Italy Food and Drink
Though renowned the world over, the umbrella term, Italian cuisine, barely begins to cover the rich, regional variations that make up the Italian table. To the north, French and Austrian influences make for dishes heavy in meat, cream and butter, while further south, beyond the central region of Emilia-Romagna, the cooking turns lighter centring around ingredients such as olive oil, tomatoes and fish.
Locals are fiercely proud of their regional specialities, with each town or village proclaiming their local salami or cheese to be the best. Notable regional dishes include Neapolitan pizza, Milanese risotto, Sicilian sardines, Tuscan bean soup, Roman offal, Pugliese bread, Bolognese pasta, Parma ham and Piedmontese truffles.
The secret, of course, is in the ingredients, which are chosen with careful consideration for ripeness, texture and flavour. So eat local and eat seasonal and you’ll be hard pressed to have a bad meal.
Gnocchi alla Romana: Known in English as Roman gnocchi, these dumplings are made from rich semolina dough.
Bagna càuda: A hot dipping sauce from the Piedmont region made with anchovies, garlic, olive oil, butter and occasionally cream.
Pesto: A classic Italian sauce combining basil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese.
Parmigiano-reggiano: Also known as Parmesan cheese, this hard cow’s milk cheese is often shaved over dishes.
Ossobuco: A Milanese dish made with veal shanks cooked in a rich tomato and wine broth.
Ragù: A thick, slow-cooked meat sauce from Bologna served in lasagne, with tagliatelle or other types of pasta.
Porchetta: A succulent pork roast infused with herbs, garlic and fennel, and encased in a crackling skin.
Panettone: An Italian Christmas cake with sultanas and candied fruit.
Limoncello: A lemon-flavoured liqueur from Southern Italy, drank cold as a digestive.
Campari: A ruby-red coloured aperitif with a bittersweet flavour.
Wines: Celebrated Roman wines include frascati, pinot bianco and pinot grigio (whites); barolo, valpolicella, cabernet and pinot bero (reds). Wine regions of note include Chianti, Montepulciano and Brunello.
Service charges and state taxes are included in all restaurant bills. It is customary to give up to 10% in addition if service has been particularly good.
16 for beer and wine. 18 for distilled alcohol.