by Mauro Abate
: Via Margutta
(Margutta street) by Luca Barbarossa
Perhaps to your great surprise, what is known as "Italian
cuisine" is actually a galaxy of regional cuisines. Every
region in fact has its cuisine, contributing to the
broader one with its dishes.
In a nutshell, there follows a concise list of the most important
regional cuisines (needless to say the Italians believe that the cuisine of their region is the best):
- Naples (pizza, sfogliatelle,
pastiera, babà etc.);
- Bologna (lasagne, tortellini,
ravioli, parmesan cheese, prosciutto-ham, Modena balsamic
- Sicily (pasta alla Norma, pasta con sarde
e pinoli, caponata, melanzane alla parmigiana, scacciate,
- Liguria (the region of Genoa, with its very delicate natural Mediterranean ingredients and recipes, for ex. pasta
- Puglie (or Apulia, for its "orecchiette" pasta,
its whole wheat Altamura bread, its very imaginative
Mediterranean first courses and fish dishes).
of Tuscany is famous for its steaks (bistecca alla
Fiorentina) and sweets (Saporelli and Panforte of Siena,
for ex.), the cuisine of Abruzzi for its meat dishes,
the region of Milan for its "risotto" (rice with saffron)
and the Christmas cake "Panettone", finally Calabria is renowned for its very natural products, particularly
tomatoes. The region of Piedmont is renowned for its wines, its truffles, and for its sophisticated chocolates.
Only the very best and famous Italian restaurants
have a large selection of many dishes from various regions,
including the wines, which are also different in every region.
Normal good restaurants will have regional dishes and the
most important dishes of other regions. Very simple restaurants
or "trattorie" have just a few regional dishes and
very few national ones. The solution to have an in-depth experience
of the Italian cuisine, and hence of the regional cuisines,
without facing the huge bill of the very best and famous restaurants,
is trying another type of restaurant, the specific regional
ones, having all the specialties of that region. Usually they
clearly indicate their nature, i.e. the regional cuisine they
On the other hand, a particular feature of the Italian cuisine
is that the Italians, even the wealthy ones, like to use simpler
restaurants, and whenever possible also home-made food. Italians
have a lot of good taste, and are very sensible people. Above
all, although the Italian cuisine uses a complex array of
criteria, ingredients and millenary considerations, it privileges
simplicity in presentation and approach, unlike the French.
This is why you will always find cheap, honest "trattorie"
packed with locals, who would possibly still prefer home cooking
(mum's is traditionally considered the best!).
Rome, Trastevere. Waiters setting the tables and preparing the restaurant, rekindling a millenary tradition
The Italian cuisine follows a combination of the following
(a) First of all food should be prepared with genuine and
(b) It should involve important cultural factors as attachment
to the family, to tradition, and to the very important underlying
cultural, ethical and moral aspects.
(c) It is a convivial cuisine: people should ideally enjoy
meals together, strengthening family or friendly relations.
Moreover, like in all Mediterranean cuisines, eating means
sitting around the table, and exchanging ideas, values and
emotions with other people, possibly having a different outlook.
(d) Food must have good taste, and it should be healthy too.
Like all Mediterranean cuisines, there should be predominance
of vegetables, and low content of meat, fish, and animal products.
There should be hence a correct low quantity of saturated
fats and cholesterol, and an adequate intake of complex carbohydrates
(as it occures in pasta).
These are the distinctive features making the Italian cuisine
rightfully famous. This is also why the peasant tradition
A good sign is also that vegetarianism is becoming increasingly
popular. By respecting the animals' rights to live, people
find out that they eat and live better, and that they are
healthier. In the Mediterranean countries vegetarians find
also an ideal variety of food.
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