In Italy, good food and wine often verge on the sublime. From Rome to Lombardy and the Valle d’Aosta to Sicily, Italians are among the world’s greatest cooks—just ask any one of them.
While food and wine has always been of national importance, regional traditions and seasonal ingredients continue to dominate most kitchens and often determine menu selections for the day. Along with having some of the world’s most spectacular vineyards, Italy is a treasure-trove of quaint osterias and trattorias that offer visitors plenty to munch on, sip, and savor.
Northern Italian cuisine often reflects the people’s pride in their unspoiled countryside—with the overall rule being if it grows well in the area, it will usually be on the plate. The use of butter, rice, corn (for polenta) and cheeses for cream sauces differentiates this part of the country. Of course there are exceptions to these rules such as the olive oils of the Liguria and Lakes regions. Pasta is by no means non-existent here, but it does have to share time with delicious risotto and polenta.
Bordered by France to the west and Switzerland to the north, the Val d’Aoste produces fine Fontina cheeses for use in local specialties like costoletta alla Valdostana—a delicate veal chop covered in Fontina. Another local favorite, Capriola alla Valdostana, is a hearty venison strew made with wine, vegetables and grappa (a fragrant, yet potent grape-based spirit). The rocky crags of the Alps provide the perfect climate for fantastic red wines like Chambave Rosso and Nus Rosso.
In Lombardy, rice dishes such as minestrone alla Milanese, made with vegetables, rice and bacon; and risotto alla Milanese, a creamy dish of braised short-grain rice blended with meat stock, saffron and cheese are overwhelmingly good. If you travel here, don’t miss out on the ravioli with a pumpkin filling from Montova, and osso bucco, a traditional main course of tender veal knuckle braised with rosemary and sage. The excellent cheeses of the region include the rich blue Gorgonzola and Mascarpone. Lombardy’s best wines include well-aged reds and sparkling whites created in the tradition of French Champagnes.
Located on the coast, Liguria is most famous for its basil Pesto sauce. Seafood is prominent on most menus with fresh caught anchovies being a favorite as well as swordfish, tuna, sardines and sea bass. Popular meat dishes including tomaxelle (veal rolls) and coniglio in umbido (rabbit stew). Ligurian desserts include pandolce Genovese, a sweet bread made with candied fruit, raisins and nuts, and sweet pizzas made with walnuts, chestnuts and candied fruit. White wines like Sciacchetra and Colline di Levanto are ideal for pairing with seafood.
Boscov’s Travel: Your first stop to the world.
Also check out: