It is certainly the most unforgettable memory tourists take home and one of the most fulfilling pleasures for nationals: street food. From London to New York, Bangkok to Naples, street food has claimed its role on the gastronomic show, getting as much attention as fine dining. Top food publications like the Italian Il Gambero Rosso and the British Time Out have very popular columns dedicated to it. How many times have you heard your friends or other travellers telling you about Italian pizza, New York hot dogs or London fish and chips?
With the popularity of cooking TV programs and the growth of food porn in social media, street food has become as popular and photographed as fashion, and its versatile nature and affordable prices has made it the protagonist of eating hours as it adapts so well to a busy life and an un-stretchable budget, often offering colourful images.
For tourists around the world it is a must to try street food for a taste of the local and folkloric food experience. Italy is one of the leaders when it comes to it. I was recently in Naples, one of the Italian capitals of “cibo da strada” which offers an endless variety of products made with pizza dough or similar and much, much more… Are you ready for the tour?
If you are planning to go there, do NOT leave the city without trying these first:
1. Pizza al forno – Slightly smaller than the Margherita you eat in a restaurant, you can easily fold this pizza and make a portafoglio, that is a wallet-pizza. The most popular Neapolitan late breakfast (Yes, late breakfast!!!), you can buy it for no more than €1. It’s a must when you visit the city and nearly all pizzerias will have a small glass counter outside the shop with a full array of pizzas.
2. Montanara – It is a little round fried pizza, topped with tomato passata, a leaf of basil and a springle of parmesan cheese. The dough is very similar to a pizza base but with more water added, which gives a softer texture to the final product. It comes in bitesize, street food size (c. 10cm) and sit down size, which is the one you have in a restaurant on a proper lunch break. All highly addictive…
3. Panino napoletano or pagnutiello (Neapolitan bread) – Soft and succulent as only the touch of lard can add, this bread is filled with salami, cheese, boiled eggs and black pepper. Possibly, the most traditional mid-morning “snack” Naples has to offer, after a pizzetta!
4. Parigina (Parisian pizza) – Double layer of pizza bread filled with tomato sauce, mozzarella and ham. The upper layer is made of puff pastry which, being of French origin is probably why it is called parigina, even though the recipe is totally Neapolitan.
5. Arancino (Little orange) – Rice ball stuffed with Bolognese sauce made with mincemeat, green peas, tomato sauce and mozzarella. The sauce gives an orange-ish color to the mix…hence the name. In London it is very popular in Italian restaurants.
6. Calzone fritto (“Fried trousers”) – It’s a half-moon fried pizza, traditionally filled with ricotta, cured pig scratchings and black pepper. You can also find it filled with tomato sauce, ham and provola, smoked mozzarella cheese.
7. Cuppetiello – The latest trend in Neapolitan street food is “o’cuppetiello”, a brown paper cone wrap with a mix of miniature arancini, zeppoline (salted fried pizza dough), croquette (potatoes croquettes), fried mozzarella bites, etc.
To this there is also the sea version, with pan fried prawns and squid rings.
This is the kind of street food you can eat in Naples all year around, and find at any corner of the city, especially in the historical centre. However, if you are planning to be there in summer, by no means forget to have this food:
8. Roasted or boiled corn on the cob – A very traditional and healthy option you can find, especially on the seafront promenade, on little carts that sell roasted or boiled corn on the cobs. My preference is the traditional one with only salt on top, but tastes evolve and now mayonnaise and ketchup on top seems to be the new trend.
9. Dressed tripe with lemon juice
Do not be put off by the name! Many people may think the contrary but dressed tripe is not a high calorie food, because before being boiled it’s cleaned and all the fat is trimmed off. Nutritious and affordable, you will find every shop selling tripe has its own cart outside, so to make it easier and quicker for those who are looking for the traditional food on the go.
As Latins use to say…Dulcis in Fundo. Traditional lemonade is made with only lemons, water and sugar. It tastes like a delicate cream and it the best refreshment you could ever get on a hot day in the Neapolitan summer.
So, make sure you do NOT get breakfast included at your hotel when staying in Naples, as outside at every corner of the city there is a wide array of choice when it comes to street food!
Hungry for more?