Flavors of Italy – Italian Cuisine by Region

Photo: Flavors of ItalyItalian food evokes this great feeling of warmth, love, and family. That abundance of joy isn’t only felt by those of Italian descent. Today there’s a merging of the cuisines from the different regions of Italy in many American restaurants. For those who are very familiar with Italy, the northern region dishes have a distinctive flavor that’s completely separate from the southern cuisine. Both are excellent in their own right. Italian pasta is a popular dish in every region, but the sauces will have their own flavor.

In America, many Italian dishes have evolved from the creation of the immigrant population who settled here. For instance, spaghetti and meatballs is a popular dish in the US, but not one you’d readily find in Italy. Italian dishes in America are also sometimes specific to the state or region, which is why Italian Beef sandwiches are largely found in Chicago (where they were invented) and pizza tastes different in New York than it will in Philadelphia.

Southern Italian Cuisine

Southern Italian cuisine is often quintessentially Mediterranean. There are similarities between the Sicilian and Greek preparation of certain dishes, for instance. Southern Italian foods often have more spice than their northern counterparts – they’re often hotter, with a preference to red pepper and giardiniera. The tomato sauces tend to be hotter, tangier, and with an abundance of garlic. Fish is a popular dish in the south and many of the meals are prepared with citrus, such as lemon and the blood oranges found in Sicily. The southern region is warmer in climate and many dishes are fresh and light. You’ll find an abundance of steamed fish, with fresh fruits such as figs, and vegetables. Olive oil is often the key choice for cooking, as well as a base for salad dressings.

Northern Italian Cuisine

In contrast to the southern cuisine, northern Italian foods tend to be richer. The food from this region is often compared to French cuisine because the sauces are often butter based and richer in texture. The experience of dining is one of luxury. Northern Italian cuisine also reflects the region, which is quite a bit cooler and there’s an abundance of meat dishes, stews, and Italian pasta with a heavier, cream based sauce. Some popular northern Italian dishes include veal, chicken, and fish prepared with fresh herbs, garlic, and often sauce bases are made with wine.

Northern cuisine offers an eclectic choice, from the antipasto through the decadent desserts. Drink choices are just as important to the authentic northern Italian experience as the food menu. Fine liquors, craft brews, and of course, an eclectic array of various vintage wines form the perfect finishing touch to a meal that’s meant to be the main event of the evening.

In the Chicagoland area, there are many popular restaurants that specialize in Italian Cuisine, though many cater to southern Italian tastes. La Buona Vita in La Grange, features an eclectic menu of pure Northern Italian cuisine. Their specialty drinks and robust wine list are perfectly designed to pair with any meal or taste palate.

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