One of the great Italian culinary traditions is the many remarkable street foods that you can find lining the roads of some of the most historically-significant cities in the entire world. While many people think of high-class restaurants when they consider the reasons the Italian food industry has developed such a reputation for quality, these amazing street foods offer tourists and locals alike to get a taste of some traditional snacks and treats that have been favourites in Italy for many years.
The only way to improve on these delectable little treats is to combine them with wines that complement them perfectly. Of course, this is often easier said than done, epically as many street food vendors don’t supply wine along with the foods that they sell. Furthermore, if you aren’t already aware of decent pairings or the food that you expect to purchase, it becomes a little more difficult to make sure that you have a good glass of wine to go with it.
With that in mind, here we will be taking a look at some of the most popular street foods in Italy and, as importantly, the types of wine that they work best with.
This is a snack that can be found all over Italy, but it originates from an area known as Le Marche, which is located between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea. Known in many areas as Olive Ascolana, these gorgeous olives, which are often picked fresh, will usually be stuffed with ground meat before being breaded and lightly fried. Typically, the olives used will be green, to mirror the special variety grown in the town of Ascoli-Piceno, where the snack is most prominent, but it is occasionally possible to find other sorts. It has become such a popular food that it can be purchased every from restaurants through to street vendors.
The Wine – In most cases, olives tend to go very well with crisp, dry white wines, of which there are many to be found in Italy. However, the ground meat found inside many of these fried olives adds a slightly different dimension to the snack, which may lead to you considering a simple red as a result.
Fried Rice Balls
Also known as Arancini, these are balls of rice that have traditionally contained meat ragu, peas and cheese. However, as the snack became increasingly popular there are all sorts of variations on the basic recipe that you can find on the streets of Italy, depending on which region you visit. If you want to enjoy this snack as it was originally intended, the best place to go is Sicily, as it was there that Arancini was first developed, way back in the 10th century. They are exceptionally easy to find on the island from street vendors, plus you should spot them very quickly as soon as you step into a rotisserie.
The Wine – What else could we choose than a nice Sicilian white wine here? A nice Bianco D’Alcamo will go very well with Arancini, but any decent white wine should work almost as well.
Perhaps one of the most famous Italian delicacies of all time, the humble Cannoli has been an Italian dessert favourite for many years and is unsurprisingly very easy to find if you choose to visit the country. Another Sicilian creation, Cannoli comes from the town of Palermo and is basically pastry dough that has been shaped into a tube before being fried to absolute perfection. That’s not all though, as a gorgeous sweet ricotta filling will then be added, occasionally with a few chocolate chips thrown in for good measure. Throw a candied cherry and candied orange peel into the mix and you have a dessert that will cause a sensation in your mouth.
The Wine – It’s a little more difficult to choose a wine for Cannoli, as the dessert is very rich but can still be overpowered by a complex red. By contrast, whites can confuse your palette, thanks to the citrus undertones. Instead, search for a sweet wine. Of course, Sicily has plenty to offer, so look for anything that carries the Vini Passiti/Vino Passito label.
Trust the Italians to take the traditional pork sandwich and turn it into a delectable treat that can barely be resisted by all but the most ardent of vegetarians. Porchetta is essentially roast pork that has been heavily salted and infused with garlic, rosemary and a variety of herbs, depending on the provider. It can be found all over Italy, but you will need to head to the Ariccia province of Rome to experience it as it was originally created. Thankfully, the meat can also be found in many delis, so you can take some home with you as well.
The Wine – A nice dry red will usually do the trick here, as the strong flavours in Prochetta Romana may clash with whites. Old favourites like Montepulciano d’Abruzzi or even Chianti Classico make for good choices here, though some may prefer to stick with a wine that is more native to Central Rome, such as Castelli Romani.
The history of Gelato as it is known today probably dates back to the 1920s or 30s, when carts serving the treat started to appeal in Varese in Northern Italy. Often mistaken for just being ice cream, Gelato is actually taken very seriously in Italy, to the point where many people study so that they can create their own varieties that will tantalise the taste buds of anybody who eats them. It is perhaps the most popular type of street food in Italy, but it may also be the hardest to pair with a good wine.
The Wine – At the end of the day, your choice of wine is going to have to do with the flavour of the Gelato itself as much as anything else. White wine may complement citrus-based Gelatos well, whereas light red might go well with berries and cherries. Just try to make sure the wine has a bit of sweetness to it so you don’t get an odd combination of flavours.