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.
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 (in no particular order):
- Paper Moon, Jaidah Square | 4016 6000
- Carisma, Warwick Doha Hotel | 4456 3333
- La Spiga by Papermoon, W Doha Hotel & Residences, West Bay | 4453 5135
- Antica Pesa, Marsa Malaz Kempinski at The Pearl-Qatar, West Bay | 4035 5555
- Il Teatro, West Bay | 4494 8888
- La Dolce Vita, Souq Waqif | 4436 7991
- Spaghetto, Near Al Saad | 44341601
- Cucina, West Bay City Center, Al Wahda Street | 4419 6100
- The Village, Midmac Roundabout, Salwa Road | 4444 4700
- Porcini, The Ritz-Carlton, Doha, West Bay | 4484 8000
- Italian Job, C Ring Road | 4428 1555
- Sormani, 1 La Croisette, Porto Arabia | 44953876
- Biella, City center, Landmark & The Mall | 44933838
- Emporio Armani Caffe -Pearl Qatar, 7 La Croisette Porto Arabia | 4495 3876
Author: Sarah Mascarenhas
Copyright © Marhaba Information Guide. Reproduction of material from Marhaba Information Guide’s book or website without written permission is strictly prohibited. Using Marhaba Information Guide’s material without authorisation constitutes as plagiarism as well as copyright infringement.