Food in Italy not only defines their culture, but also their people, history and tradition. While there is no ‘typical’ Italian food, each region has its own famous dish.
Trying different food in Italy is a way for you to experience local culture. Regardless of whether you are visiting or residing in Italy, here are some dishes you need to try in Italy.
As one of the most popular Italian dishes, pizza can be found all around Italy. Naples is known to have the best pizza in the country.
There are two different types of pizza to choose from in Italy — Neapolitan-style pizza and Roman-style pizza. A Neapolitan-style pizza has a thick and fluffy crust while a Roman-style pizza has a paper-thin crust. Neapolitan-style pizzas tend to be smaller as the dough is not rolled out far, this results in a thick and fluffy crust, unlike the Roman-style pizzas.
When ordering pizza in Italy, opt for less toppings. Fewer toppings are known to be a sign of confidence in the product.
Arancini, also known as Suppli in Rome, are fried rice balls originated in Sicily. These balls are commonly made from risotto and coated with breadcrumbs before being placed in a deep fryer.
You can also find these balls filed with either mozzarella, fonina cheese or ragu meat sauce.
Lasagne is also a widely known dish internationally — consisting of wide, flat pasta noodles baked in layers of Bolognese sauce.
Lasagne is best enjoyed in Bologna, the city famous for ragu: a sauce made from celery, onion, carrots beef and tomato concentrate. This sauce is usually used to season fresh pasta.
To make polenta, patience and adequate preparation is needed. This dish is one made up of boiled cornmeal and served as a hot porridge. Polenta is usually served with peppers, onions, sausage or cheese.
There are various forms of this dish, from it being sliced and fried to it being served warm.
While this dish originated in Northern Italy, polenta can be found throughout Italy these days. The best places to eat this dish, however, is in Trentino.
You will be able to find focaccia throughout Italy. Focaccia is a soft and light flatbread. You will be able to see different variations of this bread, some topped with different ingredients from tomatoes to grapes.
In Italy, focaccia is made with good quality gluten-rich flour and extra virgin olive oil, and prepared to perfection.
Some variations of focaccia include:
- Focaccia with onions
- Bari focaccia — focaccia topped with fresh cherry tomatoes
- Genoese focaccia — also known as the mother of all focaccias with its dough enriched with coarse salt and EVO oil
Osso Buco alla Milanese
This dish is a Lombardy specialty and traditionally made alla Milanese. Osso Buco is made up of cross-cut veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and broth. This dish is also traditionally served with either risotto or polenta, depending on the region you eat it in.
If you love meat, this dish is for you. Once you have eaten the veal, scoop out its creamy marrow for the best part.
Cacio e Pepe
This dish is directly translated to mean cheese and pepper, and is a traditional pasta dish originated in Rome. While this dish is simple, the Romans are able to balance each flavour well.
This dish uses Tagliolini or Bucatini noodles and topped with finely grated cheese.
When in Italy, gelato is something you should not miss. While both ice cream and gelato contain milk, cream and sugar, gelato consists of a larger percentage of milk and generally does not use eggs.
If you are looking for a traditional gelato, find out that is not brightly colours and won’t stand in ‘tall towers’ to ensure there are no added preservatives.
If you are visiting Southern Italy, cannolis are one you need to try. This dessert is made from tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough and filled with a creamy filling typically made from ricotta cheese.
While you can find cannoli throughout Italy, this dessert originated near Sicily. When looking for cannoli, look out for shops who fill the shells fresh!
If you like pastry, there are many other pastries you can try in Italy, apart from cannoli including: sfogliatelle, cornetti and Bigne di San Guiseppe.
Tiramisu is well loved throughout Italy — ladyfingers dipped in coffee and layered with mascarpone cheese and cocoa. This dish has also been adapted into many varieties over the world.