Visiting Cesena, Italy: International Street Food Festival


One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to track down the local street food.  When in Nice, France, I was munching on socca.  In Liguria, I was all over the focaccia.  In Sicily,  it was arancini and cannoli.   In Naples, la pizza napoletana (obvio).  In Bologna, there’s nothing better than grabbing a piadina or a gelato and savoring it while sitting in a piazza.  Forget about the museums: I could wander the streets peeking into one bakery after another and amuse myself all day.   Even if I’m too full to eat, I get satisfaction just starring at the alluring sweet and savory masterpieces.

This weekend, I hit the jackpot.  There was an Internal Street Food Festival in Cesena, an hour’s drive south-east of Bologna.  The festival showcased street food from all over the world –Romania, Venezuela, Japan, Greece, India, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, and Kurdistan — with several stands dedicated to the regional street food of Italy — Ligura, Tuscany, Emilia, Romagna, Alto Adige, Campania, Puglia, and Sicily.  I was drawn to attend the festival by the “International” title: I’ve had some recent strong cravings for good ethnic cuisine, something that can be difficult to find in Bologna.  I didn’t realize there would be so much Italian fare and enjoyed seeing Italy’s regional specialties side-by-side.  It’s certainly more economical and efficient to discover Italy’s best street food in one place (though maybe not as fun/romantic as discovering it on its home turf).  It was fun to see Italians just as excited to try a burrito from Mexico as they were to order a pani cà meusa (spleen sandwich) from Sicily.  It also served as a reminder that the food in Italy truly is regional and that, in most cases, to eat pani cà meusa Italians and the rest of us would have to actually travel to Sicily.  In fact, the menu was broken down even further than just by region, celebrating specialities of specific cities.  For example, it had a whole section dedicated to Palermo.

For the record, it seemed that Mexico had the longest line of all the stands.  America was apparently not invited to the event (though American cuisine is, in many ways, an international melting pot itself).  I selected my lunch from Venezuela and Peru.  From Venezuela I had the Reina Pepeada, a cornmeal cake called an arepa stuffed with chicken and avocado (molto buono), and from Peru I had a chicken and vegetable empanada.  The empanada filling was delicious but the empanada itself was undercooked and doughy.

Take a look:


Naples: Babà, a small cake typically served soaked with rum


Puglia (Manfredonia): Panzerotto – deep-fried tart stuffed with tomato and mozzarella (like a calzone, but fried)

Frisella con pomodoro

Puglia (Manfredonia): Frisella con pomodoro – bread with tomato. Frisella is a ring-shaped roll that has been double baked to the point of being hard and dry, which gives the bread a long shelf-life. Before it is served, the frisella is briefly soaked in water and then topped with juicy tomatoes. If you let the dressed frisella sit for an hour before serving the juices of the tomatoes seep into bread and make it even more scrumptious. 


Mexico: Burrito and topopos sonora (tortilla chips with cheese, guacamole and jalapeno)

Piadina Romagna

Romagna (Cesena): Piadina – a piadina is a flat-bread sandwich beloved in Emilia-Romagna.

Romagna (Cesena): Piadina romagna

Romagna (Cesena): Piadina con prosciutto and piadina con squaquarone e rucola (arugula and a local creamy, soft cheese).

Sarde a beccafico

Sicily (Palermo): Sarde a beccafico – sardine rolls stuffed with breadcrumbs, pine nuts and raisins.


Sicily (Palermo): On the right, pane con panelle e cazzilii (bread filled with a fried patty made from chickpea flour and crunchy potato croquettes). On the left, arancini (stuffed rice balls which are coated with breadcrumbs and fried).

Pani Cà Meusa

Sicily (Palermo): the popular Pani Cà Meusa (soft bread stuffed with veal’s spleen that’s been boiled and fried in lard, topped with ricotta and caciocavallo cheeses).


Sicily (Palermo): Sfincionello (Sicilian pizza with tomato, anchovy, caciocavallo cheese, and bread crumbs).

Arroz con pollo

Perù: Arroz con pollo y papas a la huancaina – Thai rice spiced with coriander served with chicken and potatoes topped with a spicy cheese sauce


Perù: Empanadas stuffed with chicken and vegetables

Reina pepeada

Venezuela: Reina pepeada – cornmeal arepa stuffed with chicken and avocado


Emilia (Modena): Crescentina – fried bread typically served stuffed with prosciutto, lard, or salami

Panino con bombetta

Puglia (Murge) Panino con bombetta – a sandwich stuffed with a few pieces of the flavorful pork meat capocollo that’s been grilled with a slice of pancetta

Because I think this is such a great resource, here is the menu from the event:

Cesena Street Food Festival Menu   Cesena Street Food Festival Menu

Cesena Street Food Festival Menu

Cesena Street Food Festival Menu


What’s your favorite Italian street food?

You might also enjoy:
The Best Street Food in Italy from Condé Nast Traveler


8 thoughts on “Visiting Cesena, Italy: International Street Food Festival

    1. ciaobologna Post author

      Ciao, Simona! Thanks for dropping a note! It was very hard to choose from all of the options, especially because I was trying not to mix cuisines that were too different from one another. I was tempted to go back yesterday to try the beef/prune tagine from Morocco. I’m slightly spoiled: coming from the US and having lived in or near New York City, Los Angeles, and Seattle, I’ve been exposed to some good ethnic cuisine in my lifetime. For me, eating at the festival in Cesena felt sort of like a homecoming. I imagine it must be an even greater experience for an Italian who has never traveled outside of Italy or Europe to have the chance to try Mexican or Peruvian food for the first time. Cool initiative, indeed.

  1. Sonia

    Thanks for that great post! We are coming to bologna next week, you have given me food inspiration! 🙂
    Where would you recommend for lunches and dinners at reasonable prices please?

    1. ciaobologna Post author

      Hi, Sonia! Check out my article for a Golden Day in Bologna: If you want to eat some typical Bolognese pasta, try La Traviata. Trattoria Tony is also a good option– casual and good prices. For contemporary cuisine, try Prima della Pioggia. Enjoy Bologna!

    1. ciaobologna Post author

      Hi, Jo Ann. My best friend in high school once said to me, “Fry anything and I’ll eat it!” I’ll have to ask her thoughts on the spleen sandwich.

  2. susanvanallen

    I love this post! I am a huge fan of street food so it is really amazing to see a festival has been made to focus on this! I shared it on twitter, Thank you-Whitney Hickey

    p.s How did you like the sicilian street foods!? I surprised myself that I actually enjoyed teh spleen sandwich!

    1. ciaobologna Post author

      Ciao, Whitney! I didn’t try the spleen sandwich myself though my lunch companions did. I made my lunch from Venezuela and Peru. The odor at the stand where they were cooking the spleen was a little off-putting, but I’d try a bite next time around. I traveled to Sicily last summer and enjoyed the arancini.


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