Italian Food Guide
Like every major destination in the world, Italy has its own unique food culture. In Spain it might be tapas or paella, in Germany its sauerkraut and bratwurst, and getting to know the local foodie experience can also be one of the best ways to get to know the country. Italy is especially recognised for its wonderful food offerings, as the home of authentic pizza and pasta, sumptuous olives, fish fresh from the Alpine lakes, and incredible desserts – these are just some of the best-known dishes from the region.
Food is at the heart of every Italian family, bringing everyone together to the table, to reconnect over a delicious feast. The food is a perfect accompaniment to the backdrop of the landscape, whether it’s the beautiful lakes, the coast with views of Sorrento, or the magic of the eternal city, Rome itself. A holiday in Italy is a ticket to some great meals whether it is the risottos, the little filled pasta parcels, the home-cured salamis, or the best cheeses, they are all on every menu. The only problem you will have is how to choose the best place to visit for a truly unique foodie experience. To make it easier for you, here are some suggestions for the top foods in each region.
Lake Como risotto
The secret to great Italian food is that only the freshest ingredients are used, the herbs, the hand-made pasta, and freshly-caught fish. Every family in each town has their own secret recipes passed down through the generations, and Lake Como is no exception. It is famed for its freshwater fish, and one in particular that the local fishermen call Pesce Perisco, that we may know as Perch. The local Lake Como restaurants provide a wealth of appetizing dishes, and our suggestion is the Risotto com Pesce Persico (the Perch risotto), a certainty to excite your palate. This dish showcases two of the finest specialities of the Lombardy region – the pesce Persico and the risotto for which the region is famous. To accompany this dish with its rich flavours, we suggest a dry white wine, to enjoy as you take in the views over the lake.
Pizza in Sorrento
Although every region in Italy has its own cuisine, we tend to think of pizza as being everywhere in the country. Of course this is true, but to find the best pizza in Italy you should travel to the region of Sorrento. These days you can find any topping on a pizza, but originally it was made with just a few of the best ingredients. According to local legends a baker in Napoli, Raffaele Esposito, first came up with the idea of producing a flatbread decorated like the Italian flag – tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil representing the red, white and green of the flag’s colours, and called it Pizza Margherita. It is a simple dish compared to many modern day offerings, and is something you must try when in Sorrento. To complete the authentic experience it is best tasted from one of the many street stalls around the local piazzas which sell Pizza Margherita by the slice. If you are not in a hurry and look for a more leisurely experience there are plenty of small restaurants where you can order a whole pizza, sit back with a glass of the local wine and watch the world go by.
Tuscan Olive Oil
Olive oil has a long history in many cultures, including the Greeks, the Romans, and even the Egyptians. Olives in Italy are a part of life, and olive oil is essential to complement any meal. The best known region for olive oil in Italy is Tuscany. Here it becomes more than a local classic, the production of the oil is almost a religious experience. The best known areas for olive oil in Tuscany are Chianti and Lucca, and no trip to Italy would be complete without a visit to taste the local specialties of these regions. The Lucca region, near the coast, produces olive oil that is yellow and light. The oils in Chianti have more of a green colouring, with a spicy, pepper flavour. Italians usually drizzle a few drops of olive oil on many of their meals, especially pastas and meats, even vegetable dishes, to add a dash of local flavour.
Spaghetti Carbonara in Rome
As the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, and that means eating at some of the eternal citys’ restaurants, which range from humble trattorias to the finer grande ristorantes. The city has a wealth of choice when it comes to dining, and the food in Rome is famed for its simple flavours and appetizing tastes. In accordance to traditions passed down through the centuries, the Roman chefs prepare meals with a few simple ingredients used in new, creative ways. The local specialities of the Lazio region are reflected in the character and personality of the Roman fare, and the one that stands out is the Spaghetti Carbonara. Originating in Rome, this dish is still made here in the authentic style, with eggs, pecorino cheese, pig cheeks, and dried hand-made pasta. Unlike the versions you may have tried elsewhere, the Romans do not include cream in the recipe, so you can eat more without thinking of your waistline.
The island of Sicily is famous for many of its dishes, made with locally caught fresh seafood and home-grown vegetables, such as the pasta dish with fresh sardines, pasta con le sarde, but actually its most popular and best known local speciality is the dessert, cannoli. Sicilian cannoli is made by frying small cylinders of fresh pasta which are then filled with creamy ricotta cheese and dusted with a coating of powdered sugar or ground nuts.They come in different sizes, they can be small and bite-sized or long and thin like your fingers, and there are different versions that have a variety of fillings – they are all delectable and an ideal accompaniment to a café espresso. Although available on menus all year round, they are especially prepared for the annual Carnevale festival in February where they are believed to have originated. The best place to try cannoli in Palermo is the Ballaro marketplace where there are many authentic pasticceria making this special dessert.
So – are your taste buds watering yet? You know you have to find these special foodie experiences and even more, with our most popular vacations in Italy.