Supplì, Rome's ultimate fried food, are as famous inside the Italian capital as they are unknown outside. Excellent as an appetizer and or simply on their own, supplì haven't received their due credit outside of Rome. Of course, the national recognition of its "competitor,” Sicilian arancini, hasn't helped. So for better or for worse, supplì continues to be appreciated almost exclusively among the majesty and (beautiful) chaos of Rome.
The difference from arancini
Roman supplì are shaped like an elongated meatball and comprise a heart of mozzarella encased by rice and meat sauce. Arancini, on the other hand, take on many forms. They are larger and fillings vary as does the breading. Supplì are dipped in egg before frying to keep the breadcrumbs taut while the batter is used for arancini instead. The original Roman recipe calls for a sauce made from chicken giblets (durelli and fagatini), though nowadays, the sauce is usually made from minced beef.
Cheesy, stringy supplì
Although supplì are unquestionably Roman, their name originates from beyond. It's said to derive from surprendre, the French word for surprise, and therefore associated with the Napoleonic occupation of the late 18th century. Legend says that French soldiers starting referring to the Roman specialty as such because the first bite revealed a "surprise," the word eventually evolving into supplì.
A more recent tale states that they're full name is supplì al telefono because breaking it in half creates a mozzarella "thread," similar to the one that joins the handset to the telephone.
Supplì were originally sold on the street – street vendors used to walk around the alleys with a caldara filled with oil and prepare them on the spot, serving them hot. They're now found at pizzerias and even some restaurants around the city. Some places get creative offering alternative flavors like cacio e pepe.