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Senior Cook
Oct 2, 2022
For more than a decade as the drinks editor of a monthly magazine I drew the otherwise unmerited attention of many publicists. That meant, for me as for my fellow scribblers, many fancy meals at bold-face restaurants. Truth be told, I didn’t find any of them memorable, and I don’t miss them one bit. Too Fussy. All that insincere cooing and cosseting in search of a bigger tip. For better or for worse, I’m a street-food guy. I like to graze. I like to snack and nosh. And the best place for that is Italy.
Italy’s 20 regions mean pretty much 20 cuisines, and within those regions there are sub-specialties for some towns and cities. In “Italian Street Food” Italo-Australian Paola Bacchia focuses on the snacks or ‘merende’ she has sampled at bars, fairs, markets and ‘sagre’ all over Italy. Some of these delights are more or less national in distribution—pizzette, crostini and those lovely little two-bite bar sandwiches can be found almost everywhere. Others, possibly the most interesting and certainly the most elusive are regional or local: Livorno’s cinque e cinque (eggplant-chickpea sandwich), Florence’s coccoli fritti (small fried bread balls, stuffed or not); Palermo’s panelle (fried chickpea flatbread); the seafood cichetti (or cicheti) found in Venice’s bars (called bacari—accent on the first syllable); Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s frico (cheese-potato-onion pancake); Rome’s whimsically named supplì al telefono (fried balls of mozzarella and rice); and more, including such rarefied distinctions as the difference between affogato all romana and alla veneziana (the former drops ice cream into expresso, the latter into hot chocolate). The book is handsomely produced and illustrated: when cooking from it, a protective plastic shield is suggested. My sole complaint: nothing on Ligurias’s focaccia (the only kind worthy of the name) and Palermo’s vasteddi (or guasteddi). Time for your next trip, Paola!—Bill Marsano is writer, editor, and a long-time home cook specializing in Italian dishes.

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