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:
Because I think this is such a great resource, here is the menu from the event:
What’s your favorite Italian street food?
You might also enjoy:
The Best Street Food in Italy from Condé Nast Traveler