Food varies quite a bit around the Italian peninsula, ensuring that travelers don’t need to worry about growing bored with a lack of variety here as the typical dishes change with the regions. This also means there’s something on the menu for everyone, wherever you may go in Italy!
Here are some food suggestions for those of you who love:
Spicy Food: Typical of the Southern regions mostly
- Penne Arrabbiata (or any other pasta dish with “Arrabbiata” in the name)…literally means “angry” and is a tasty spicy tomato-based sauce!
- Nduja. This spicy Calabrian sausage can be served alone or often as a spread or sauce. This is a seriously spicy food, so only for the professionals please!
- Piazza Diavola. This is a spicy salami pizza, and with a name like “Devil” Pizza, fiery-food-seekers shouldn’t be disappointed.
Rice Dishes: Typical of the Northern Regions like Veneto and Lombardy.
- Risotto of any type, such as Risotto with Zucca (pumpkin), Milanese (cheese and Saffron), Asparagi (Asparagus), Funghi (mushrooms), or Allo Scoglio (a seafood mix).
- Risi e Bisi (Rice and Peas), from the Veneto region.
- Suppli. This is a fried rice ball with melted mozzarella and sometimes tomato sauce inside as well.
“White” Pastas: meaning pasta plates without tomato-based sauces
- Cacio e Pepe, typical of the Lazio region, this is a pasta traditionally with Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper.
- Carbonara, also typical of Lazio, this is a pasta with raw egg, cheese, and either Guanciale or Pancetta (both bacon-like meat from different parts of the pig).
- Funghi Porcini, a porcini medley for mushroom lovers.
- Aglio e Olio (e Peperoncino), a garlic and olive oil dish that is simple yet satisfying (and spicy if besides the “aglio e olio” there is also the hot chili “peperoncino”)
- Pesto, a Ligurian creation and a great pasta sauce for basil, olive oil, and parmesan lovers.
“Red” Pastas: meaning with tomato or tomato-based sauce.
- Bolognese, a hearty meat sauce that originates in unsurprisingly in Bologna, and is great for the Fall and Winter.
- Puttanesca, a Sicilian pasta plate with a little bit of a lot of ingredients inside! Ingredients usually include tomatos, capers, black olives, anchovies, and peperoncino. Some can be veggie only, others might have meat in the sauce.
- Alla Norma, also Sicilian with fried eggplant and ricotta salata (salted and usually aged ricotta).
- Pomodoro e Basilica, a very simple and kid-friendly tomato and basil dish.
- Gamberi/Gamberoni, Shrimp or Prawns can be found on the menu in a variety of ways, sometimes with pasta, sometimes “in padella” (pan-sautéed).
- Salmone, Salmon can be found as a topping for pizza, or often as a main dish “affumicato” (smoked)
- Astice/Aragosta, lobster can be found with pasta plates such as Linguini Aragosta or as a main course like Aragosta/Astice Catalana (boiled and served with sauce and salad).
- Pescespada, Swordfish, can usually be found Al Forno (oven-baked), or Alla Griglia (grilled).
- Calamari, a fried squid appetizer, was born in the southern regions of Italy and is usually found there or in restaurants on the Italian coasts.
- Allo Scoglio or Alla Pescatora, whether on a menu as a risotto (rice plate) or a pasta it’s a mix of seafood such as mussels, shrimp, and octopus.
- Bistecca, meaning steak can be found in most restaurants prepared in many ways like Al Forno (baked), Grigliata (grilled), or Fiorentina (Florentine). Look also for “Bistecca di maiale” (Pork steak) and other Bistecca variations.
- Porchetta, a pork roast typical of Lazio which can be eaten alone with greens such as chicory or as a sandwich.
- Coda Alla Vaccinara, a Roman stew of vegetables and usually veal tail, even if they translate it to “Oxtail”.
- Prosciutto, cured Italian ham generally served as a light appetizer often with fresh mozzarella or melon slices.
- Trippa, Tripe can be served in a number of ways around the Peninsula. Trippa alla Romana (tomato, pecorino, mint )or Trippa in Bianco (olive oil, garlic, mint, pecorino cheese) to name a few.
Vegetables only: dishes with no meat or seafood.
- Melanzane Parmigiana, Eggplant covered in Parmesan and tomato and baked. This is often on the menu under the “Secondo Piatto” section as a main course.
- Pizza Ortolana, a pizza topped with different veggies like zucchini, eggplant, and bell peppers.
- Take a look at the Pasta and Rice sections above, as they have some meatless and fishless options. You can generally find pastas or rice on any menu that are vegetarian-friendly.
- Zuppa, soups might be on the menu in the winter but be sure to ask if the “brodo” (broth) is vegetale (vegetable) or something else.
- Contorni, the side-dishes, usually vegetable and salad options like “Cicoria” (chicory, often spicy), Patate (potatoes, sometimes baked “al forno” or boiled “lesse”), insalata mista (mixed salad) and often verdure grigliate (grilled veggies with olive oil).
- Gelato, Italian ice cream is abundant all year long and not hard to find.
- Panna Cotta, literally “cooked cream”, is a dessert that has the consistency of flan and can come with a caramel, chocolate, or berry sauce on top.
- Tiramisu, literally meaning “pick me up”, this is a popular dessert even outside of Italy! It’s a caffeine-loaded mix of coffee-soaked ladyfingers, mascarpone, cocoa, and usually a liqueur.
- Panforte, traditional of the Tuscany Region, it’s a sweet “bread” that might remind you of a fruitcake, filled with nuts and dried fruit alongside honey and spices. Goes great with dessert wines!
- Chocolate, having two major Choco-capitals (Torino and Perugia), chocoholics will have no issue finding a fix anywhere in The Boot! Try Fondente if you like dark chocolate, or “Baci” or “Gianduja” if you love hazelnut! Nutella, the famous chocolatey-hazelnut spread is never hard to find, even internationally, as well.