10 Traditional Italian Dishes by Town and Location

10 Traditional Italian Dishes by Town and Location

When you think of Italian food, you probably picture the supposedly quintessential pizza and pasta. But Italian cuisine is so much more than that. There are different traditions depending on where in the country you’re visiting, with regional variations on classics.

This is one of the reasons why you’ll often find people from Italy identify themselves more with the region they hail from than the country as a whole. Let’s explore some of the traditional Italian dishes from 10 towns and locations around Italy.


10 Traditional Italian Dishes by Town and Location

1. Lombardy

The delicious, creamy rice dish known as risotto comes from the Lombardy region. There are kilometres upon kilometres of rice paddies between the areas of Turin and Milan, growing the specific type of rice needed to make risotto, which is Carniola and Arborio.

Risotto is considered to be a starter meal, and at its base, it’s made of rice and stock, with some traditions including beef marrow and saffron. It is one of the most well-known traditional dishes from Italy, and you can learn more about making it at Bruna’s.

2. Molise

No part of the animal goes to waste in Molise. Tripe dumplings are a specialty of the area, made with lamb offal, a meat that’s popular in the region due to the vast number of lamb farms. The original recipe might not be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of tripe, you’ll absolutely love these dumplings.

3. Puglia

A region with extremely fertile soil, Puglia is known for its rich variety of vegetables, along with olives for making divine virgin olive oil and wheat. Specializing in orecchiette (which means ‘little ears’), a durum wheat pasta, the people of the region often make this pasta without egg, which is different from more ‘traditional’ forms of pasta.

One original recipe is the ‘Pugliese primo’, which combines the orecchiette with cime di rape (turnip greens), broccoli rabe (turnip tops), some oil and seasoning, and occasionally preserved anchovies to make a simple but mouth-watering pasta dish with fresh basil.

4. Sardinia

Ever wondered what the smallest pasta is in Italian food? Sardinia is the place to visit to find out. The region is known for producing fregola, small balls of pasta. This is mixed with pilau, which is similar to cous-cous, and sheep or goat meat, or shellfish in tomato sauce to create an original recipe that’s packed with flavour.

5. Sicily

There’s a large contrast between sweet and salty tastes in Sicilian cuisine, with a largely Arab influence due to various invasions of the area over the centuries. Pasta con le sarde, which translates to ‘pasta with sardines’ is one such original dish, with a delicate balance between the two types of flavour that will delight your taste buds at first bite. It’s typically served with hollow-tube pasta, raisins, pine nuts, wild fennel, and saffron or fresh basil, making it an original Italian food.

6. Tuscany

Tuscany is largely a rural area with many farms, and the cuisine exemplifies this. There’s a peasant feel to the food, with one such original dish that defines this being gnudi, which is naked ravioli. There’s just the filling of ricotta cheese (made from sheep’s milk), flour, egg, spinach, olive oil, sage, and pecorino cheese—no pasta blanket to surround the filling. You can also enjoy it with a side of creamy sauces.

7. Umbria

This is a largely woodland area, which means truffles, truffles, truffles, along with wild boar. These delicacies are a part of many of the dishes of the region. One such Italian recipe is the pasta dish tagliatelle with truffles, which is made up of the long flat pasta, black truffles, butter, and grated cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano preferably).

10 Traditional Italian Dishes by Town and Location

8. Veneto

Risi e bisi, also known as rice and pea risotto, is arguably the most popular dish in Venetian cuisine. You might be thinking ‘another rice dish on this list?’ But this one has a more soup-like quality to it than the other risotto dishes we’ve mentioned. It was originally always served on 25 April at the Doge’s banquet, the day of the patron saint, St. Mark. The doge was the chief magistrate of Venice or Genoa (not the meme coin).


9. Campania

Here, it’s all about carbs, most notably in the white flour of pizza base. Pizza Napolitana is traditionally made here using cow’s milk mozzarella cheese, a plain tomato sauce, and maybe a couple more simple toppings. It’s got a thick crust on the rim and is cooked in a traditional domed pizza oven. Neapolitan pizza is one of the most popular foods in Italy and around the world.

10. Emilia-Romagna

This region in northern Italy extends from the Apennine Mountains to the northern Po River, and its capital is Bologna. This is where you’re most likely to find the Italian pasta dishes that the world considers to be ‘traditional’. Sumptuous helpings of béchamel sauce and flat pasta sheets are layered together with a Bolognese sauce to make lasagne. The pastas cappelletti and tortellini come from the Moderna and Reggio Emilia regions within Emilia-Romagna and are also used to make delicious Italian dishes with Italian cheeses.

If you’re looking for an out-of-this-world Italian food experience, visit us at Bruna’s Italian. We offer cooking lessons, where you can learn to make many of the pastas on this list just like an Italian, along with catering for events and functions. We specialize in making food from the Le Marche, Umbria, Lazio, and Tuscany regions. Give us a call today on 083 640 5960 or email bruna@parmesancheese.co.za to book.