When the first international burger joints opened in Italy, there was a protest. People stood on Rome’s Spanish Steps and handed out free bowls of spaghetti. This opposition to fast food became known as the Slow Food movement.
But there is no shortage of quality fast food in Italy. It’s just that Italians do fast food differently than Americans. The aim is to make a meal more portable, without skimping on ingredients. Traditional street food, or cibo di strada, shows that fast and affordable can be delicious.
Here are popular versions of Italian fast food that will satisfy any junk food craving and hit the spot when you don’t have the time or appetite for a three-course meal.
1. Pizza al taglio
While pizza tonda, or round pizza, is more recognizable in restaurants, pizza al taglio is a quick lunch staple. Al taglio means “by the cut.” this flat, elongated rectangle of a pizza is massive. To order, the pizza seller holds a knife over the pizza, and you indicate how much should be cut off. Your custom-sized slice is then weighed to determine your price. This means that more toppings will cost you in the end, but the sky’s the limit in flavor combinations.
The slice can be folded over and wrapped in paper to eat on the go. And if you want home delivery? Well then you order by the meter!
2. Pizza Bianca
While the same size and shape of other types of pizza al taglio, pizza bianca is in a category of its own. This “white pizza” is toppings-less. The pizza dough is covered with olive oil and salt. The result is an irresistible snack that has just the right amount of chewiness and fluff.
To turn this snack into lunch, a large square of pizza bianca is cut in two, and stuffed with mortadella (a boloney-like Italian deli meat), to create a type of panino made with pizza instead of bread!
3. Supplí and arancini
Crispy on the outside and filled with cheesy gooey goodness, these fried rice balls are the ultimate comfort food. Stuffed with rice, tomato sauce, and mozzarella and then covered in breadcrumbs, these fried goodies differ more in shape than in flavor. Supplí hail from Rome and are oblong in shape, while Sicilian arancini are more conical and usually slightly bigger. Both go equally well with pizza!
Light and flaky dough is thinly layered to make sfogliatella, a pastry from Naples. They are usually topped with powdered sugar, so consuming the sweet treat on the go is likely to leave the eater dusted with white, but the risk to your outfit and your dignity is worth it.
This meat on a stick comes from the Italian region of Abruzzo. Typically grilled lamb skewers, arrosticini are cooked over an open flame. Politely eaten with a fork and a plate, the skewered kebabs are also easy to eat on the move, making them a simple but satisfying fast food.
6. Fritti Anything
French fries will seem boring after Italian fritti. Fritti means “fried,” and depending on where you are, just about anything qualifies. In the south, you will find pasta fritta – cooked macaroni fried in breadcrumbs and shaped in irregular globes. In Sicily and Tuscany, fried chickpea flour is popular. However, fried fish and fried vegetables are most common, and usually served in a paper cone for a speedy and dangerously good fast food.
With pizza by the foot, sweet pastries, freshly grilled meat, and countless other regional specialties, there is no need to settle for a bland burger ever again!
Natalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog,An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.
A few months ago, we published a post called “5 Italian Customs Americans Should Adopt,” that shared our favorite aspects of the Italian lifestyle. We were overwhelmed by how much you, our readers, enjoyed the post and incorporated many of the items on our list into your everyday lives. Today, we thought we’d share a few more ideas about how Americans can live like Italians!
Thank you to our Mazzoni fans who shared their thoughts on how to live the Italian lifestyle after our last post. Some of you might see your ideas in the list below – take a look!
When it comes to wine, Italians know best. Known internationally for producing some of the best wines in the world, Italy is home to many a wine lover. While Americans often choose a great bottle of wine for special occasions or to celebrate, Italians are known to have a bottle on the table at nearly every meal. Appreciated as an everyday delicacy to be enjoyed by all, wine is an essential part of life in Italy. And we’re not complaining…Salute!
2. La Famiglia
Italians are well-known for their love of family. In fact, many Italian children live at home until well into their 30s, or don’t leave their parents until they’re married! Italians understand that family is a reminder of where you’ve come from, and spending lots of time together is a way of life. Whether it’s Sunday pasta dinners at grandma’s house or taking a summer holiday together, there are plenty of ways Americans can adopt Italians’ love for la famiglia!
