Eating is not just one of the greatest joys of exploring Italy, but a delightful way to know more about the country’s rich and varied cultural heritage.
Arguably one of the most popular and well-known cuisine’s in Europe and maybe even the world, Italian food is characterised by its simplicity, focusing heavily on fresh, quality ingredients. With a wide assortment of finest regional specialists, this lovely Mediterranean land offers an alfresco dining experience that you’ll cherish for a lifetime. So, be sure to keep ample space in your belly and feast on these five most famous, typical dishes from Italy:
1. Pizza Napoletana
While there are so many mouth-watering, traditional dishes in Italy, nothing quite compares to the fresh, authentic flavor of Pizza Napoletana. Invented in Naples long back in the 18th century, this savoury dish usually consists of a round, flattened base topped with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and extra virgin olive oil. In fact, legends believe that Pizza Napoletana’s most famous type: The ‘Pizza Margherita’ resembles the colours of a true Italian flag! It was the pizza napoletana that gave rise to the New-York style pizza in the early 20th century after Italian immigrants moved to the US. Its popularity has only gone from strength to strength, with its soft and tender dough base and deliciously simple toppings, along with its quick cooking time, its no wonder this is a worldwide crowd pleaser.
Best place to eat it: Naples, Campania
Classic Tuscan dishes know how to make your taste buds sing oh-la-la and this peasant salad is no exception! Combining healthy, delicious bread with juicy, sun-ripped tomatoes, fresh basil and cucumbers, Panzanella is usually served during the hot summer months as a midday staple and you’ll be tempted to eat it with a fork. As tomatoes were not imported until the 20th century however, panzanella was traditionally made using onions, not tomatoes, along with stale bread soaked in water and squeezed dry to add more substance to the dish.
Best place to eat it: Tuscany
3. Lasagne Alla Bolognese
One of the world’s firstborn pasta recipes, lasagne is an indigenous Italian comfort food layered with thick fillings of cheese, pasta sheets, meat, and sauce. Believed to have originated from the city of Naples this Italian dish is a well-loved favourite and should not be missed out. While there are countless recipes to prepare Lasagne, it is the classic Lasagne alla Bolognese, which remains the most popular among the food enthusiasts. It is made with delicate layers of fresh pasta coated in a scrumptious mix of ragù and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Nowadays, lasagne is often made with chopped tomatoes and meat as a cheaper alternative to the ragu which is made stock flavours and red wine.
Best place to eat it: Bologna, Tuscany
4. Baccala Alla Polenta
Baccala alla Polenta is a Venetian-Italian dish made from stockfish – an unsalted fish, typically cod, that is left to dry on wooden racks. A staple cuisine of Northern Italy, polenta relishes insane popularity among the locals and tourists alike! While it was once called the most popular food of the poor Italians, it is now regarded as a gourmet, high-class food! The creamy, golden curry with ground semolina cornmeal is the result of 30 to 45 minutes of constant stirring!
Best place to eat it: Venice
5. Spaghetti (Carbonara)
Mmm who doesn’t love this creamy, cheesy pasta dish scattered with bacon and black peeper? Mouths water just thinking about it! Originating in Rome, spaghetti carbonara is a hearty pasta dish that uses egg, parmigiano reggiano cheese, guanciale (pork cheeks), and black pepper. While there are many variations of the dish– ones that thicken the sauces using cream or substitute guanciale with bacon —nothing compares to the authentic Roman carbonara. No substitutes or adaptions, if you want to get carbonara right, like the Romans do, everything must be made from scratch.
Best place to eat it: Rome
Moving onto sweeter dishes…Tiramisu is probably the country’s most beloved dessert. This non-bake parfait features alternating layers of soft, sweetened mascapone cheese and coffee soaked lady fingers. Despite its elemental feel (coffee and cheese), tiramisu is the youngest Italian dish on this list with accounts of its origin being placed in the region of Veneto in the 1960s. The cake is usually served cold and presented in a glass container or sliced onto a plate. This is so the layers of the cake can be seen, which can determine the quality of the tirimasu you’re presented with. Whether you’ve tried tirimasu before of not, where else better to savour its unique taste then in the place it originated?
Best place to eat it: Venice
Explore Our Rome Tours
Rome Day Tour with Vatican & Colosseum
Spend the day exploring the highlights of Rome with local guide including Skip the Line tickets.
Tuscany Day Tour – Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa and Chianti Winery Lunch
See the best of Tuscany, including a wine tasting class and a delicious Tuscan style lunch.
Amalfi Coast Tour from Naples
Explore the stunning cliffside towns of Positano, Amalfi & Ravello, with guided commentary on board.
Venice Food Tour with Lunch
Enjoy typical Venetian dishes, local produce and delicious wines as you explore with a friendly guide.