Italian food is an art form. Luckily, because of the exchange of information becomes so easy in today’s world, you don’t need to visit Italy to experience fine Italian dining. There are plenty of fine dining Italian restaurants almost everywhere, giving you access to the wonderful world of Italian culinary experiences. If you do happen to dine at one, make sure you try one of the 10 dishes that we’ve listed in this article. You’ll get a taste of the different regions of Italy and the flavors that come with them. So without further ado, Buon Appetito!
Also known as the “Sicilian Caviar”, bottarga is salted and pressed row taken from gray mullets, rather than sturgeon as they do with traditional caviar. After the salting and pressing, the roe is left to air dry for 6 months to create a large red solid chunk of eggs. Bottarga can be grated over pasta or pizza, and may also be sliced and eaten as an appetizer.
Bottarga is considered to be luxurious and is one of the most sought-after foods in Italy. It truly is a part of Sicilian culture and, even though it is overshadowed by the more glorious sturgeon caviar, enjoys an important status in the culinary world.
Even though steaks are often credited as old-school American food, the Italians have also managed to leave their mark. There are a variety of steaks in Italian cuisine but one that stands out is Fiorentina Steak. Traditional Fiorentina steak comes from Tuscany and isn’t meant for those who prefer their steak to be medium or well done. The steak is cooked until only the outside is cooked, leaving the inside very rare. It’s not the technique as much as it is the thickness of the steak that ensures the rare temperature. If you were to cook it until it was well done, the outside would be charred leaving a mostly inedible piece of meat.
If Tuscan food takes your fancy, then you must try Ribollita. With peasant roots, the soup is thickened using bread rather than meat and is popular in the autumn. Not only is the soup filling, it’s also very soothing both in its taste and its simplicity.
Ossobuco is famous not just for its taste but also for its raw and primitive look. A bone-in veal shank is cooked slowly in a broth of meat stock rather than water. This adds more flavor to the meat and when cooked with wine, the result is very tender. Even though delicious, the meat on its own won’t be very filling. When you visit an authentic Italian food restaurant, you’ll be served Ossobuco with either risotto or polenta, making the overall meal incredibly satisfying.
Even though a staple at every Italian restaurant, one can’t deny the power of lasagna to make us all feel so good. Even though your homemade lasagna with sauce in a bottle tastes amazing, there’s something different about lasagna made by an authentic Italian chef. Remember, an authentic Italian restaurant won’t serve lasagna that has tomato sauce. Traditionally, lasagna had no tomatoes and was made using béchamel sauce, ragu and cheese. That’s how it is made in Italy to this day.
Just like lasagna, risotto is also a staple in Italian cuisine, is listed on almost every Italian restaurant menu and featured on countless cooking shows. Even though popular, making the right risotto takes a great deal of skill. A second too early or late, and you can be looking at a completely compromised dish. Risotto is cooked in a variety of ways and each region of Italy adds its own twist to the dish with varying spices and flavor profiles. Some regions will prefer a sweeter risotto while others will like savory more. Two extremely different examples are mushroom risotto and saffron Alla Milanese, which is risotto infused with saffron.
Pasta is one of the most varied dishes in Italian cuisine. However, the one that truly stands out from the rest is carbonara. A taste that is as delicious as it simple, with the ingredients consisting only of spaghetti, eggs, cured guanciale, pecorino cheese and black pepper. Even though the dish is simple, cooking the perfect carbonara takes years of discipline and requires a keen eye and gentle hand. You’ll find carbonara with varying ingredients with some restaurants adding meat and vegetables, but for the truly authentic Italian experience, keep it simple and traditional.
Caponata Alla Siciliana
To keep things fair, we thought we’d also throw a vegetarian dish into this list. Sicilian Caponata is peasant food at its simplest and finest. The dish simply consists of an eggplant salad that is cooked with stewed onions, celery, and tomato. The result is a traditional peasant dish that is packed with flavors and satisfies both the sweet tooth and the savory craving. Not every restaurant will serve the dish, but if you happen to visit one that does, be sure to order. The culinary experience is sure to introduce you to an entirely new side of Italy.
We’ve discussed the main courses and savory enough. Let’s get onto the real goodness of the culinary world, deserts. If you visit a restaurant that offers authentic handmade gelato then be sure to save room for dessert. What you get in a tub might be advertised as gelato but doesn’t come close to the real thing. Not only is authentic gelato richer than its Tupperware counterpart, it also has a lot more flavor. Any halfway decent restaurant should offer a wide variety of flavors, but regardless of what flavor you get, be ready for the best ice cream you’ve ever had.
Panna Cotta does not get the praise that it deserves. While the desert may not be as glamorous as tiramisu, it still holds great importance in the Italian culinary world. On paper the dish is very simple, with sugar pudding and cream mixed with gelatin, and served with chocolate or caramel coulis. However, one should not underestimate this culinary artwork for its simplicity. The dish packs a flavorful punch and is a must-try at an Italian restaurant.