Explore the culinary map of Italiakingart
Explore the culinary map of Italia with The Kings Mill Restaurant.
Italian cuisine is the most known meditarrean cuisine around the world. It brings to the table much more than just pasta and pizza. From risotto and pesto, through great Pecorino cheeses to wonderful desserts like granita… We invite you to read about Italian cuisine across many of its regions.
The Kings Mill Restaurant is proudly serving cuisine from across Italy, so let’s explore it a little bit. First thing you want to know is that Italian cuisine, despite consisting of rather simple dishes (usually made from not more than 4-5 ingredients) is very varied and rich in many ways. As a matter of fact you may find Italians who will tell you that there is no such thing as “Italian cuisine” – they will rather refer to regional cuisines – Sicilian, Venetian, coming From Trentino, Piemont or from smaller regions and towns.
Thing is that Italy as a unified nation under one flag is younger than for example the United States. Less than 200 years ago Italian peninsula was divided into many small city states and kingdoms.
With such divisions you can expect pockets of regional cuisine that stayed distinct from one another.
Also what matters is that the Peninsula itself is also very long – it spans a lot of different climates, from very hot south, through moderate central Italy, to pretty cold, mountainous, green north.
This means that ingredients available to people across Italy could be very different.
North of Italy is too cold to cultivate olives, it is however rainy and warm enough to grow great rice. Regions bordering Switzerland, Germany and France have landscapes resembling northern Europe. Green valleys with pastureland are famous there for dairy products and meats.
Further south the climate gets hotter and dryer. Less demanding animals are bred there (like sheep), but thanks to abundance of sun there’s a wealth of vegetables and fruits. Southern Italy is famous for flavoursome tomatoes, citrus fruits, artichokes, eggplants and more.
Italy nowadays is divided into 20 regions, which all are very proud of their cuisine and together create a very rich culinary map.
Main division is always drawn between the aforementioned north and south of the country. Regions within those parts of italy are still very varied, but bear some similarities.
Regions in the North were always richer, so dishes prepared there tend to be richer too – require more eggs, butter and cheese. They are also usually more complex than foods from the South.
People from the north are called “Polentoni”, Italians from South “Mangiamaccheroni” (Macaroni eaters)
The North was influenced more by the countries it borders and so in Trentino-Alto Adige you can try dishes inspired by German cuisine like strudel and Spatzle Tirolesi (a rustic green pasta dish).
In the nearby Italian Alps, in places like the Aosta Valley fondue is very popular. Italian word for it is fonduta and locals are proud to make it with their cheese, called formaggio d`alpeggio (most famous of them is Fontina).
In the North you can also find dishes inspired by Austro-Hungarian cuisine like heavy goulashes.
One of most important cities on the culinary map of the North is Milan, Lombardia. It is the home of Panettone, the famous, rich, Christmas cake. It is prepared with lots of eggs, and the dough has to be fermented for 36 hours.
Also Milan is well known for Risotto Milanese. Distinctively yellow, fragranced with saffron it is one of the most loved Italian dishes of that kind. Risotto is popular in the North of Italy and prepared from either carnaroli or vialone nano rice. Maratelli, baldo and arborio rice varieties are also used, depending on the region.
As mentioned before Polenta is also quite popular, especially further in the North, served with porcini mushrooms or meat.
Pasta is popular all over Italy, but varies a lot. You can find different shapes, sizes and colors of it all around the country. Italians say that there are at least as many pasta types as regions in Italy. In general pastas in the north are made with more eggs, while in the south many types are made just from semolina and water.
Two types of precious truffles can be found in Italy – in the north, in Alba the more expensive white ones. In the south – black truffles in Umbria.
Tuscany is a region considered to be on the edge of two culinary Italian “spheres”. Cheese there is produced like in the south mostly with sheep’s milk. Most famous – Pecorino romano (word pecorino means ovine or “from sheep”). Pastas there though are made with eggs, and one of their famous foods is a Fiorentina steak, made from meat of chianina breed of cattle. Tuscany is also famous for a hearty, thick soup Ribollita.
Above Tuscany you will find a small, coastal region of Liguria – home of pesto. Ligurian variety of It`s main ingredient – basil has particularly tiny leaves, delicate, but full of aroma.
Another coastal region in the North is Veneto – famous for dishes with calamari, shrimp and cuttlefish.
Emilia Romagna is a region below Veneto. It is famous for many things, like Bolognese and Lasagne. Also one of the famous italian cheeses – Parmigiano Reggiano is produced there. Mortadela also comes from that region, as well as Prosciutto di Parma ham. Region is also famous for its Balsamic vinegar.
As about regions in the south we have to start with Campania – a region famous for the most famous dish in the whole wide world – pizza! It comes from the city of Naples, just below the legendary Mount Vesuvius. In this region you can also find arguably the best tomatoes in Italy – San Marzano from Valle de Sarno. Also Campania produces the world famous Mozzarella di Bufala. Such quality ingredients make pizza tasting there like nowhere else.
Rome lies in the region of Lazio. It is famous for big Roman style artichokes and for three pasta dishes – cacio e pepe, carbonara, pasta amatriciana. The last two are made with unsmoked guanciale (jowl bacon, not your typical smoked bacon).
Saltimbocca alla Romana is another staple dish from there – roman style veal cutlets.
Further the south, the spicier the dishes. Region especially famous for this is Calabria, where great chillies are grown.
Puglia is a region where focaccia was created, it is also known for white burrata cheese.
Sicily, the furthest in the South is famous for a rice dish Arancini, but also for great desserts like cannoli siciliani and Granita. You can also find there many seafood dishes, great citrus fruits and nuts. Especially sicilan Pistachios are very well regarded.
This sums up our short journey through Italian culinary landscape. It was a very brief introduction, but we hope it has shown how rich and varied cuisine comes from Italy. We will soon dive deeper into cuisine from different regions and dishes which you can try in our restaurant.