The Roman penchant for deep frying knows no bounds. Every course, from appetizer to dessert, and virtually every type of eatery, from deli to Michellin Star restaurant could feature fried food. In Rome, fritti (fried things) come in infinite variations and may be dipped in pastella (flour and water batter), dusted with flour, or rolled in breadcrumbs and all but a few are (or should be!) cooked in extra virgin olive oil. Here is a handy guide to fried foods in Rome:
Animelle fritte are fried lamb sweetbreads, rolled in flour, dipped in beaten egg and fried. Plenty of places in Testaccio serve them, but I go to Checchino dal 1887 (Via di Monte Testaccio, 30) or Agustarello (Via Giovanni Branca, 100).
Carciofi alla giudia are carciofi romaneschi that have been stripped of around sixty-percent of their outer leaves. They are deep fried in extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with salt. The dish originated in the former Jewish Ghetto and it is now prepared all over the city and should only be ordered when carciofi romaneschi are in season in the late fall to early spring–otherwise you are getting frozen artichokes. Try carciofi alla giudia at Nonna Betta (Via del Portico d’Ottavia, 16) or La Matricianella (Via del Leone, 4) and don’t forget: the whole thing is edible, stem, leaves, and all.
Castagnole are deep fried dough balls drizzled with honey or dusted with confectioner’s sugar. They are traditionally made for Carnival and Purim.
Cervelli fritti are fried lamb or veal brains prepared in the fashion of animelle above. Try Checchino dal 1887 or Agustarello.
Crochette are mashed potatoes rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried. These are on every pizzeria menu.
Felafel are fried patties made from ground chick peas or fava beans. The dish came to Rome in 1967 with Jewish refugees from Libya. Felafel is served in the Sephardic restaurants in the Ghetto and Piazza Bologna, as well as at Gatta Mangiona (Via Federico Ozanam, 30) and Sforno (Via Statilio Ottato, 110/116).
Filetti di baccala are battered salt cod fillets. Every pizzeria serves them but the most famous place to eat them is at Dar Filettaro a Santa Barbara (Largo dei Librari, 88).
Fiori di zucca are the long stemmed, bright yellow blossoms of male zucchini. Traditonally, they are stuffed with mozzarella and a sliver of anchovy, then dipped in pastella and fried in extra virgin olive oil. You may also encounter fiori stuffed with ricotta version. Most pizzerias and some restaurants serve them, though they are often frozen. For the best and greatest fresh fiori di zucca, head to Sforno. At Antico Arco (Piazzale Aurelio, 7), the cacio e pepe incorporates unstuffed and unbattered blossoms.
Frappe aka chiacchiere are fried strips of dough sweetened with honey or confectioners sugar. They are made for Carnival.
Fritto misto alla romana is a mixed plate of fried sweetbreads, brains, testicles, artichokes, ricotta, zucchini, and apples. Not to be confused with frittura mista.
Frittura di paranza is a mixture of whole gutted fish (heads on), squid rings, moscardini, and whole shrimp that have been dipped in flour or batter and deep fried. Slightly different than the frittura mista which may feature tiny fish, but consists mostly of mollusks and crustaceans.
Mozzaella in carrozza is a battered mozzarella sandwich. When they are hot, Volpetti’s are divine.
Mozzarelline are breaded mozzarella balls. And don’t even think about asking for marinara sauce.
Olive ascolane are green olives stuffed with veal, pork, and breadcrumbs, then rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried. As the name suggests, they are from Ascoli Piceno but they have been fully adopted by Roman pizzerias.
Pesce fritto is gutted red mullet, smelts, baby sole, and other scaled fish (heads on) rolled in flour and deep fried. The dish is served for Rosh Hashanah and at fish restaurants everywhere.
Ricotta fritta is ricotta mixed with flour and egg, packed into small balls, and deep fried. Look for it at Al Pompiere.
Suppli’ are rice and meat sauce croquettes studded with mozzarella. They are rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried. Places like La Gatta Mangiona, 00100 (Via Giovanni Branca 88), Pizzarium (Via Meloria, 43) and Sforno do some creative variations, incorporating mixed seafood, pork jowl, or even porchetta into the rice mixture.
Verdure in pastella are seasonal vegetables that have been battered and fried in olive oil. The dish may include cauliflour, broccolo romanesco, onions, carrot slices, or apple slices. My favorites spots for this are Nonna Betta and Al Pompiere.
Rizzuloa at Cu Mangia Crisci.
While the following fritti are Sicilian, not Roman, they are widely available in Rome and it would be negligent to omit them fromt this list:
Arancine, also called arancini, are fist sized balls of rice stuffed with meat ragu’ and peas. Cu Mangia Crisci and Mizzica (Via Catanzaro, 30/36; Via Lucrezio Caro, 14) do outstanding ones.
Panelle are fried chick pea fritters served on bread.
Rizzuole are balls of risen dough stuffed with ragu’. Look for them at the Sicilian gastronomia Cu Mangia Crisci.