Let’s keep it real. When you think Italian food, you and most Americans would probably be inclined to think of chain restaurants like Buca di Beppo, Maggiano’s, or dare we say it, The Old Spaghetti Factory. But if you’re searching for tasty Italian food made with fresh ingredients, then you definitely shouldn’t miss out on taking a mouthwatering journey to the Mediterranean to taste homemade calzone, cannoli, cacciucco (seafood stew) and more. Aim for authenticity, like the small, family-run cheese shops of Emilia Romagna and the famed home of Tuscany’s Prince of Salumi for award-winning prosciutto. And the only thing required for this food tour is a healthy appetite…because you’re about to get served.
Even though you can find just about any kind of fare you crave along Rome’s cobblestoned alleyways, they’re most famous for their rectangular pizzas and ancient pastas. Dubbed the Sistine Chapel of Yeast by Travel + Leisure, the cramped Pizzarium features a 200-year-old pizza dough recipe. After one bite, you’ll see why it hasn’t changed, especially while sampling the city’s signature pieatzza topped with spicy sausage and blood oranges. Aside from pizza, you won’t find a place in Rome that doesn’t have a variety of Cacio e Pepe on the menu. This simple pasta dish consists of only homemade noodles, pecorino cheese and black pepper – all cooked together until creamy and dizzyingly delicious.
So, when you hear the words “Emilia Romagna,” do you think we’re talking about a type of cheese? Well, you’re not too far off. For decades, this area north of Milan has been the primary producer of cheese, authentic balsamic vinegar and rosy prosciutto. Tasting is believing on a culinary tour, where you’ll eat your way through prosciutto farms and cheese factories in Parma and aged balsamic manufacturers in Modena. Or visit any of the cafés near Bologna’s Mercat di Mezzo food market. They pair the market’s fresh cheeses and produce with another regional specialty: traditional Bolognese sauce served over freshly made tortellini. Now, that’s mad culinary amore!
You must visit Piedmont if you’re a die-hard foodie. This northern region, at the foot of the Alps, is dubbed Italy’s decadence capital for a reason. You can wander through the grape vines for an impromptu introduction to the elusive Timorasso white grape, which has a similar body and taste to a white Burgundy. Pair your wine with a giant stack of Montebore cheese, often called “the wedding cake” due to its unique tiered shape. For added indulgence, dip your bread into a big bowl of fonduta, a cheese dip enhanced with egg yolks, olive oils and handfuls of foraged white truffles. No meal in Piedmont is complete without a stop at Agri for a scoop of fresh gelato made from milk pumped and churned every morning.
Undoubtedly the world’s most famous food and wine region, Tuscany’s fabled, lush green hills beckon hungry tourists in search of culinary enlightenment. This is where you’ll find Paolo Parisi, the Prince of Salumi, the cold cut family that includes salami. His award-winning prosciutto can be enjoyed at his Renaissance style Fattoria farm, which is set against the winding cypress trees and sloping Tuscan hills. For a taste of the region in a more urban setting, visit Florence to sample cheeses, wine, truffle oils and meaty olives in the city’s lively markets. Be sure to wash it all down with a bold glass of Tuscan Chianti served in the iconic bamboo clothed bottle. It’s the perfect way to say “arrivederci” to central Italy!