In my last newsletter, I highlighted one of my favorite things I’ve done on this site, 101 American Foods to Try in the USA, which is a series I also made available (free!) in ebook & PDF formats so you can take it on your next trip there.
It started me thinking that I should do a similar series of 101 Italian Foods to Try in Italy, and therefore I’ve come up with the Italy Food Bucket List! Part 1 is below, and you can read Part 2 here.
In the meantime, here are 13 things you should be eating in Italy, right now, in no particular order.
Where to get it: This arancina, tasty rice ball from Sicily (bottom right in the above photo), is usually filled with meat sauce & peas (called ragù) and sometimes filled with other things like prosciutto and mozzarella, or even veggies. It’s not easy to find everywhere, though they are plentiful in Sicily and in Sicilian pizzerias around Italy (and there are a lot of those). See more about arancina in my whirlwind visit to Palermo.
Tè freddo fatto in casa (w/bonus granita if possible)
Where to get it: While iced tea isn’t a big concept in Italy in that you won’t see big glasses filled to the brim with iced cubes, homemade tè freddo, or “cold” tea, is pretty popular and is often served without ice. You can buy bottles of regular, lemon, or peach tea in bottles at the supermarket, and in cans at bars, but more and more bars are making their own versions of tè freddo so your resulting glass is poured from a nondescript glass bottle kept in the fridge.
Potatoes on pizza
Where to get it: When I first saw potatoes being combined with pizza, I thought it was a starch overload – carbs with more carbs? This may be true, but potatoes on pizza can be very delicious. Bonus if the potatoes are sliced very thin and a little rosemary is mixed in as well. Get thee potatoes on pizza, I say. If possible I suggest getting pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) so you can try a few slices and not an entire pizza. Also read about my love for the simplest of pizzas, pizza bianca.
Where to get it: In the summer it’s often hard to think of downing a hot cup of coffee when you’re liable to start sweating because of it, but a caffè shakerato is perfect when it’s hot outside. Almost every bar which offers coffee will have a shakerato or a version of it available. It’s just espresso shaken with ice cubes, and it makes a frothy treat. They may ask if you want it “dolce” or “zuccherato” which means they will add some sugar to it before shaking. I usually like it sweetened (vs. shaken black coffee), and it’s pretty impossible to add sugar after the fact, so I suggest getting it dolce. If you’re really adventurous, you can get it with Baileys. Yum. Read more about caffè shakerato, and don’t forget about the guide I wrote about How to Order an Italian Coffee in Italy for more information on coffee variations.
Where to get it: This bread salad, made up of dried old bread, tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, and onions is perfect in the summer! You might find it on a restaurant menu, but it’s probably easier to make it yourself with tomatoes and other ingredients found in the local street market. Check out my recipe for panzanella.
Where to get it: Take a scoop of gelato. Pour a shot of espresso over it. Mix and mingle the flavors with each other as they melt into a coffee-spiked gelato concoction. What’s not to like? Most bars which offer food may offer this; it should be pretty easy to find on the menu. Don’t forget about the guide I wrote about How to Order an Italian Coffee in Italy for more information on coffee variations.
Where to get it: Fried pizza isn’t like taking a slice of combination-topping pizza and deep-frying it. Rather, it’s the plain pizza dough which is fried and eaten either on its own, or with accompaniments such as tomato sauce and cheese as seen in the photo here. Naples is king for fried and pizza, so that’s a great place to start. Read more about pizza in Naples.
Brioche with gelato
Where to get it: When a cone is just too ordinary, you need a brioche stuffed with gelato. Sicilian gelaterie will offer this, and a few non-Sicilian ones as well. You could probably do it yourself at home with a bakery-bought brioche and take-home gelato. See more about my favorite sandwich: a brioche with gelato.
Octopus: grilled or in a salad
Where to get it: Polpo or polipo might be on the menu at many seafood restaurants in Italy, and insalata di mare (seafood salad)’s main ingredient is usually boiled octopus. The closer your are to the coast, the better. My favorite way to eat octopus is alla brace, grilled. You can do it at home, too. Octopus often makes an appearance at Italian wedding feasts.
Where to get it: This not-overly sweet bread is cut open and filled to the gills with slightly-sweetened whipped cream. So while it’s definitely on the sugary side, it’s not overpowering. Maritozzo are particularly common in Rome, and I believe this extends to the rest of Lazio as well. The top picture is a tiny maritozzo, so make sure you go big (below), or risk having to share bites of your tiny deliciousness. Read more about maritozzo.
Where to get it: Mussels cooked in their own broth with garlic and wine is just delicious, and a light meal in the summer when paired with some crusty pieces of bread brushed with olive oil and grilled. The closer you are to the sea, the better. Many, many seafood restaurants will offer mussels, however, and you can make peppered and steamed mussels at home.
Where to get it: Many gelaterie (but not all of them) will dedicate a portion of their cooler to granita flavors, and good granita will get scooped out of its bin with a ladle. Skip those bars offering neon granita swirling around in plastic containers along the wall (unless it’s crema di caffè but that’s for another list). My favorite flavors are fragola (strawberry), melone (cantaloupe), and limone (lemon).
Pane e Pomodoro
Where to get it: This incredibly simple dish is made by rubbing ripe tomatoes on bread, sprinkling some oregano and salt and pepper, and topping with high quality olive oil is like candy in the summer. Some restaurants or bars may offer this as an antipasto / appetizer, but it probably won’t be widespread. The further south you go in Italy, the more likely you are to encounter it. You can make a good version at home with ripe tomatoes and great olive oil. If you can get some local oregano, it’s even better. If you’re lucky to have a entire wall covered in tomatoes, then you’re set.
What would make the cut for you on your to-try food in Italy list? How many of these have you already eaten?