There’s a tendency when we think of Italian food for treats such as pizza and pasta to spring to mind. Small wonder, in our view: properly executed, these can be deeply satisfying and delicious dishes. But, as any frequent traveller to Italy will confirm, there is so much more to that great country’s culinary tradition than these firm favourites.
Rich Food Heritage
Many gastronomes consider Italian food to be at least comparable to – and occasionally to surpass – the best French cuisine. Despite this endorsement from some of the world’s food experts, Italian food isn’t precious and its recipes aren’t regarded as being scientific formulae. Equally, many of Italy’s most enduringly popular plates can be classified as “la cucina povera” (or the ‘kitchen of the poor’), a tradition which emphasises simple, superb quality local ingredients over flashy technique and exotic imported additions. This article from The Guardian perfectly encapsulates these features of Italian cookery
Diversity and Variety
The other outstanding characteristic of Italian food is its sheer diversity. There is, of course, the above-mentioned pizza, which has its roots in the historic city of Naples and is almost infinite in its varieties. But think too of the other parts of Italy and of their contributions to the country’s formidable culinary canon. To summarise just a few:
– Venice’s Zabaione with amaretti: an indulgent, creamy dessert accompanied by crisp, almond-rich biscuits.
– Lazio’s spaghetti alla gricia: an intensely-flavoured pasta dish with cured pork, pecorino cheese and black pepper.
– Puglia’s tiella: a deceptively simple preparation of fresh mussels with rice and garlic.
– Tuscany’s zuppa riboletta: a traditional and unquestionably hearty regional soup consisting of bread and local vegetables, a speciality which is revered and lovingly reproduced across the globe – at Dublin Italian restaurant www.toscanarestaurant.ie/, for example.
– Emilia- Romagna’s finocchi gratinati: an addictive combination of fragrant baked fennel, cream and parmesan.
The above aren’t intended to minimise the pleasure of such Italian classics as lasagne and pizza. Aficionados and connoisseurs will tell you that an authentic example of the latter is one of life’s true pleasures. There are, in fact, entire internet communities dedicated to the perfect pizza. This being said, Italy produces a dizzying array of wonderful foods and to restrict yourself to the better known options is to miss out on some glorious culinary experiences.