The Ultimate Roman Street Food

Its translation to English means telephone surprise, but why is it called this way? I’m talking about, of course, the famous supplì al telefono.

These are originally from the city of Rome, and are sure to be on the top of any Romans’ list of favorite appetizers. So what are they? And why are called supplì al telefono?

Supplì are elongated fried rice balls with mozzarella in the middle, and to make them even more tasty, sometimes meat is added. In fact, they were originally sold on the streets as vendors would fry them on the spot serving them immediately. Now, of course, they can also be found in most pizzerias and even some restaurants.

They are undoubtedly Roman, but their name suggests otherwise. We go back to the late 18th century when Napoleon and his army occupied parts of the Italian peninsula. When the French soldiers tried supplì for the first time, they didn’t know what to expect so for them it was considered a suprise (pronounced the French way). That word then changed over time to surprisa, then to supprisa, supprì, and finally supplì.

So why is the term supplì al telefono typically found on menus in Rome and in authentic Roman pizzerias/restaurants around the world? Well, that’s because if it’s prepared correctly and you break it in half, there will be a thread of mozzarella which reminds you of a handset connected to the telephone.

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