Italian cuisine is truly one of the country’s greatest contributions to civilization; from the age of antiquity up to the present, it has been consistently one of the leading lights in preserving a fine tradition of culinary excellence. From the north to the south, Italian cuisine has truly become a world-class cuisine evidenced by its status worldwide: there has to be a pizza parlor or an Italian restaurant in any part of the globe.
That’s just the scope of how Italian cuisine has influenced the world.
In spite of the spread of globalization, which has rendered age-old cultural traditions including that of cuisine at the brink of extinction, if not yet totally eradicated, Italian cuisine has stood strong, firm, and unbroken; this is evident in how the country has largely resisted the march of fast food, GMOs, and conglomerates taking over the food industry.
Italy continues to preserve food traditions that have been recorded in our history for as long as mankind has had the capacity to write – the beauty of it is you don’t even need to look far to taste true Italian cuisine.
It’s out there on the streets, being prepared freshly the same way it was hundreds, or even thousands of years ago.
Lampredotto stands still dot the busy streets of Florence despite hordes of tourists coming in, and in spite of foreign influences threatening to render their business obsolete. The same is true for most Italian culinary traditions.
This stubborn resistance to change and love for culture has allowed small-scale farmers and businessmen to continue living the lives they have, and allows these small entrepreneurs to give back to the community, and especially to the people that have painstakingly worked to preserve these ancient culinary traditions.
You can try making them with a panino press (read up for the best press for making delicious paninis), and you can come close – but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one as good as you can have them in Italy.
Here’s a look at some of Italy’s finest street food, in the realm of sandwiches locally known as panini – get those tickets ready because you won’t taste them anywhere else.
You ever wonder what that funky-smelling little store that’s always packed with people in the streets of Florence? It’s tripe; particularly, the third and fourth chambers of a cow’s stomach. Lampredotto was thusly called due to tripe’s resemblance to lamprey eels. Back in the 15th century, meat was scarce and thus expensive, and all the poor people could afford was tripe; this gave rise to the quintessential Florentine sandwich of boiled tripe slathered in green sauce and stuffed in a panino: the immortal lampredotto. This is as close to heaven as a tripe-lover can get.
Pani Ca Meusa
Pani ca meusa is a Sicilian specialty street food similar to lampredotto, but with one key difference: instead of tripe, pani ca meusa is filled with chopped veal lungs and spleen, and served on a traditional sicilian bread known as vastedda. They are the working-class hamburger, and outdo the hamburger in popularity – you only need to look at the numerous peddlers called meuseri on a weekday in Palermo to see just what I’m talking about.
Panzerotti are little pockets of savory bliss that look like little pockets dough, which are then deep-fried in hot oil. Panzerotti are mainstays in the culinary tradition of Apulia, which are fried with fresh cherry tomatoes, oregano and mozzarella cheese; alternatively, other fillings could be ricotta cheese, cherry tomatoes, onions and anchovies. It’s simple, yet elegant preparation and taste has brought it to North America’s shores and beyond, as a testament to the continuing influence of Italian cuisine.