3. That’s Amore
Showing a great deal of affection is second nature to Italians. While Americans are often more reserved, Italians greet family and friends with two (or more!) kisses on the cheek, and are always quick with a hug or a “Ti amo.” When meeting in bars or at a coffee shop, Italians are much more likely to say hello or even sit and converse with strangers. Of course, Italians also show their love by preparing delicious, multi-course meals for their loved ones. We think America could use a little more affection, and a lot more authentic Italian home cooking!
4. Love of the Arts
In any Italian city, it’s not hard to find art. Whether it’s the beautifully preserved historic architecture, the public museums and sculptures in piazzas, or the street performers and painters, art is everywhere. Of course, like Americans, Italians also have an undying love for sports, especially soccer, but there’s a certain appreciation for the finer parts of culture in Italy. Americans, take note – surround yourselves with art!
5. Travel Culture
If Italians know anything, it’s how to travel. Many take the entire month of August off for Ferragosto, or summer holiday. Many city shops and restaurants shut down, and Italians take to the beach or to a neighboring European country for a little rest and relaxation. Maybe that mental health break is what makes Italians so friendly! Trenitalia and Ryanair also allow tourists to travel within Italy and to other European countries quickly and inexpensively. Americans could benefit from a little extra summer vacation time to explore other states or our neighboring countries!
So what do you think? Can Americans benefit from living like an Italian? Anything you think we forgot? Let us know in the comments below!
Zanini De Vita writes that this pasta shape is typical of Molise, the small southern Italian region sandwiched between Abruzzo and Puglia. She describes it as “rather open strascinati, whose curvature varies with the thickness of the pasta sheet.” It is made by dragging (trascinare) on a wooden board with two fingers a small rectangle of rolled dough. I couldn’t find a photo or image of cuzzetielle, so what you see here is my rendition based on the description I read.
1. Ditch the sweatpants. Long haul flights and cross-country train rides are no excuse for resorting to pajamas outside of the house. Treat a travel day as an opportunity to get started on your holiday style. If you are going to be stuck in a small space with strangers, make the best impression and embrace la bella figura. (more…)
If no meal in Italy is complete without wine, no day is complete without coffee. The cult of coffee is central to Italian life. From stovetop moka pots, to affordable coffees sipped at the neighbourhood bar, there are almost as many ways to order coffee as there is to make pasta!
As with anything in Italy, there is a right and a wrong way to do coffee. This short guide to Italian coffee culture will help you find the drink to satisfy any caffeine craving.
Caffè – a shot of espresso served in a small ceramic cup. Ordered first thing in the morning, taken during a 5-minute mid-morning break, after lunch, in the afternoon, after dinner, or any time. No need to call it an ‘espresso,’ it is simply “un caffè.”
Caffè macchiato– if you find a straight caffè too strong, you can asked for coffee ‘stained’ with milk. A shot of espresso with a small amount of milk foam on top.
Caffè americano – the Italian-take on American style drip-coffee (which is sometimes called acqua sporca or dirty water). An Americano is made by adding hot water to a shot of espresso, diluting the concentration.
Caffè lungo – sometimes confused with an Americano, a caffè lungo is a ‘long’ pull on the espresso machine. This allows more water to filter through the espresso, and results is a slightly diluted shot. (more…)
If you’ve been to Italy, you know there are a few differences between American and Italian customs. While there are pros and cons to both cultures, we think the U.S. could take a few pages from Italy’s book when it comes to living La Dolce Vita (the sweet life).
Take a look at our top five Italian customs that we think should be adopted in American culture.
Orecchiette, strascinati, cavatelli. The musicality of the Italian language is displayed not only in inherently lyrical expressions, like poems and songs, but also in the names of everyday things, like pasta. Scorze d’amelle, scorze di nocelle. Simply saying these names tickles the imagination.
When I want to learn more about a pasta shape, my reference is the “Encyclopedia of Pasta” by Oretta Zanini De Vita. The book contains entries for 310 types of pasta. Each type is identified by a main name, and when applicable, alternative names. The same pasta shape can have different names in different regions, or different towns. Various sizes of the same shape may have different names. Sometimes the same name refers to two different types of pasta. Such proliferation can be a bit intimidating, if not maddening, for the visitor – or the writer trying to inform her readers. (more…)