Supplizio and the surprising story of supplì
ROME -- “Street Food” has seen a meteoric rise in popularity over recent years. It has become a trendy term used to describe the sorts of dishes traditionally eaten by the working class. Oriental Street Food has especially benefited from this latest spark in interest, yet very little is said about the Italian ‘Cibo di strada.’
With that in mind, I headed to Supplizio, a small, cosy joint not far from the banks of the Tiber, to discover more about the world of Italian street food. The restaurant is the brainchild of revered chef Arcangelo Dandini, who started Supplizio three years ago off the back of his other successful venture, L’Archangelo. Whilst the latter offers classic Italian fine dining, Supplizio strips Italian cuisine back to its roots, specialising in authentic Roman cooking.
I was warmly greeted by Fabrizio Piazzolla, who runs the restaurant in Dandini’s absence. The restaurant is named after its speciality, the ‘supplì,’ a typical Roman snack dating back to the 1700s. The supplì are fried risotto rice balls, not dissimilar from their better-known relative, arancini. The rice is made with a rich tomato sauce before it is made into a ball and coated in raw egg. It is then dipped in breadcrumbs, and lightly fried. Fabrizio described supplì as the “rebirth” of the risotto and as giving a “second life” to the classic dish. Their unique appeal is the melted mozzarella encased within, which is drawn out in a string after the first bite. Fabrizio informed me that, supposedly, the supplì acquired their name during the 19th century Napoleonic occupation of Italy. The story goes that upon discovering the mozzarella within the supplì, the French troops used the word ‘surprise,’ the Italianised interpretation of this evolved into ‘supplì’ and the word has been used ever since.
Supplizio offers eight different takes on the original supplì but Fabrizio was adamant that the classic could not be beaten. It was clear that supplì have a sentimental value for all those involved at the restaurant. Chef Dandini told Fabrizio that the aromas produced from the making of supplì transported him back to his childhood, to memories of infancy and happiness with traditional Roman ingredients.
I got the chance to sample the main star of the event and fortunately it didn’t disappoint, the classic supplì being every bit as good as I expected. In addition to the classic, Fabrizio treated me to a selection of Supplizio’s specialities including, pane e carbonara - an original supplì take on the more famous spaghetti dish, crocchete di patate affumicate- delicious smoked potato croquettes and frittata di maccheroni- a fried maccheroni based omelette which was simple, yet tasty.
Each dish was a wonderfully original twist on more traditional Italian cooking and yet the intensity and quality of the flavours were still preserved. I also sampled la crema di zucca zuppa -a rich pumpkin soup with rosemary that was a perfect accompaniment to the array of fried food I had already devoured.
Before leaving, Fabrizio insisted that I try the crema fritta, a typical Roman sweet. The crema fritta is a fried custard ball dipped in sugar and cinnamon and despite the feast that Fabrizio had already treated me to, it was sensational and left me wanting more.
Supplizio has managed to convert what was once food of the poor into a unique gourmand experience and I left feeling inspired to discover more about Italian Street Food. On reflection, perhaps the term ‘Street Food’ is a bit derogatory and doesn’t do the quality of what’s on offer at Supplizio justice. Afterall, It’s not ‘street food’, just pure and authentic food of the street.
143 Via dei Banchi Vecchi,