Each of Italy's regions has its own culinar specialties, based on local ingredients and secular traditions.
In Northwest Italy:
Piedmont and Aoste Valley
Most of the cooking is done with butter. Popular Piedmontese dishes are fonduta, a melted cheese dip of milk, eggs and white truffles (tartufi bianchi), fritto misto alla Piemonteseand Cardi (chards). The crips breadsticks known as grissini, originated in Turin.
Cheeses are also a specialty: Fontina, a semi-hard cheese made in the Aoste Valley. Robiola, castelmagno and bra are excellent Piedmontese cheeses from Monferrato and the Langhe. Truffles and nuts of all types are also specialties of this region.
The famous Pesto sauce originated in Genoa. It is mostly served with pasta but is also more and more used to enhance other dishes. Other dishes include cima (stuffed meat parcels) and pansotti (a type of ravioli) served with walnut sauce, buridda (fish soup) and zuppa di datteri (a shelfish soup) from La Spezia.
A typical dish is ossobuco, a shin of veal with marrow bone in a tomato sauce with a hint of garlic.
A traditional Christmas treat that has gained international fame is the Panettone from Milan, a light yeast cake with candied fruit. Torrone is a specialty of Cremona. The most popular Lombard cheeses are the creamy Gorgonzola, the hard Grana Padana and Taleggio.
In Northeast Italy:
Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli Venezia Giulia
Many local specialties are based on bread or potatoes, such as canederli (a type of gnocchi made with bread and flour) and grösti (potatoe and meat pie). Other traditional dishes are smoked pork served with sauerkraut.
Polenta, made from maize flour and risotto, are popular alternatives to pasta. Risotto is an incredibly versatile dish, made of (Italian) rice to which almost any ingredient may be added. Polenta can be served as a primo or as a contorno, boiled and served with sauce or grilled. Bigoli is a type of spaghetti typical of the Veneto.
Carpaccio originated in Venice, presumably in Harry's bar, where it was first served in 1950. The dish consists of thin slices of raw beeft sprinkled with oil and thin slices of Parmesan cheese. It can be served on a bed of rocket leaves.
Many dishes are based on fish, such as dried cod (baccalà) and sardines, shellfish, and eels. Sarde in Soar, for example, is a traditional Venetian dish of fried fresh sardines marinated in a sweet and sour sauce.
Radicchio alla Griglia are red endive leaves from Treviso which are lightly grilled and have a slightly bitter taste.
Risi e bisi, a soft and liquid risotto is made of rice with fresh peas ans small pieces of bacon.
Tiramisu, one of Italy's most famous desserts is a layered dessert made of coffee-soaked ladyfingers and a cream of Mascarpone, egg yolks, sugar and Marsala, sprinkled with cacao powder.
Photos of the YourGuidetoItaly.com banner (from left to right): (on campus) Sean Locke, (red deckchair) Valentina Jori, (chianti botlle) Donald Gruener, (Vitruvian man) Jodie Coston, (coliseum), Roberto A Sanchez, (Fiat 500) Luca di Filippo.