The Supplì: history and curiosities of the king of Roman Street Food Tours

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Street food lovers, this topic is definitely for you.
In this article, we will explore the king of street food, a small fried rice ball to be eaten at any time of the day and practically everywhere. Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you the supplì!
We will also reveal the most iconic places where you can taste the best supplì in Rome, both in the city center and beyond.

We are confident that after reading this, you won’t be able to resist trying it!

The Street Food in Italy

Roman cuisine is known and appreciated in Italy and around the world not only for its classic dishes, which have their roots in various historical periods. One immediately thinks of the Roman first courses based on eggs, guanciale (cured pork cheek), tomato, and pecorino cheese, mixed in different combinations but always delicious: just think of the tasty carbonara, amatriciana, gricia, and cacio e pepe, absolute protagonists of any restaurant and trattoria in Rome. And let’s not forget about the meat main courses, made from humble ingredients and offal – the famous “quinto quarto” – and the side dishes of locally grown vegetables sautéed in a pan like chicory and broccoli.


The king of Roman fried food

There’s a whole gastronomic sector that has always characterized Roman cuisine and has the timeless flavor of weekend family or friends’ dinners; those dinners based on pizza, beer, and… supplì! In this article, we will talk about the undisputed king of Roman culinary preparations and all that tradition of frying that has always captured the palates of Romans and non-Romans alike.


Origins and the first official recipe

Like many other Roman foods, supplì has humble origins. We’re talking about a tasty rice croquette with sauce and a piece of cheese inside, compacted and then breaded with grated stale bread, often assembled using ingredients prepared in the previous days. Legend has it that this tasty rice croquette, which began to spread and be consumed on the streets of Rome during festivals and events, first appeared on a restaurant menu, the “Trattoria della Lepre,” in 1874 under the name “sopplis di riso”. A few decades later, in 1929, it reappeared officially in the book “La Cucina Romana” written by Ada Boni. According to the famous Roman gastronome and journalist, “le sopplis” – the name was in the feminine form – could be seasoned in various ways: the sauce could be with or without meat, with ham, mushrooms, provola cheese, and offal. It was also important to let it cool on a marble surface to firm it up; then it was possible to compact it into small balls of rice to be first coated in flour, then in egg, and finally in breadcrumbs. Once these breaded rice balls were formed, they had to be fried in hot oil until crispy and golden. As soon as they were ready, they had to be eaten hot.


Why “supplì”?

Legend has it that the term “sopplis,” later transformed into “supplì,” comes from the French word “surprise”: a French soldier walking through Rome tasted this freshly fried rice croquette and was amazed by the stringy mozzarella he found inside, which he called “surprise” which, when Italianized, became “supplì”.


The undisputed success up to the present day

But what must a supplì have to be considered truly perfect? The “telephone-style” supplì, once opened, must have first and foremost a mozzarella that stretches, thus resembling the cords of the old telephone handset. The breading must be crispy, firm, not greasy, and golden. The rice must also be of a specific type because the grains must be well distinct, not granular, and must not fall apart. The sauce must then be dense and creamy, with a not too overpowering flavor. To be strictly eaten with hands, today the supplì has seen its versions multiply exponentially. White, spiced, vegetarian, it is proposed in numerous variants, making it the absolute protagonist of Roman street food. Suitable for all hours, for a quick lunch, a tasty snack, or a pizza-based dinner, the supplì, from almost forgotten food, has become one of the foods that is practically impossible to give up.


5 best places to eat Supplì in Rome

  1. Supplizio – via dei Banchi Vecchi 123 and via dei Coronari 25

In the Trastevere area, an unmissable stop for supplì lovers, offered here in numerous variations.

  1. La Casa del Supplì – via Francesca Ripa- piazza Re di Roma 20

A venue that has become a true institution in Rome; the first one was opened in 1979. Also here many variations are proposed, such as in addition to the classic with meat sauce: amatriciana, mushrooms and peas, cacio e pepe, and seasonal ones.

  1. Sbanco – Via Siria 1

Among the widest offers in the city, you won’t be disappointed by this bite-sized rice treat. Beef ragu, tomato, sautéed onions, basil, parsley, pepper, mozzarella, parmesan, and pecorino cheese, ham and figs with onions, black pepper, guanciale (cured pork cheek), and egg… there’s really something for everyone’s taste!

  1. Trapizzino – P.le Ponte Milvio 13 – Via Giovanni Branca 88c – Piazza Trilussa 46 – Roma Termini

Stefano Callegari’s supplì no longer needs many presentations. In addition to the classic version, the constantly changing menu always offers new delicious variations.

  1. 180 g – Via Tor de Schiavi 53

A bit more decentralized than the other street food venues, 180g is located in one of Rome’s new urban districts. The author of this supplì is Jacopo Mercuro, who called this rice ball “sanpietrino” in honor of the typical Roman cobblestone. Classic but not only, it’s an experience to be lived in its entirety!


If you are visiting the Eternal City and between a museum visit and a guided tour of Rome, you suddenly crave a quick but tasty snack, the supplì is definitely the ideal solution to curb hunger and get you back on track to discover the numerous wonders of Rome.