Italian Cuisine by City or Region

Our Guide to the Best Italian Food

You say Italy, and we say…we’re hungry! Ready for the culinary journey of a lifetime? Here’s our breakdown of what to eat and drink in Italy by city or region.

Rome

Italy’s capital calls for Carbonara, a deliciously egg-based pasta with pancetta or guanciale (cured pork jowl) and pecorino romano cheese, or Cacio e Pepe, a simply sublime pasta made with cheese and black pepper. Save space for an order of the seasonal carciofo alla giudia, Rome’s famous deep-fried Jewish-style artichokes, and snack on supplì, fried rice balls usually stuffed with tomato sauce, mozzarella and meat. Craving sweets? Try maritozzi, a sweet bun filled with whipped cream and eaten at breakfast, and, of course, go for gelato!

Milan

It might be hard to picture stylish jet-setters digging into the comforting, rich dishes this fashion city is known for. Indulge in deliciously creamy, saffron-spiced risotto alla Milanese (served with Ossobuco!), the breaded and fried veal cutlet known as cotoletta alla Milanese, or warm and hearty cassoeula, a pork and cabbage stew. Considering this is also the birthplace of the holiday staple Panettone, you might have to size up at Dolce & Gabbana.

Venice

Evenings here revolve around two things: cicchetti (small appetizers) and Prosecco (straight, or mixed in a Spritz or Bellini) in the city’s bàcari (local bars). It’s no surprise this lagoon-ringed city loves seafood. Try sarde in saor (fried sardines with vinegar), moeche (soft-shell crabs fished from the lagoon), and baccalà mantecato (a salted cod spread). Other must-try dishes include risi e bisi, a soup of rice and peas once served to kings, and, for meat lovers, fegato alla Veneziana, a popular main of calf’s liver. If you’re in town for February’s Carnival, delight in fritole, typical Venetian doughnuts.

Turin & the Piedmont region

Truffles and wine anyone? The area abounds in black or white truffles, especially near Alba which dedicates a whole festival to this delicacy every fall. Join an authentic truffle hunt in local woods to help collect this curious brand of fungi. The region’s idyllic landscape also produces two of the world’s most acclaimed red wines: Barolo and Barbaresco. Locals even make a mean stew cooked with Barolo wine—brasato al Barolo. Hazelnuts are also grown here and used to make another of Piedmont’s most famous exports, Nutella.

Florence & the Tuscany region

Tuscany thrives on simple, delicious country-side cooking. To start, go for crostini di fegato, a typical Tuscan appetizer of toasted bread and chicken liver. Florence fancies its meat, like the classic bistecca alla fiorentina, a T-bone steak usually served very rare. Freshen up with panzanella, a cold bread salad with tomatoes and basil, or warm up with ribollita, a vegetable and bean soup ideal for colder days. Top off your meals with flavourful Chianti or Montalcino wine and end it with a sweet cake called schiacciata alla Fiorentina.

Naples

Two words: pizza napoletana. This is where it was invented, this is where you should eat it! Pair pizza with pastries like the textured and shell-shaped sfogliatella, dusted with sugar and stuffed with ricotta or almond paste.

Sicily

Sicilian cuisine bursts with the flavours of local produce: locally grown capers, pistachios, and freshly-fished seafood. Pick up to-go treats like arancini, breaded rice balls often stuffed with mozzarella and ragù, or sfincione, thick crusted Sicilian-style pizza. Dig into pasta con le sarde, a superb sardine dish and caponata, a side dish of eggplant and various vegetables. Cool down from the hot Sicilian sun with granita, sweetly flavoured shaved ice and treat yourself to the island’s prized invention: the cannoli.

Everywhere

Before or after you eat anything, no matter where you are, you must drink coffee in Italy. Order a caffè and an espresso will quickly be served, to be imbibed on the spot and never to go. Cappuccinos are best enjoyed at breakfast, and don’t order an Americano, do order a caffè lungo. For a bit of a kick, go for the boozy caffè corretto and for a cold concoction, ask for an icy caffè freddo.

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