The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines street foods as “ready-to-eat foods and beverages prepared and/or sold by vendors or hawkers in the streets and other similar places.” According to the Cambridge dictionary, street food is “prepared and sold in public places, typically outdoors, for immediate consumption.”
An Italian Pancia Piena food van located east of Florence.
Imagine a restaurant without tables or a building.
The FAO estimated in 2007 that 2.5 billion people consume street food daily.
According to the book Street Food Around the World, edited by Bruce Kraig and Colleen Taylor, street food, which is prevalent in many developing nations, has become fashionable in developed nations, with top chefs and television shows specializing in this cuisine and food trucks becoming ubiquitous in major cities. Anthony Bourdain, the late chef, author, and television personality, dreamed of opening a market along the Hudson River with one hundred food stalls from around the globe (his dream was realized in New York in 2022 with the opening of Urban Hawker).
In the year 2020, archaeologists excavating the Italian city of Pompeii, which was buried by a volcanic eruption in the year 79 A.D., discovered a Thermopolis, a hot drink kiosk where terra cotta jars were used to sell food. In these vessels, remnants of pork, fish, and snails were discovered. This food cart’s exterior is decorated with vibrant murals of chickens and ducks.
The Italian cuisine and wine publishing company Gambero Rosso releases an annual Street Cuisine Guide. The 2024 edition contains an appendix of food trucks and a list of regional champions from each of Italy’s 20 administrative regions.
The Street Food Chef award was given to Marcello Trentini, a chef from Turin who prepares quesadillas with black truffle and honey, the year before. Chef Gianfranco Pascucci of Rome won this year’s award for his distinctive bonito burger with ponzu sauce between steamed buns.
The food truck squad of A Pancia Pieta in Le Sieci, east of Florence, Italy
In homage to the improvement of street cuisine in Italy over the past decade, the editors of Gambero Rosso ask, “Would Rome be Rome without pizza by the slice?”
Frances Negri, writing in Fancy Magazine, enumerates some of the delicacies that are now available on street corners in Italy, stating, “The Florentine lamprey, the Romagna piadina, the arancino, the Sicilian cannolo, the Genoese focaccia, and the Apulian panzerotti: these are just some of the exquisitely Italian street foods that date back centuries.
In the Pontassieve commune of Florence, in the small town of Le Sieci, the food vehicle A Pancia Piena (meaning ‘full belly’) won this year’s Gambero Rosso Tuscany regional award. Their specialty is a slow-cooked lampredotto sandwich with tomato, parsley, onion, and celery, served with Champagne.
Vineyards at Sunset near the Tuscan village of Le Sieci It is located in Chianti, Italy.
Pancia Piena’s founders and owners, Luri Ronchi and Emanuele Nenci, launched their business 19 years ago. Recently, the writer and winemaker based in Florence, Paola de Blasi, interviewed them and supplied the translated quotes below.
Ronchi stated, “Friendship and the desire to create something together led us to create A Pancia Piena, serving unpretentious street food made with seasonal, high-quality ingredients, speaking with simple candor and ‘Tucanity,’ a place where both of us in the kitchen could offer refreshment to those passing through Sieci.”
Both word of mouth and wine have increased their business. They offer a vast selection by the glass. “During the beginning years of A Pancia Piena, my passion for wine grew as well.” I started attempting to sample as much Sangiovese as feasible.
In 2008, Nenci made his first voyage to Burgundy and Champagne, where he “absolutely discovered a new flavor, a new style of winemaking that literally conquered him.”
“For us, breaking the rules of street food with a restaurant-style wine list was revolutionary, and this revolution will never end,” Nenci added.