G&O want to share their culinary experience following a recent trip to Italy. Italy has influenced chefs around the world and we will focus on three of its famous cities we visited – Rome, Venice and Florence. This will give a flavour of some of the country’s best loved dishes.
Historic Rome is capital of Italy and the surrounding region of Lazio, renowned for its tender lamb, tart pecorino (sheeps’s cheese), and top quality artichokes and courgettes. A gastronomic speciality is mouth-wateringly tender porchetta (roast suckling pig).
Make for the picturesque Trastevere district near the Vatican, where in summer you can dine alfresco under the stars. Check out Da Carlone trattoria on Via della Luce and wherever you go, look out for anything that’s tagged ‘alla romana’, for something typically roman style.
Try Cariofiofi alla Romana which is stuffed and braised artichokes, Gnocchi di Semolino alla Romana, cheesy semolina dumplings, and also spaghetti alla carbonara with its smooth egg, bacon and cheese dressing, or spaghetti amatriciana (with tomato and grated pecorino) both Roman dishes, even without the tag! More meatily there’s saltimbocca alla romana (veal wrapped ham and seasoned with sage in a marsala and butter sauce). Meanwhile, although Naples is the home of pizza as we know it, the Romans prefer thin, crunchy pizza bianca or white pizza, smeared with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and some herbs. The Roman addition of figs creates pizza e fiche! Delicious with a glass of frascati or castelli romani white wine.
In Venice make an early morning visit to the city’s famous market neat the Rialto Bridge for a fabulous array of colourful fruit, vegetables, flower and glistening fresh fish. Great for the scenic photographs!
Venice’s seafaring history means there are plenty of fish specialities. Sea bass, mullet and monkfish are often marinated prior to cooking. Delicious cefalo ai ferri is mullet that has been marinated in lemon juice and oil and then grilled. Another speciality is seppie in nero, cuttlefish cooked in their own black ink sauce. Certainly a treat for the taste buds. Sardines are another favourite and typical dishes include sardele in soar, fried sardines and onions dotted with sultanas and pine nuts, or simple sardele fritte, fried sardines. Fish and chips will never taste the same again!
For a really special experience, make for celebrated Harry’s Bar, just off St Mark’s Square. It buzzes all year around. Order a bellini, the famous cocktail of white peach and Prosecco (the Veneto region’s own sparkling wine). If you’re lucky and get a table, you can choose from one of four signature dishes created here. There’s a spectacular grilled club sandwich, classic Venetian risi e bisi (rise with peas), risotto alla parmigiana or carpaccio, the paper then slices of raw beef.
Typical Tuscan Treats
The Tuscan countryside is teeming with delicious fruit, vegetables and livestock. Make for Florence’s bustling 140 year old San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale on Via dell’ Ariento, not far from Santa Maria Novella Station, and you will be blown away by the colours and fragrances of every kind of food stuff, from bunches of dried herbs, strings of garlic and the best of the region’s renowned olive oil, to typical Tuscan flat, salt-free bread, whole cheeses and haunches of air dried ham.
Tuscan dishes are characteristically fragrant with herbs such as rosemary, thyme and basil. Tasty peasant dishes include ribollita, a thick soup made of leftover bread and vegetables. The Florentines are big meat eater though so look out for roast, tripe, rabbit and wild boar from the mountains. Perhaps the most famous dish is the bistecca alla fiorentina which is a truly huge and succulent steak from Tuscany’s distinctively white Chianina oxen.