato, you’ve clearly never eaten a Pesce Fritto Al Cono (Fresh, fried seafood in a cone)! And no, you would not find this dish on a typical restaurant menu. Nor a pastry cream-filled Zeppole – a specialty of Naples or a Stigghiola – the Sicilian version of a shish-kebab or a Panzerrotti, fresh out of the fryer, or a Porchetta – the most popular Italian street food sold on trucks mainly in Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio!
Truth is street food in Italy is as diverse and culturally rich as our country itself. Every region has its own street food specialty, which is linked to the region’s history and culture and made from fresh, local ingredients. For example, Liguria is famous for its fragrant Focaccia bread while Romagna is known for its Piadina, Venice for its Fritolin (fried fish served in paper cones) and Naples for its Timpani, Tempura and Octopus soup. The authentic flavors you can enjoy by eating food bought from a small kiosks cannot be found in the most popular restaurants in the cities, where the stress is more on presentation and frills rather than on bona fide taste.
These tasty tidbits, along with dozens of others, help to keep rustic Italian recipes alive and popular in a modern world. One visit to the Festival Internazionale de Cibo di Strada, held in October every year in the historic center of Cesena will acquaint you with hundreds of varieties of street food from all over Italy but not only! If you mumble a bit of Italian, please have a look at Streetfood – il vero cibo di strada italiano.
From the Streets to the High Street!
Tired of cooking everyday? Bored of restaurants with fixed ‘overpriced’ menus? – Street food is the answer to all kinds of needs! You need not sit in a Michelin-star restaurant to enjoy a good bite. Just step out of the house and you’ll be spoilt for choices!
In ancient Italy eating out ‘in the streets’ might have been associated with the ‘lower classes’, but not any more. In fact, street food has become a significant component of the urban food culture and way of life. Italians are curious to enjoy new culinary experiences, not only from their own country but also from around the world.
With a vast variety of options available ‘anytime – everywhere’ and at a much affordable price, the strong Italian street food trend is here to stay. With their fresh ingredients, ‘out-of-the-box’ flavors and competitive pricing, such food items not only provide a point of differentiation but are also very well positioned in the cut-throat Italian foodservice industry.
This is a reason why numerous reputed Italian fast-casual restaurant brands are now introducing street food on their menus. So you can now enjoy a wrap (that tastes the same as the one made by your corner street vendor) in a more refined environment. Moreover, yes, you need to pay more, because… well, you are sitting in a sophisticated restaurant!
Philosophically speaking, street food entering mainstream Italian foodservice industry, or shall we say, high street restaurants, eliminates the age-old class divide between rich and poor dining. However, do people enjoy a €10 bread roll in an air conditioned restaurant or would much rather munch a €2 wrap on the streets, with free extra sauce available on request – let’s leave that to your personal choice!
In the meantime, if you are on the lookout for someone who can help you develop your street food concept in Italy, Europe or anywhere else in the world, we at DESITA would love to brainstorming with you over some delicious bites during an aperitive. Spritz?