Eating and Drinking in Italy: Buon Appetito!

by Luisa Antognetti

One of the best parts of travelling is sampling the local cuisine and libations. In fact, many people travel with this in mind, seeking out the best destinations for food and drink. Italy especially is known worldwide for its exquisite culinary delights. Italian cuisine is extremely varied, offering an array of delicious indulgences. Each region features its own unique specialties with different dishes eliciting surprise. The following is a guide to help you plan your culinary adventure through Italy.

Pasta is typically the first course of an Italian meal. There are all sorts of imaginative ways to season or sauce a pasta dish, plus a huge variety of different pastas. For instance, parma tortellini is made with herbs and ricotta and served with hot butter and parmesan. In Northern Italy, rice rather than pasta is served in risotto dishes. In Milan, one will often find risotto flavoured with saffron or truffles.

The main course in an Italian meal is usually a meat dish. Bistecca alla fiorentina, or charcoal grilled beef steak, is a specialty in Florence. In the north of Italy, ossibuchi—stewed shin of veal, or cinghiale agrodolce— boar in a sweet and sour sauce, are specialty dishes. Pork products such as salumi are also popular choices in Italy. The Friuli region features exquisite San Daniele ham and Parma is known for langhirano ham. Another popular main dish is fish and seafood. Gran fritto misto—a deep fried selection of seafood with lemon—is a countrywide favourite.
Salad or vegetables are often served as their own course, after the main meat dish. The Island of Capri is known for its popular caprese salad, which is made with mozzarella from buffalo’s milk, tomatoes and fresh basil.
At the end of the meal, world-famous gelato or blood oranges are often served. Another favourite end of meal dish is cheese. Delicious caprini made with goat’s milk and caciotta from Tuscany are both popular cheeses to serve at the end of a meal.
To go along with your Italian culinary adventure are a number of fine wines. Fine red wines from Barolo, Chianti and Barbera are especially popular. The white wines of Suave and Verdicchio are also favourites. In addition, the south and the islands feature dessert wines such as Marsala and raisin Muscatel as specialties.

With so many delicious choices, something is bound to excite your taste buds in every region!