Where to eat in Italy for authentic Italian food – NZ Herald

Italy is a funfair for the tastebuds and the perfect place for a food-filled adventure, but the origins of its culinary traditions might just surprise you, writes Suzy Pope. Over the centuries, we’ve tinkered with each traditional pasta dish, pizza and delicate dessert, adding and taking away ingredients until each one is nearly unrecognisable from its Italian original. Taking a trip from Milan to Naples, you’ll learn that cream has no place in a carbonara and spaghetti Bolognese should only be made with four ingredients – and none of them are spaghetti.

Sample risotto in Milan

You’ll spot Risotto alla Milanese on the menu in Italian restaurants the world over. Golden yellow, it’s a perfectly balanced medley of butter, onion, meat stock and saffron with sausage for flavour. In the 1930s, Italy’s fascist government railed against pasta, blaming the starchy staple for the population’s perceived sluggishness and embarked on a propaganda campaign promoting rice as a healthy alternative. Though the move didn’t curtail the Italians’ love of pasta, it did put more risotto dishes on the map beyond the rice fields of the Po Valley and Lombardy.

Where to eat in Italy for authentic Italian food - NZ Herald
Where to eat in Italy for authentic Italian food – NZ Herald

Where to try Risotto ala Milanese in Milan: It’s like a timewarp in Trattoria Madonnina, one of Milan’s oldest restaurants. Dark wood and checkered-cloth tablecloths are like the Italian restaurants of the 70s and 80s and the food is just like Nonna makes.

Eat the original spaghetti Bolognese in Bologna

The rose-hued ancient city of Bologna is affectionately known to Italians as “The Fat” and heralded as Italy’s foodie capital. In the flat lands of the surrounding Emilia Romagna province, fields and pastures stretch for miles, pumping farm-fresh produce into the open-air markets and restaurants of the city. Wine bars serve towering platters of charcuterie with garlicky mortadella, piquant slices of salami and oozing blobs of mozzarella.

Perhaps the most famous export from Bologna is spaghetti Bolognese. The original dish doesn’t use spaghetti, let alone carrots, celery or mushrooms. In the family-run trattoria of this medieval city, you’ll find Tagliatelle al Ragu. The original spaghetti Bolognese is simply beef mince flavoured with onion, garlic and a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg, tossed through thick ribbons of tagliatelle and often topped with a dusting of parmesan.

Where to eat Tagliatelle al Ragu in Bologna: Founded in 1979 in the university district, Osteria dell’Orsa is a typically buzzy yet laid-back Bologna tavern where you can sample the city’s famous cuisine, including “tagliatelle al Bologna”.

Slurp gelato in Florence

The Renaissance brought us Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, but it also introduced gelato to the streets of Italy. The story goes that Bernardo Buontalenti, a Florentine architect and artist, invented gelato in 1565 when he presented his frozen dessert to Catherine de’ Medici at a banquet. Gelato is made with milk rather than cream, which gives it a lower fat content and a more intense flavour than ice cream. It is also churned at a slower speed, which means less air is incorporated into the mixture, resulting in a denser texture.

Where to eat gelato in Florence: There are many gelaterie (gelato shops) in Florence, but one of the most popular and authentic ones is Vivoli. This family-run business has been making gelato since 1930 using natural ingredients and traditional recipes.

Enjoy pizza in Naples

Pizza is arguably Italy’s most famous dish, but its origins are humble and disputed. Some say it was invented by ancient Greeks who baked flatbreads with toppings, while others claim it was born in Naples in the 18th century when poor workers added tomato sauce to their bread. Either way, pizza became a national symbol when Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889 and was served a pizza with tomato, mozzarella and basil – the colours of the Italian flag. Since then, pizza has spread all over the world, but Naples remains its spiritual home.

Where to eat pizza in Naples: There are hundreds of pizzerie (pizza places) in Naples, but one of the oldest and most renowned ones is Antica Pizzeria da Michele. Founded in 1870, this place serves only two types of pizza: Margherita and Marinara (with tomato sauce, garlic and oregano). The pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven for less than two minutes, resulting in a thin crust with charred edges and a soft centre.

Indulge in tiramisu in Treviso

Tiramisu is a decadent dessert made with layers of coffee-soaked ladyfingers, mascarpone cheese, eggs, sugar and cocoa powder. The name means “pick me up” in Italian, referring to the energising effect of the caffeine and sugar. The origin of tiramisu is disputed, but one of the most credible claims is that it was created in Treviso, a city in the Veneto region, in the 1960s by a pastry chef named Roberto Linguanotto. He named his dessert after his apprentice’s nickname, Tira mi su.

Where to eat tiramisu in Treviso: You can find tiramisu in many pastry shops and restaurants in Treviso, but one of the best places to try it is Le Beccherie, the restaurant where Linguanotto worked and where he allegedly invented the dessert.

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