Where to Find the Best Treats of Italy

Pimsleur Approach • March 5, 2013 • Food & WineComments (0)

Alright, alright. After having read about Italian food so much, now it’s time to unsheathe your best fork and taste what everyone is talking and writing about!

The first rule should be: be curious! As Italian moms and grandmas always teach to kids, just try a mouthful of it, then you can say whether you like it or not! Don’t say “I know I will not like it”, because you could be missing something lovely, maybe your next favorite of all times! Open your mind to the Italian way in food… you’ll not be disappointed. You may already know how Italian regions are famous for their special dishes, so what about a quick geographical guide on Italian food?

Best Treats: Gelato
Gelato – Image via Wikipedia

Best Gelato

That’s a tough one – maybe every Italian you will meet has his own favorite gelato place… The best strategy is to try as many places until you find the one you love most! Besides, you will probably find many different types of fresh treats in a gelato shop. Try Sicilian granita for a refreshing, treat based on grated ice flavored with fruit syrup and fruit chunks, or with coffee and whipped cream; gelato itself is not exactly the same as ice-cream, as it’s usually creamier and richer, and it’s based on milk. If you can feel ice grains on your tongue, then it’s not the best one. Another treat is sorbetto, which is usually based on fruit and water. Allegedly the best gelatai (gelato makers) come from Sicily and Calabria – both boast a long tradition in the art of making gelato. Another good excuse to visit the South of Italy!

The discussion on the best gelato shop could be on and on forever,  especially because many good gelato shops can be definitely spotted in the rest of Italy, but we will stop it here, to go on to the next treats!

Best Italian Treats: Pizza
Italian Pizza – Image via Wikipedia

Best Pizza

You may have heard that the best pizza is in Naples, because after all pizza was invented there… but you really can’t always go to Naples for a pizza, so what to do then? First of all, do try different places and you’ll find your own favorite pizzeria. Many Italians also like to say that you can’t really eat nice pizza going north from Rome, but it can’t really be true, can it?! Bear in mind that Neapolitan pizza is different from the pizza you’ll try in different zones of Italy. In fact, Neapolitan pizza tends to be much fluffier than Roman pizza, for example. The latter is famously thin and typically crunchy – no Neapolitan would make his pizza like that! Don’t miss focaccia from Liguria, and Sicilian sfinciuni and scacciata, soft pizzas seasoned with tomato, fish, olives and herbs. They are all delicious, so why limit yourself to Napoli for your pizza?

Best Italian Treats: Specialty Meats
Slices of Beef for Cooking – Image via Wikipedia

Best Meat

Among all the Italian regions, Toscana is maybe the most famous for its meat production, especially beef, veal and cow. Try at least once the famous Fiorentina t-bone steak – it’s an epic task to finish it, as every steak can weigh up to 1,5kg and as thick as 6cm. But Italian meat is not only beef – try Umbria and Marche for special pork meat, often used to prepare gourmet sausages, ham, and salami. Cold cuts like that are to die for! Every region has its own typical meats, so as always – try, taste, experiment.

 

Best Italian Treats: Seafood
Cacciucco – Image via Wikipedia

Best Seafood

That’s a difficult one indeed. In general, one would of course suggest you to reach seaside places to enjoy the freshest fish. But actually many other places can serve great fish, even if the sea is quite far away – why don’t you try lake fish, for a change? You just need to be sure that the fish is the freshest you can get.
In some places, you can even choose the fish you want to be cooked yourself, and ask the waiter for it. As always, it is better to avoid very touristic areas, and head somewhere else. Pay special attention where you go for fish, because if it’s not good may cause you a nasty reaction that could very well ruin your stay.

Best Italian Treats: Cheese
Formaggi – Image via Wikipedia

Best Cheese

Italian cheese is very famous, and you can find so many tasty varieties in each region! Mild or strong, soft or hard, you’ll find something perfect for you. Sardinia is commonly considered one of the best regions for cheese, thanks to the traditional production of sheep milk, used by shepherds to make strong cheese, which acquires a sharper taste with age.  One of the most famous cheeses of Italy is, though, produced in Northern Italy, and it’s Parmigiano Reggiano, produced in Lombardy and Emilia Romagna with cow milk. Veneto is also famous for its love for cheese, be it sweet or spicy. Last but not least, visit Lazio and Campania for its famous Mozzarella di Bufala – mozzarella made with water buffalo milk. Once tried that, normal mozzarella will taste almost too tame.

Best Italian Treats - Pesto
Italian Pesto – Image via Wikipedia

Best Pesto

One of the most famous Italian sauce, it’s a traditional treat from Liguria, where it is usually eaten with trenette or trofie, that are a special type of pasta. There are some variations among the different recipes you may try, as like it always happens, different families will give you different recipes and have fierce fights over which recipe is the best. But one thing’s for sure: head to Liguria and Cinque Terre for the yummiest pesto sauce.

Best Italian Treats: Torrone
Italian Torrone – Image via Wikipedia

Best Torrone

Torrone is a very simple candy based on white eggs, honey and nuts, that can be hard or chewy, but always delicious. Can’t get enough of it! Since you’re in Italy, why don’t you try to include in your trip the some torrone places? In fact, different cities claim to be the place where this sweet treat is the king of confectionery. In fact, Sicilians claim to have learnt to make torrone from Arabs and Greeks, and some Sicilian cities are quite famous for it – namely Erice and Noto. Nonetheless, Cremona and Benevento are also famous for torrone! Sardinians too love this candy bar. Their version is characterized by an intense taste, thanks to the wild honey used! If you’re fond of torrone, those cities and regions are definitely a must.

Best Italian Treats: Piadina
Italian Piadina – Image via Wikipedia

Best Piadina

That’s an easy one! Piadina is typical of Romagna – both the inner and the coastal zones, and it’s a simple yet interesting alternative to a classical sandwich! It’s made of flour, salt, lard or olive oil and water. It’s a big, round and very flat bread, perfect with prosciutto crudo, cold cuts, vegetables and soft cheese. It’s also classically filled with Nutella. Needless to say, it’s the food of gods! Depending on the zone you’re visiting, piadina can be very thin and crispy, or softer and thicker. Either way, it’s scrumptious!





Best Italian Treats: Tortellini
Tortellini of Modena – Image via Wikipedia

Best Tortellini

This nice filled pasta should probably be tried in Modena and Bologna, where the traditional recipe asks for a thin egg pasta square, filled with a mix of pork loin, raw ham, Bologna’s Mortadella (a pink, round cold cut), Parmesan cheese, eggs and  nutmeg, and then rolled on itself so to assume a round shape.  They can be eaten in a light broth or with sauces, just like normal pasta.  Don’t leave Italy before having tried tortellini!

And don’t leave Italy before you have learned how to be curious in the kitchen!

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