7 Street Foods You Need to Eat in Rome
Pizza and gelato aren't Rome's only street food options. Deep-fried artichokes and a new sandwich trend are among the Eternal City's must eats.
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Photo By: Meredith Rosenberg
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Pizza al Taglio
In Rome, pizza al taglio, or pizza by the slice, is served square or rectangular and cut by the desired amount (Round pizzas tend to be sold by the pie). Pizza al taglio is as prevalent as coffee spots and pasta joints, but some of the best come from Pizzarium Bonci, about a 10-minute walk from the Vatican in Prati. Crowds often form a line at this hole-in-the-wall for thick crispy pizzas and a rotating array of toppings not limited to artichokes, prosciutto, potatoes or squash blossoms. Over in trendy Trastevere, don’t overlook Suppli. It also sells some of the best pizza al taglio in addition to its namesake suppli or fried rice balls. The thin crust, spicy marinara option seems simple, but the flavor will have you returning for more. Antico Forno Roscioli is a bakery from the legendary Roscioli family, who also owns the eponymous restaurant around the corner. While you can’t get into the latter without a reservation, the former offers a more accessible way to try the pastries, bread, and yes, pizza. Standouts include margherita, marinara, mushroom and prosciutto.
Suppli are Rome's version of arancini, Sicilian fried rice balls that are traditionally filled with marinara meat sauce and mozzarella. Suppli are subtly different though. They were originally filled with chicken giblets, but they now mimic their Sicilian cousins, albeit more oblong-shaped and sometimes sans beef. Otherwise they share the same risotto, marinara and mozzarella mixture that’s coated in breadcrumbs and eaten hot. Suppli are ubiquitous and found at most pizza places, but seek out some of the best at the aforementioned Suppli. There’s no seating, but the snack-size eats are best enjoyed on the go anyway. Zizzi Pizza in Monti, a lesser-visited neighborhood about 15 minutes from the Coliseum, is another tiny spot known for its suppli cacio e pepe. Supplizio is a popular option for twists on the classic, such as mushroom, carbonara or arrabbiata.
It’s impossible to spend more than a few minutes wandering around Rome without noticing mounds of fluffy gelato in an assortment of bright colors, all festooned with Insta-worthy toppings. However, these pretty gelatos are unlikely to be authentic. Instead, seek out non-flashy displays offering natural flavors and colors. Gelato is the Italian version of ice cream, with the main differences involving a higher milk content, no egg yolk (or sometimes no eggs) and less air. Local chain Fatamorgana claims to have introduced organic gelato to the city, and its dozens of flavors span from black cherry and stracciatella to wine and basil. Gelateria del Teatro has become synonymous with natural gelato, and its three locations offer options for those with dairy and gluten allergies. Its ever-changing seasonal menu rotates through 200 flavors a year, with about 30 on offer at any given time — rosemary honey and lemon, lavender and white peach, or ricotta fig and almond are just a few. San Crispino is another standout for its natural ingredients. Grab one with fig, ginger or honey and enjoy it at Trevi Fountain, just a two-minute walk away.
Carciofi alla Giudia
Rome’s Jewish community can be traced back more than 2,000 years, and while today’s numbers have dwindled to fewer than 20,000, part of the food culture has become an integral part of the food scene. Carciofi alla giudia, or deep-fried artichokes, are most commonly associated with Jewish cuisine, although baccala, fried zucchini blossoms and others are also connected with it. It’s believed that many of these foods were invented between the 16th and 19th centuries when Jews were confined to a ghetto with limited freedom and money. Remnants of that quarter still exist, although fried artichokes can be found everywhere in the Eternal City. Here, they’re usually served upside down with the stem attached and eaten whole (the choke in the middle is removed). Olive oil, salt and pepper are the only added ingredients. Locally-sourced artichokes are in season around March —try them at Da Enzo, a no-frills trattoria in the less touristy section of Trastevere, or Nonna Betta, a kosher restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto. While authentic, don’t be surprised to see these artichokes come flattened. As a sidenote, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the country’s prevailing religious law, just declared that fried artichokes aren’t kosher, but don’t expect the beloved bloom to disappear off Roman menus anytime soon.
Pizza con la Mortazza
This humble sandwich involves mortadella, or pork sausage, on focaccia bread. Antico Forno Roscioli is a good bet for setting the sandwich’s taste baseline. The take-out outpost is easier to get into than the famed Roscioli around the corner — the part casual restaurant/specialty food store that requires reservations far in advance during the peak season. Il Fornaio in historic Centro Storico bills itself as a bakery, and while the baked goods are a must (the dense, cake-like tartufo balls are as tasty as they are filling), the shop is also known for its pizza and sandwiches. Simply look for the giant mortadella in the front case, which someone will hand slice upon ordering.
While it’s common to enjoy fried cod fillets and chips as a proper meal across the U.K., Romans prefer to wrap baccala (salt cod) like a fish cone and eat it on the move. Another difference is that baccala (bacalao in other parts of the world) is preserved in salt. As the name implies, Filetti di Baccala (also called Dar Filettaro) mainly serves the crunchy fish snacks and is one of the city’s gold standards. This traditional trattoria by Campo de' Fiori feels untouched from when it opened in the '50s. Grab a cold beer on tap, and soak up its ambiance on the tiny square near the equally tiny Santa Barbara Church.
Trapizzino is a relative newcomer that was introduced at the now closed 00100 Pizzeria in 2008. Think of it as a pizza sandwich, as it involves thick triangular pizza-shaped wedges stuffed with all manner of fillings. Examples include lamb and artichokes, salt cod and chickpeas and sausage and broccoli. You might find imitators, but the former 00100 owner has since opened the eponymous Trapizzino, now a local chain (try the original branch in Testaccio). American foodies who return home with a trapizzino hankering are in luck, since the chain recently expanded to New York City.