Only a handful of years ago Italians had never heard of the trend that was sweeping the rest of the world: “street food” while in fact, the concept of cibo da strada has been around since ancient times. Think of the Roman tabernae, where foodstuffs were displayed, cooked and sold on the street for people doing their daily rounds in the 2nd century Trajan Markets. Today the popularity of street food in Italy is partly due to fashion and partly to the welcome re-discovery of local customs and recipes. And, in these dire economic times it represents a tasty, wallet-wise and practical way of learning about tradition and ‘territory’.
Following is a list of this week’s best street food joints in Rome and their specialties. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!
Bonci Pizza Rustica (ex-Pizzarium)
Volumes have been written on Gabriele Bonci, named the Michelangelo of pizza al taglio, and for good reason. His goods sold by the (pricey) slice are among the best in Rome, with turnaround so fast so there’s no way of knowing what toppings will be featured that day. Hopefully it will be the potato and cheese, or the creamed pumkin and lardo, or the spicy confit cherry tomatoes and burrata. The minuscule stand-up only eatery near the Vatican has become so popular, that a recent expansion (and a name change to Bonci Pizza Rustica #pizzarium) enlarged the kitchen space with more burners. This means the toppings will get even better. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Bonci Pizza Rustica ex-Pizzarium – Via della Meloria 43 (Cipro Metro stop)
Mordi e Vai
Sergio Esposito is a genius. In a market known for its quality produce and working class clientele, what does he do? He opens shop for lunch and stuffs ciabattas with mamma’s cooking, selling them for 3 Euros. And ultimately wins. As far as fillings, there are rotating daily specials, but always succulent allesso con salsa verde (boiled Scottona beef), braised tripe, piquant picchiapò, amazing meatballs, sausage and broccolini, and artichokes and pecorino. Plus the best fried meatballs in the universe. I’m going there right now.
Via Beniamino Franklin 12E – Box 15 – www.mordievai.it
If you’re still not sure what pinsa is then it’s time you found out as it’s been around forever! Ancient Roman pinsa is an oval shaped flatbread and a precursor to pizza, made with a mix of organic flours, water and love. Recent popularity of the long-forgotten staple has seen a surge in places that shape it, bake it and sell it topped with a variety of local ingredients, mostly to go. The first and most popular of those reviving this tradition is Pinsere, a little stand-up joint near the Termini train station. Gianni and his celiac wife Valentina (the irony of a baker’s companion) opened Pinsere only a few years ago, and their success was immediate and overwhelming: fresh, wholesome toppings, low prices, quick turnaround, sensational crust. Open on weekdays and only for lunch, Pinsere is one of the neighborhood’s best quick value meals. Seasonal toppings range from roasted pumpkin, pancetta and smoked cheese, to zucchini blossoms, mozzarella and anchovies, or eggplant, prosciutto and basil. Careful, it’s addictive.
Via Flavia 98 – www.pinsereroma.com
Take-out has never been this good. Whether sitting down for a full 5-course meal, grabbing a panino to go or ordering a delivery, Spasso comes through with exceptionally good quality meals. Nice choice of pasta dishes, salads, soups, sandwiches, burgers, vegetarian dishes and desserts, all are made express with top-notch ingredients, served in reasonably sized portions and delivered in eco-friendly packaging. Next time I don’t feel like cooking dinner, I’m ordering the Rossini burger with foie gras and hand-cut fries plus the butternut soup with cavolo nero chips. You?
Via Appia Nuova 131 – www.spassofood.it
Rome owes much of its street food culture to one person: Stefano Callegari. This gentle giant with a penchant for pizza is the mastermind behind a number of Rome’s best pies, and the inventor of the Trapizzino – a triangle of fluffy pizza dough slit open and stuffed with homestyle cucina romana dishes. With two city-wide locations, it’s now possible to enjoy Trapizzino’s signature pockets filled with chicken cacciatore, eggplant parmesan, oxtail, octopus, burrata cheese and anchovies as well as other ingredients following the seasons and the whims of the chef. The two venues are on opposite sides of the city so everyone benefits. Wash yours down with a glass of prosecco or a beer and you’re ready for round two.
Testaccio: Via Giovanni Branca 88 | Ponte Milvio: Piazza Ponte Milvio 13 – www.trapizzino.it
Interested in a guided street food adventure in Rome? Inquire on our Rome tours page!
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, journalist, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her show “ABCheese” is broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso. She loves guiding culturally curious, food-passionate travellers seeking experiences in Italy beyond the guidebook.