What’s the big deal with frittelle?
After all, it’s JUST fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar, right? That was my superior attitude until I remembered I had been a devotee of Krispy Kreme growing up. And vacations in New Orleans taught me to swoon at the first bite of a beignet. So who was I to pass judgment on yet another incarnation of fried dough? Italians adore this treat, and visitors easily become converts.
Also called fritole, these pastries originated as Venetian doughnuts. Traditionally they were served during Carnevale, but now you can find them all over Italy year-round, especially at local festivals, in all shapes and sizes––particularly the large “disk” incarnation pictured above. We even found a frittelle truck in the parking lot of Obi (an Italian equivalent of Home Depot). The basic preparation is fried, yeast-risen dough that is sprinkled with powdered sugar. But, more elaborate additions are found, such as raisins and pine nuts, and pastry cream fillings.
How can Italians eat so many sweets like frittelle?
Italian food culture is built around pastries. Me? I long ago discarded muffins, pancakes, french toast, etc for the likes of a hearty scrambled-eggs-and-bacon breakfast. I stay away from bread for the most part (you’re probably laughing at this point and wondering why the hell I moved to Italy). Protein and fat work for me. Sweets? No so much.
Still, I’ve sampled frittelle, and it’s heady stuff. If your energy is lagging, you’ll get a pretty quick food high!
I’m convinced Italians have been genetically programmed to be able to subsist on pastries for breakfast, bread at almost every meal, and occasional treats like frittelle. “Occasional” is the critical word. You normally don’t see Italians overdoing it on any of the aforementioned flour-based foods. Italians seem to understand restraint. For me, however, it’s a slippery slope and abstinence is a wiser choice. I’ll take my pleasure watching the passionate consumption of frittelle by happy Italians!