A vacation in Italy is a dream come true for people who appreciate vino (wine), antipasti, and medieval architecture. It is a country that hosts millions of tourists every year who can be marvelling at the majestic churches, mansions, and street fairs in famous cities like Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan. For a more relaxed trip in the hills, Tuscany is the destination where tourists spend most of their time. Wherever you go, all traditional Italian dishes are simply amazing. Or you can always do as the Romans, quite literally in this country, by exclaiming: Ottimo! This means that the food is delicious to the last bite. With so many places to visit in Italy, building up an appetite is a prerequisite for every traveller. Mentioned below are the top 10 most iconic foods of Italy that you can devour on your next vacation:
1. Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Standing tall at the first position in the list of Italian foods that you must try is Spaghetti alla Carbonara. The Italians are very proud of the dish, so appreciating every bite of it is customary. You might feel that Carbonara pasta is something that can be found in any part of the world. But what’s special about this dish is that it is one of the most evergreen Italian recipes that highlight this cuisine’s unique characteristic in the best way possible. Prepared with Pecorino Romano cheese, fresh eggs, guanciale, and pepper, this spaghetti dish is pure magic. And no, you are not going to find a spec of cream or milk in an authentic Italian Spaghetti alla Carbonara.
2. Napoletana Pizza
Naples is one tourist destination that should be a part of your itinerary since there are various places to see and food to devour. It would be wise to choose one of the best Italy tour packages that have this region covered in your vacation. An iconic dish in Naples is its Napoletana Pizza that will make you forget your favourite pizza chain back at home. An eighteenth-century invention that was prepared by the poor, this pizza has now become a popular food item in the country. Italy’s food culture celebrates the originality of each dish. As a result, the original recipes are being followed without making a lot of changes or adjustments. Keeping this in mind, a traditional Napoletana Pizza is prepared in a wood-fired oven by flattening the dough by hand. Only freshly crushed tomatoes, Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, and a few sprigs of basil are topped on it. Drooling already, aren’t you?
One of the most popular Italian dishes across the globe is the Risotto. While some argue that bread is preferred by Italians over any other form of carbs but a creamy risotto is what wins heart in the country! This famous Italian food item is preferred by the elite as the ingredients used to prepare are generally high-end and luxurious. For instance, Risotto alla Milanese is infused with saffron that is an expensive commodity in itself. Risotto al Nero di Sepia is prepared with arborio rice, cuttlefish, and squid ink that are all top-shelf ingredients as well. Italian cuisine dishes like the risotto should be tried out at fine-dining restaurants in order to truly enjoy its decadence.
Arancini is the next dish in line among the top 10 Italian dishes that you must try on your next vacation. Considered to be part of the first course or antipasti, Arancini are arborio rice balls severed with ragu, cheese, and optional sides like aubergine, peas, etc. Beginning your meal with this specific food of Italy would open your taste buds to flavours that will further build your appetite for the remaining courses. Arancini is a typical Sicilian preparation that has a cousin brother in Rome known as Supplì. So, make sure to try out both versions and then decide which one you prefer the most.
5. Fiorentina Steak
If you ask any Italian, living in the country or abroad, the best Italian food according to them would be the Fiorentina Steak. Traditionally known as Bistecca Fiorentina, this famous Italian dish is a soft spot for many locals. A T-bone beef steak is cooked for five to seven minutes so that the outside layer is grilled, leaving the inner steak rare or medium-rare. Hard-core Italian food connoisseurs only eat this steak if the beef is from Tuscany, however, there are equally good options available in Rome, Milan, and Sicily. Ordering this steak is based on weight, so make sure you check with the waiter before finalising your order.
A north Italian delicacy that the locals tend to enjoy on a regular basis is the Polenta. It is basically a corn mush that pairs well with meats, salads, and zuppa (soup). This food of Italy is a must-try because of its sheer simplicity and flavour depth. You might presume Polenta to be “basic” or “bland” but a well-prepared dish like Polenta fritters or a stew with Polenta is very satisfying to the soul. With so many things to do in Italy on your vacation, you can give your digestive system a little rest by eating this light dish for lunch or dinner.
It is a widely known fact the Italian cuisine celebrates meat-based dishes a lot. Taking this into account, travellers who love to try out different meats on their vacation would be in for a treat in Italy. Ossobuco is a bone-in veal shank cooked on a low-heat stove to infuse flavours from meat stock, vegetables, and white wine. For the unversed, veal is the meat from the calves of a cow that is considered quite a delicacy in various European countries. Since it is a luxurious food item, it is best to give it a go at a 5-star hotel or a top-rated fine-dining restaurant.
Italy’s food culture is incomplete without truffles that have been dug up from the forests of Umbria, Piedmont and Tuscany. The rare ones are white in colour with a distinctive aroma while the black truffles that are more easily available are less fragrant. However, both types of truffles that have been grown in Italy are exotic and cannot be found anywhere else on planet Earth. This is simply because truffles grow only in a season with the right temperature and moisture in the air. Thus, your Italian trip would not be successful without tasting truffles in a savoury or sweet dish.
An Italian food list without mentioning lasagne is next to committing a sin for the locals! One of the most famous Italian foods in the world, this delicacy is prepared with pasta sheets with a meaty ragu, bechamel, and cheese layered on top of each other and then baked in an oven. A native would always prefer Parmigiano Reggiano sprinkled on top of Lasagne because mozzarella doesn’t bring about a tangy flavour. Once you try out this dish in Italy, there is no going back. You will have to plan another vacation in this country because all other preparations in your city (or any other) would not be good enough!
Travellers with a sweet tooth would have a blast in Italy with artisan Gelato available on every street corner. While a lot of people presume that Gelato is the Italian equivalent of the western ice cream but if you ask an Italian, they would not agree to it. Gelato is prepared with a lesser amount of fat, water, and air which makes it more flavourful and sweet. Do try out this sweet dish from a local seller while roaming in the streets of Rome, Venice or Florence and you will be in heaven for sure!
Other Must-Have Foods in Italy
Besides trying out the top 10 Italian dishes mentioned above, here are three delicacies that should also be on your food list:
Italy is known for its bread and the most delicious variety is the Focaccia. It is a flatbread prepared with vegetables like onions, tomatoes, and olives with a drizzle of olive oil and pesto on top. This bread is full of flavours so you don’t even need to eat anything else. Sip a good-quality rose along with freshly-prepared Focaccia and your meal is sorted!
Similar to the Spanish Tapas, Cicchetti are bite-sized preparations prepared with cod, artichokes, seafood, and various other ingredients. These are available at Venetian bars called bacaris where the most exquisite wine tastings are also held on a regular basis.
The only form of cheese that is best enjoyed on its own is perhaps Burrata. It tastes very similar to the traditional mozzarella cheese available in Italy with the only difference being that it is a lot creamier and buttery. A side salad of burrata, basil, and tomatoes is something that will make your lunch or dinner simply divine.
By now you must be salivating all over your mobile or laptop screen, so why not book a vacation in Italy and try out all these delicacies? You are sure to be all ‘Mamma Mia’ in no time!