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Best Italian Foods

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Delicious Italian Foods and Dishes We Recommend

Italy has some of the world’s best foods. Almost every nation has its own version of pizza and pasta. Gelato, pizza, pasta, and wine have their roots in Italy but there are many other interesting and delicious foods you should try. We prefer fresh, hearty, flavorful foods, so we have included some of the most interesting here as well – just so you know they are out there. For the less adventurous, we also have included some of the most common foods that are prepared with excellence.


A relatively heavy pasta potato dumpling. It consists of thick, small, and soft dough dumplings that may be made from semolina, ordinary wheat flour, egg, cheese, and potato. The dough for gnocchi is most often rolled out before it is cut into small pieces about the size of a wine cork. The little dumplings are then pressed with a fork or a cheese grater to make ridges that can hold sauce. Alternatively, they are simply cut into little lumps. They are usually topped with a red or pesto sauce. Gnocchi means “lumps” in Italian. It is Dom’s favorite pasta dish.

Trippa (tripe)

The first or second stomach lining of a cow, sheep, or other ruminant. Sometimes topped with a red sauce and grated cheese.

Street food (“Cibo di strada” in Italian)

A delicacy most famously found in Sicily, with Palermo having the best examples. Street foods are ready-to-eat foods sold in a street or other public place, such as a market or fair, by a hawker or vendor, often from a portable stall. The most notable Italian street food is pizza. Some of Palermo’s most well-known street foods include Pani ca meusa (bread rolls with sliced, cooked pork spleen), arancino, tripe, beef cheek, and assorted seafood salads and “panelle”, deep-fried chickpea flour batter.

Guancia di manzo

Beef cheek. Because the meat is from connective tissue, slow and prolonged cooking will create food that will melt in your mouth.

Arancine or Arancini

Stuffed rice balls which are coated with bread crumbs and then deep-fried. The most common fillings are: meat or mince, slow-cooked at low temperature with tomato sauce and spices, mozzarella or caciocavallo cheese, peas, or ham. A number of regional variants exist which differ in fillings and shape. The name, which is translated as “little orange”, derives from their shape and color which, after cooking, is reminiscent of an orange. Arancini in eastern Sicily have a conical shape inspired by the volcano Etna.


Almond biscuits originated in the Tuscan city of Prato. They are twice-baked, oblong-shaped, dry, crunchy, and may be dipped in a drink, traditionally Vin Santo.

Turnip tops with orecchiette pasta or cavatelli

Local to Puglia where it is most famous. 


A durum wheat tarallo (or barley) baked in the oven, cut in half horizontally and baked again in the oven. It has a porous and compact face. It is important to distinguish between the frisa and the bread: the frisa is not a bread, as it is cooked twice (bis-cotto).

Orecchiette con braciole e polpette

A particular shape of pasta with tomato sauce, meatball and beef chop.


A typical Christmas cake of the Apulian gastronomic tradition. In the Christian tradition, they would represent the halo or the bands that wrapped the Child Jesus in the cradle, but also the crown of thorns at the time of the crucifixion. Once ready, they are stored in large containers kept in closed places away from light sources. There are similar dessert products in Calabria, where they were called Nevole or crispelle, and in Basilicata, where they are called roses or crispedde.


A roasted pork meatball. A roll of meat (roulade) filled with tasty cheese and or sometimes wrapped in bacon. Traditional Apulian bombettes are grilled.


Rolls of offal (liver, lungs and kidneys), wrapped and cooked in a casing of lamb or kid gut. Served on a plate or sizzling on skewers, Gnummareddi are usually spicy, and about 5cm long.

Pasta fagioli (pronounced “fazool” in the US)

A favorite dish of Dom’s father. A traditional Italian dish made with pasta and beans (“pasta fagioli” in Italian).

Fave e cicorie selvatiche

A broad bean purée with wild chicory.

Black Truffle Pasta

A specialty of Orvieto, but found in many places in Italy. The earthy rich flavor of black truffle is paired with butter, cheese, and linguine.


Italian pastries that originated on the island of Sicily and are today a staple of Sicilian cuisine. Cannoli consist of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling usually containing ricotta. They range in size from “cannulicchi,” no bigger than a finger, to the fist-sized proportions typically found south of Palermo, Sicily, in Piana degli Albanesi. In the mainland Italy they are commonly known as cannoli siciliani (Sicilian cannoli). The best canoli is found in Sicily in our opinion.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

A pasta dish from Rome made with egg (usually yolk), hard cheese (pecorino romano), guanciale (or pancetta), and black pepper. The cheese is usually Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or a combination of the two. Spaghetti is the most common pasta, but fettuccine, rigatoni, linguine, or bucatini are also used. Either guanciale or pancetta can be used for the meat component.


Similar to Spanish tapas, cicchetti are small, affordably priced plates of food served in Venice’s traditional wine bars, called bacari. These can be anything from artichoke hearts to bite-sized bits of baccalà mantecato (creamed cod), and are traditionally accompanied by ombra (a small glass of wine). In a city full of touristy restaurants like Venice, the cicchetti bars are a welcome alternative where you can eat more like local residents, thereby getting an authentic taste of the local cuisine.


A warm vegetable salad most well-known in Sicly, with aubergine being perhaps the most notable ingredient. Another trademark for this dish is the sweet and sour sauce. It usually contains onions, celery, capers, and other odds and ends people have in their kitchens. There is no standard recipe for caponata, as every house and restaurant has its own version. When eating it in Sicily, therefore, you will find it with olives, raisins, pine nuts, and sometimes octopus.


A rich, buttery artisanal cheese of outstanding quality is made from mozzarella and fresh cream and is best when served within 24 hours. It goes well with anything, from salads to pasta, and sandwiches, but it is perhaps best when spread on a slice of crusty bread.


The most well-known Italian food. Neapolitan-style pizza has a thick, fluffy crust. It tends to be a little smaller in diameter because the dough hasn’t been rolled out as far and it’s more filling. Roman-style pizza is has a paper-thin crust and just the slightest crunch (it should not be soggy).


Lasagna is a wide, flat pasta noodle, usually baked with layers of ground meat, cheese, herbs, and sauce in the oven.

Fiorentina (or Florentine) Steak

From the loin of a Chianina cow raised in Tuscany.


A cornmeal mush.


A creamy rice dish.


A flatbread similar to thick pizza dough. Classic focaccia is very salty, topped with olive oil and either eaten by itself or made into a sandwich. It’s often served open-faced, with toppings like rosemary, zucchini, cheese, and olives.


While ice cream has 14 to 17 percent milkfat, gelato contains just 3 to 8 percent. That’s because ice cream uses lots of heavy cream, while gelato uses milk. Gelato also uses far fewer egg yolks than ice cream—in some cases none at all. Gelato typically contains 70 percent less air and more flavoring than other kinds of frozen desserts, giving it a density and richness that distinguishes it from other ice creams. It is churned at a much slower rate, leaving the gelato creamier than ice cream. Today there are around 37,000 gelaterie throughout Italy, but some of the best are said to be found in Rome (I Caruso), Florence (La Carraia), and Bologna (La Sorbetteria Castiglione).

> Find the Best Gelato shops in Italy.


A no-bake parfait featuring alternating layers of soft, sweetened mascarpone cheese and coffee-soaked ladyfingers. A good tiramisu features only the highest quality coffee and mascarpone. Cream and egg whites are sometimes added to the mascarpone to give it a lighter texture.

Pesto alla Genovese

Genova-Style Basil Pesto usually mixed into pasta.

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