Hitting the Streets at Salone

One of the best things about the Salone del Gusto & Terra Madre, in my small opinion, is the food. And there was a lot to be tasted.

The show dedicated a small space to street food from various regions of Italy. In case you didn’t know, Italy has some really great street food, tasty bites that you can grab on the go and that happily fill you up. I mean who doesn’t love a fried rice ball (arancina) or a piadina (flatbread from Emilia- Romagna) or the most beloved of all, pizza!

The following are just a few of the street foods that were available. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try them all. Guess I’ll just have to travel to the respective regions for a taste!

Bombette from Puglia – Small pork bites flavored with salt and pepper, filled usually with cacciocavallo or another type of cheese (but cacciocavallo is typical of southern Italy), parsely and pancetta, rolled and held together with toothpicks, and cooked on a brazier. The name bombette translates to “little bombs” and rightly so as they are tasty and can eaten in one bite!

Arancine, Panelle & Cannoli: The trinity from Sicily – Arancina (which translates to “little oranges” as they bear a faint resemblance) are fried rice balls usually filled with ragu (and peas) or with mozzarella and prosciutto (and sometimes beschamel). These two were featured at the Salone but throughout Sicily there are variations on the filling depending on the area of the island. In western Sicily the arancina is round while on the eastern side of the island the shape is conical. It is thought that the rice/ragu mixture is of Arabic origin while the arancina itself, however, was originally created by the court of Emperor Frederico I as “take-out food” to be eaten during hunting trips. Since it is fried, the outside remains crisp and the filling soft and moist, making it perfect to take and eat anywhere. I had the arancina and it hit the spot. Sadly, however, I don’t have a picture of my treat to share.

The panella, a chickpea fritter, is typically eaten between two pieces of freshly baked sesame seed bread and some even squeeze lemon juice on it. Simplicity at its best, the fritter is made with water, salt, chickpea flour, and parsely. This delight is again attributed to the Arabs, who ground chick peas into flour and then mixed it with water to form a paste. Unexciting and bland the paste was then fried, a transformation that led to a flavorful, golden fritter. The panella is best eaten just fried.

Last but not least, the cannolo is perhaps the most famous of Sicilian pastries. When cannoli are made right, they are heavenly. When they are made badly, well, they are just bad. The filling is sugary and the shell is soggy. Very upsetting. A good cannoli should have a crispy outer shell and a creamy filling made with the freshest ricotta. On the west coast of the island, the cannoli is decorated with candied cherries and orange rind while on the east coast the ends are sprinkled with crushed pistachios from Bronte. (SN: Pistachios are a protected food from Sicily that can only be cultivated in or near Bronte, in the province of Catania.) The cannolo was first created to celebrate carnival but (thankfully) can now be enjoyed anytime of the year.

Farinata from Genova: The chick pea is again the protagonist of this simple food from the Ligurian capital. Farinata is a savory, very flat cake made with chickpea flour, water, salt, and extra virgin olive oil. It is cooked in a wood-burning oven in a large, round griddle until it is golden in color. Different areas of Liguria add different “toppings” such as onions, artichokes, or sausage. The farinata has roots in the ancients with latin and greek recipes recounting a chickpea flour patty cooked under the sun. At the Salone the vendor prepared three types of farinata, a plain one, one with anchovies, and one with pesto and stracchino (that’s the one I had!).  I opted for this one as pesto is also typical of this Italian region. Savory, hot, gooey from the stracchino, and delicious! The picture certainly does not do it justice!

My delicious farinata!
Ready to be served!

Piadina from Emilia-Romagna: Like many of the other street foods in Italy, the piadina has a long history. Typically it is made in the Romagna (east side) part of Emilia-Romagna and has been prepared since Roman times. The piadina is an important symbol of Romagna history in that it was considered the poor man’s food, eaten by farmer’s in the place of bread during times of scarcity.  It is a thin, unleavened flatbread made with white flour, lard or olive oil, water, and salt and is traditionally cooked on a cast-iron plate.  After being cooked the piadina, spotted brown from the heat, should be soft yet retain a certain crispiness. Although the ingredients are minimal, the piadina has a delicate creamy flavor making it perfect to be filled with local meats such a prosciutto cotto o crudo, mortadella, salami, local cheeses such as squaquerone, rucola or grilled vegetables. With the piadina, savory can turn into sweet by simply changing the filling to jam or nutella(!!!).

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