With a population of almost 60 million, Italy is a diverse little nation boasting an equally diverse cuisine.

The Italian food most Americans recognise — red-sauce specials like spaghetti with ragù — hails from the central region, but Italy’s wide-ranging terrain and climate, long coastline, and neighbouring countries have resulted in a delectable hodgepodge cuisine.

This boot-shaped country is comprised of 20 regions, each producing its own culinary treasures. Below, take a tantalising peek inside the kitchen cultures of six well-known areas.

At the end of this ‘Food File’, Marhaba tells you where you can indulge in some delectable Italian cuisine around town.

Italian Food And Wine

Capital city: Milan
Famous foods: risotto, osso bucco

In this northern Italian region just below Switzerland, rice and polenta are more popular than pasta, butter and lard beat out olive oil, and meat is eaten extensively. Dotted with picturesque lakes and hills, northern Italy is regarded as a paradise for cheese lovers, and Lombardy is the birthplace of such famous cheeses as firm Gran Padano, blue-veined Gorgonzola, soft, ripe Taleggio, tangy Provolone, and creamy Robiola.

Capital city: Bologna
Famous foods: Parmigiano Reggiano, tortellini, Bolognese sauce, balsamic vinegar of Modena

A vast, wealthy region located in northern Italy, Emilia-Romagna is rich in meats and super-eggy pasta. The craft of curing meat is held in high esteem here — Italy’s best known meat product, prosciutto di Parma, is created in Emilia, as is the “king of cheeses,” Parmigiano Reggiano.

Capital city: Florence
Famous foods: Pecorino cheese, steak alla fiorentina, Chianti wine

The ancestral home of the wealthy and influential Medici family, Tuscany produces some of Italy’s finest olive oils, sheep’s milk cheeses, and meat dishes. Bread, baked in giant, salt-free loaves, is king in this region, and locals incorporate it into numerous salads and soups, including ribollita (vegetable soup) and panzanella, a salad composed of crumbled bread, tomatoes, onions, and basil.

Capital city: Rome
Famous foods: bruschetta, spaghetti alla carbonara, artichokes alla Roman

The region of Lazio, situated on the west coast of central Italy, is famous for fresh and dried pastas, superior artichokes and zucchini, and meltingly tender porchetta (whole roast pig). In this ancient region, you can nibble on artichokes cooked in garlic and herb oil before losing yourself in a plate of bucatini all amatriciana (hollow spaghetti with tomato, onions, and bacon) or spaghetti carbonara (a creamy pasta dish with egg, cheese, and black peppercorns).

Capital city: Naples
Famous foods: pizza, buffalo mozzarella, calzone, limoncello liqueur

Sunny Campania is characterised by its fertile volcanic soil, which affords lush produce like San Marzano tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, salad greens, figs, and lemons. The pizza we all know and love today is a descendant of the world’s first pizzeria, which was born in Naples. When fresh mozzarella, sweet tomatoes, and a bread-loving culture combine, one delicious pie follows.

Capital City: Palermo
Famous foods: caponata, veal Marsala

The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily is located just off the ‘toe’ of the boot that is mainland Italy. This region is home to Mount Etna and, therefore, rich volcanic soil, which produces an abundance of lemons, blood oranges, almonds, olives, and other fruit. Meat, including lamb, pork, veal, and rabbit, is common in central Sicily, where locals claim they invented the meatball, called polpetti. Pasta is usually topped with heady, spicy tomato sauce.

Marhaba Picks: Top-rated restaurants, offering Italian food in Qatar:

  • Antica Pesa, Marsa Malaz Kempinski at The Pearl-Qatar | 4035 5555
  • Biella, City Center-Doha, Landmark & The Mall | 4493 3838
  • Carisma, Warwick Doha Hotel | 4456 3352
  • Carluccio’s, Multiple locations | 6690 1777 (The Pearl-Qatar)
  • Cicchetti, Al-Shmoukh Tower | 4421 9000, 6677 4400
  • Cucina, Marriott Marquis City Center Doha Hotel | 4419 5000
  • Di Capri Ristorante, La Cigale Hotel Doha | 4428 8840
  • Fabio’s Pizza & Italian Food, Al Waab | 4416 5641, 6631 1716, fabiospizzadoha.com
  • La Spiga by Papermoon, W Doha Hotel & Residences | 4453 5135
  • La Dolce Vita, Souq Waqif | 4436 7991
  • La Veranda at Sheraton Doha Resort & Convention | 4485 3000, laverandadoha.com
  • Lo Spaghetto, Al Nasr | 4434 1601
  • Paper Moon, Jaidah Square | 4016 6000
  • Porcini, The Ritz-Carlton, Doha | 4484 8000
  • Primavera Restaurant, Al Aziziyah Boutique Hotel | 4445 5555
  • Si Restaurant, The St. Regis Doha | 4446 0127, 3387 0925
  • Teatro (Italian, Chinese, Thai, Indian and Japanese cuisine), City Centre Rotana Doha | 4494 8888
  • The Italian Job, Radisson Blu Hotel, Doha | 4428 1555
  • The Village, Salwa Road and Souq Waqif | 4444 4700
  • Vapiano, Multiple locations | 4407 7188 (The Gate Mall)
  • Veritas, Al Messila, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Doha | 4444 5000

Author: Sarah Mascarenhas

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