As home to some of the world’s best loved foods, Italy has an obvious appeal as a gastronomic destination. However, while pizza and pasta are adored the world over, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Italian cuisine. Also on offer are legendary cheeses that will excite and delight your tastebuds, famous cold meats, inspired salads, rich herby stews and creamy, indulgent desserts. And, who could forget gelato, arguably the world’s finest ice cream?
Whether you’re dining in the most magnificent Michelin-starred restaurant, or enjoying one of the many rustic canteens found in side streets and piazzas throughout the country, you can expect to be constantly surprised by the range and variety of fantastic food on offer.
Here, we wanted to share with you our favourite gastronomical destinations around Italy. With these hidden gems, you’re guaranteed to enjoy a very fine feed indeed.
Sample the delights of Zass, Amalfi Coast
For great pasta, the finest fish and views to dine for, we couldn’t recommend Zass at the San Pietro Hotel in Positano highly enough.
Perched on the steep cliffside with a terrace that hovers precariously over the Tyrrhenian Sea, Zass provides a dining experience that is only heightened by the dramatic settings. Time it well enough and you can enjoy a stunning dessert as the sun slowly descends beneath idyllic Italian surroundings.
Belgian-born, Michelin-starred chef Alois Vanlangenaeker oversees a locally-inspired menu with obvious Amalfi influences such as lemons and lashings of olive oil. All the food here is cooked with love, and it shows as the cuisine takes a modern twist on traditional Italian dishes, and include intricate grilled meats, baked fish and lobster topped with fanciful foams and imaginative accompaniments.
Gastronomic glory at I Portici, Bologna
Home of parmesan cheese, prosciutto and, most famous of all, Bolognese ragù, Emilia Romagna is one of Italy’s unsung gastronomic regions. For one of its best restaurants, we recommend heading to the I Portici Hotel in Bologna.
Housed in a 19th-century palazzo that exemplifies the city’s liberty style — Italy’s answer to Art Deco — I Portici is Bologna’s only Michelin-starred restaurant.
Renowned Italian chef Agostino Iacobucci has put together a menu of real authentic Neapolitan cuisine. Using fresh ingredients that are caringly picked by hand each day, dishes at Ristorante I Portici are all highly innovative.
If you are lucky enough to taste the modern take on classics adopted by the head chef, it’s not just a taste sensation, but an experience you are taken on. As you savour each bite of the Lasagna with Rabbit and Olive Ragù, if you close your eyes it’s almost as if you are taken on a trip through the pristine Italian countryside, through vineyards and along rolling country paths until you re-awaken back in the restaurant and take your next mouthful.
Click here for the full menu of the restaurant, and see what delights you could be savouring.
Sublime seafood at La Rosetta, Rome
For some of the best fish in Italy you need to head inland, to Rome. Located just a short walk from the Pantheon and Piazza Novona, La Rosetta is one of the capital’s oldest seafood restaurants.
Owned by Roman super-chef Massimo Riccioli, the menu specialises in the finest seafood, and includes almost every kind of Mediterranean fish that the mind can think of. The fish are caught fresh everyday and delivered to the restaurant in packed ice boxes, perfectly preserving the freshness and flavour of the fish.
Riccioli claims to use every edible part of the fish in his dishes, which features delights such as Tuna Black Pudding with Fish Skin Crisps and Monkfish Tripe in Fresh Tomato Sauce, Mint and Pecorino Cheese – not to mention the best oysters you will taste in Rome.
Delicious treats at Osteria Francescana, Modena
Tucked away down a tiny side street in Modena you’ll find one of Italy’s, and the world’s, only Michelin three-starred restaurants – the Osteria Francescana. Head chef Massimo Bottura takes inspiration from his childhood memories, combining them with the traditional flavours of Modena to create a range of imaginative dishes that surprise and delight the palate.
Signature plates include Tortellini with Parmesan Sauce and Tagliatelle with Ragù. But there are also inventive twists on modern classics, such as the Five Ages of Parmesan and Foie Gras Crunch – a variation on a Feast ice cream, except with a piece foie gras bound in hazelnuts and filled with balsamic vinegar.
The menu is changed regularly to ensure seasonal ingredients are at the heart of dishes. The ‘Sensations’ menu is described as:
An invitation to join us on an imaginary journey from Pantelleria to Piemonte, from the Gulf of Naples to the Adriatic Sea, mapping ingredients and folklore to discover true Italian flavours.
With just 11 tables, you’ll need to book well in advance to stand a chance of dining in this exquisite eatery.
Where will you eat in Italy?
These are only a hand-picked selection of our favourite eating establishments in Italy. As one of the food capitals of the world, there are bound to be many more. Please let us know if you’ve experienced any glorious gastronomical gems that you want to share.