Throughout the world Italian food is known for its great value and convenience, but the reality in Italy is quite different. Italian food is celebrated with gusto and varies distinctly from region to region.
Because Italy was historically composed of different states, you will find a great difference in cuisine as you travel through the country. What doesn’t vary however, is the approach to a meal, which can seem like a banquet and goes on for hours.
The main meal of the day will start with an antipasto, followed by a risotto or a pasta dish. This leads on to a fish or meat course, after that cheese, and last of all fresh fruit and coffee.
Eating in Trattorios is cheaper than in Ristorantes although both will offer you a wide choice of local cuisine. Eating in Italy is a gastronomic adventure and the dishes mentioned below are only a tiny sample of what is available.
In Rome try the abbacchio - suckling lamb in white wine flavoured with rosemary, or broccoli romani - broccoli in white wine. Then, of course, there is salsa romana - a sweet-sour brown sauce with raisins, chestnut and lentil purée served with game. Instead of pasta you could have gnocchi alla romana - semolina dumplings, which are delicious and light.
In northern regions of Italy where the winters are colder, you will find more “filling” foods such as minestrone - thick soup with chopped vegetables and osso buco - shin of veal cooked in tomato sauce served with rice.
When in Venice don’t miss the fegato alla veneziana - calves’ liver thinly sliced and cooked in butter with onions, or the baccalà alla vicentina - salted cod simmered in milk and eaten with wines such as Soave, Bardolino or Valpolicella.
In the southern regions you will find coniglio ai capperi - rabbit cooked with capers and ostriche - fresh oysters baked with breadcrumbs, all mouth-wateringly fresh. You will also find lasagne with artichokes and meatballs, onion soup prepared with Italian brandy, fresh sardines in olive oil and oregano and aubergines prepared in many different ways.
The islands of Sardinia and Sicily offer a wide choice of seafood. In Sardinia lobster is served in stews, grilled and even in soups. While in Sicily, swordfish stuffed with brandy, mozzarella and herbs, grilled on charcoal is one of the well-known regional dishes.
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