The story behind Rome's best street food

Mara Noveni | Live the World

November 23, 2022

The oldest traces of street food date back to the dawn of our civilization, approximately ten thousand years ago. The Greeks had already admired the Egyptian custom of Alexandria and then adopted the habit of frying fish and selling it on the street throughout Greece. From Gr[eece](, the custom has passed to the Roman world. In the excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii, the remains of the "Thermopolis," the ancestor of modern "street food" are still visible. A sort of kitchen directly facing the street, for the sale of cooked food of all kinds, mainly cereals or legume soups, was brought to light.

As an international example of street food, we recall the British institution of "Fish and chips," sold on the street and wrapped in newspaper, a legacy of Sephardic Jewish refugees fleeing persecution, between the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the six hundred. Their custom of fried "takeaway" fish is the same as that of the Egyptians of Alexandria, extended to all of North Africa and the Moorish Spain of El Andalus.

Street food identifies the territory and tradition, keeping alive one of the most important aspects of the people's culture; the food tradition.

Street food in Rome is part of its history; in fact, it was born from the tradition of the "fraschette" in the Roman castles and the counties around Rome. The fraschette were places where new wine was sold and tasted. In these places, the customers used to bring food from home or buy it elsewhere to enjoy it while drinking.

© Cantina Trinca

Here is an overview of the most famous street food in the Roman tradition:


Walking food par excellence and the king of fried food among the starters: the Romans began to eat the supplì in the nineteenth century when the Napoleonic troops first brought it. It was initially a ball of white rice stuffed with meat, which the Romans called "supplì," and changed its ingredients and preparation. Today the classic Roman supplì is a ball of rice with sauce, stuffed with mozzarella and covered with a double breading, fried in abundant oil.

© Irene Mattacchioni

Fried codfish fillets

It's a magnificent liaison between baccalà and the city of Rome, where the Arctic codfish was valued particularly in the Jewish-Roman cuisine of the ghetto. On the other hand, thanks to the influence of the Swedish archbishop Olao Magno, during the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the codfish was admitted in the "lean days" including Wednesdays, Fridays, and Lent.

© iStock/Cineberg

Pizza and Mortadella

For a snack, a quick lunch or a rustic aperitif, pizza, and mortadella are absolutely a must in terms of Roman street food. The history of this special snack dates back to when bakers used to test the temperature of the oven by inserting a small amount of dough first. Soon it became clear that this focaccia that came out of it could be used as a base for tasty recipes. In the beginning, the figs were the accompaniment par excellence. Then they began using salami and cheese, up to the very liaison that we all know today: pizza and mortadella (Romans call it mortazza).

© iStock/sal61

Porchetta sandwich

The sandwich with porchetta- which is stuffed ciriola or two slices of homemade bread of Lariano- is one of those things worth living for. In Rome, it is found practically everywhere and, fortunately, it meets the tastes of a transversal public: from the worker at lunch break to the white-collar and the "Saturday night" students. The porchetta is typical of Ariccia, a town around Rome, and is pork cooked in a wood oven.

© iStock/antoniotruzzi


To finish in style with a dessert, the famous "maritozzo con la panna" is a must tasting for sure. It is a sweet and very soft bun, filled with fresh whipped cream — a pleasure for all senses. The maritozzo derives from the tradition of Roman Jewish cuisine, and a variation of its recipe is found already in the recipes of ancient Rome. Try it and see! Enjoy!

© iStock/aizram18

Book a nearby experience

Let our AI assistant help plan your trip

Create a personalized plan and share it with your friends

Never run out of things to do! Sign up to our newsletter today, what are you waiting for?

live the world logoMaking travel planning easy.
Supported bykbc logo
instagram logotiktok logo facebook logo pintrest logo