Welcome to Italy’s culinary specialities blog! If the aim of your work placement abroad is to slap your belly on a terrace: BEST PAYS EVER! Italy is the Mediterranean at your table, it’s culinary excellence: it’s true that Grandma is Italian, it’s true that we have very good Italian customers, it’s true that we have Italian friends, but the truth is that Italian cuisine is the best. Italy is full of culinary specialities and fresh produce: whether it’s fish in the coastal towns of Sicily, Bari or Naples, charcuterie, veal in all its forms, cheeses like mozzarella, parmesan, mascarpone, pecorino, vegetables cooked in oil or peppers boiled in vinegar: Italy is a delight on the plate. During your experience in Italy, it’s essential to start with the cheese: Italian cheese (deso France) is a killer: gorgonzola, mozzarella, burrata… it’s all delicious. In fact, it’s marvellous! And how can you write a blog about Italy’s culinary specialities without mentioning the wine: Montepulciano, Valpolicella or Negroamaro are my favourites! Ideally, you sit on a terrace and just love it. The sun, cheese in hand with bread, and a glass of red wine in your hand!

A few rules before you start

Yes, Italian cuisine is renowned the world over, but there are a few strict rules to follow in the kitchen. And I didn’t just learn this on my travels, I learned it from my granny in Palermo, who always welcomed me with typical Italian dishes! And don’t forget that some of these rules are essential if you don’t want to be disrespectful or unintentionally insult the head chef of the house where you’re staying, so memorise them well:

  • Never leave the table until you are told to do so
  • Finish your whole plate: whether or not you’re still hungry is not her problem
  • Always ask before helping: it’s a sign of disrespect to do it without, and you’re just telling your host that he can’t do it alone; and don’t worry, the host will always dare to ask you.
  • Never say it’s bad, or not to your taste: it’s worse than a verbal attack, it’s a guaranteed diplomatic incident and a lot of hard feelings to come.
  • Never use the kitchen unless you’re invited to do so: it would be like using their toothbrush, let’s say. It’s really annoying for an Italian to cook with his tools or at home without being invited.

So a few rules when you’re eating with family or friends, and at an Italian restaurant. This is less true in restaurants, especially in large cities that are used to hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. But then, at La Mama’s: follow the rules if you want to be able to come back for a second round next time, and especially if you want to avoid being cursed for five generations.

The Italian aperitif

A good glass of traditional Spritz, or mixed in a cocktail for an Ugo Spritz or even with artichokes! But if you don’t like the fizz, you can go for a Martini, white or red, a Campari or an Aperol. Are you a lemon fan? You can also try a Limoncello: in short, whatever your tastes, there’s always something to satisfy your expert palate in the sunshine, or sheltered from the wind in one of Italy’s old town nuggets. And to accompany your drink, what could be better than a good aperitif board and a traditional aperitivo? A bruschetta with sun-dried tomato, melting burrata, mushrooms in oil, sun-drenched melon, foccacia with olives or anchovies with a little garlic. Just writing this article makes me want to rush to the airport and catch the next flight to Bari!

Fish dishes

Swordfish is one of Sicily’s typical fish dishes, and is available in a variety of recipes, sometimes accompanied by polenta or seasonal vegetables; it can even be made into risotto – which, incidentally, is Italy’s signature dish. Pasta is also often served with seafood, whether in squid ink or with cockles and garlic: a delight. Stuffed squid is an Italian speciality, often stuffed with anchovies, pistachios and garlic. Tuna Milanese style, cooked in a sort of tomato and herb sauce, is a real treat. Squid à la romaine, baresse prawns: there are different recipes in every town, with products worked finely and simply, for as many varieties of flavour as there are towns in Italy. The influence of the Maghreb has even brought couscous back to Sicily, turning it into a couscous of the sea, made with cod and Sicilian citrus fruit.

Meat dishes

The traditional beef lasagne is an absolute must: excellent. Veal: Milanese, osso-bucco, piccata, saltimbocca… there are dozens of recipes! Cannelloni, with beef or pork: another very typical recipe. I can tell you that, with an Italian grandmother, I’ve eaten it lots of times, and it’s always a pleasure to sit down to a meal. Italian food is really excellent, with specialities that are always subtly seasoned with spices: cumin, pepper, chilli, basil, oregano…

Other dishes

Because Italy can also delight vegetarians: risotto comes in all shapes and sizes, and of course pizza: there are over 140 recipes, each as delicious as the next. And, of course, pasta. Whether it’s in oil, bolognese, tomato sauce, cheese, pesto or spinach, pasta is the essential ingredient of Italian cuisine. Here’s a recipe: take some whole-wheat pasta, put it in boiling water for 11 minutes, drain, add some fresh spinach, a generous pinch of salt and a large pot of double cream with Parmesan cheese… it’s delicious.

Italian desserts

Italian culinary specialities also include desserts! Panna cotta, often with red fruit, tiramisu, made with coffee but available in all shapes and sizes: strawberry, speculo, raspberry… granita, zuccotto, spumone, amaretti, Naples baba… ! But it’s also all about cheese, some of which can be eaten as a starter, in a sauce, with a dish or as part of a dessert. Italy is everywhere, from starters to desserts. All you have to do is look again to see that every French restaurant has 2 or 3 of the dishes listed here on its menu. Tiramisu is just one example: it’s become a staple of family meals in France and of à la carte desserts in restaurants.

Italian cuisine is truly full of flavour, and there are as many varieties as there are Italians: every restaurant, every home has its own recipes! Fresh produce all year round, lots of love in the kitchen – that’s the secret of centuries-old recipes that will thrill palates far beyond Italy’s borders. And it’s no coincidence that Italian cuisine is so influential around the world: there are as many Italians living outside Italy as there are living in it. It’s a peul who has emigrated around the world, exporting his cuisine with each wave of migration. In every city in the world, you’ll find an Italian restaurant, whether it’s a pizzeria or something else. As well as being excellent, it’s also a real political force: soft power through the spread of a country’s cuisine, in this case Italy’s, in the same way that France has done with its baguette, and more generally its breads and Viennese pastries, or even game-based dishes in sauce. Tempted by Italy? Have its culinary specialities convinced you? Not only is Italy delicious in terms of its dishes, but also its landscapes, and I invite you to read our little article dedicated to Puglia! If you’re keen to do an internship in Italy, all you have to do is contact us, and International Horizons will work with you to create the best possible internship abroad!

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