The Many Regional Faces of Italian Cooking

Think of Italian food and, chances are, you'll imagine something involving pasta, tomatoes, and some fresh herbs like basil. Or perhaps a traditional, rustic pizza will come to mind, with olives, salami, and other traditional Italian toppings.

And usually, you'll find plenty of dishes on an Italian restaurant's menu that match up with these expectations. But it's far from the whole story.

With Italy being a fairly large country, with long culinary traditions, there's a considerable amount of variation between the food of different regions. Although certain foods are common across the country, there are specific styles and ingredients that define some areas and give them a unique cuisine. Here are just some of the twenty regional styles of Italy.


Home of the city of Naples, Campania lies to the south of the country. Campanian cuisine uses a lot of typical Italian ingredients like pasta, tomatoes and cheeses, plus plenty of seafood. By far the most famous Neopolitan creation is the pizza.


Although it's where you'll find the bustling metropolis of Rome, Lazio also has large rural areas. As such, you'll find a lot of simple, hearty ingredients that were once associated with the poor. Expect a wide selection of vegetables, pasta and potato gnocchi. Thanks to the abundance of sheep in the area, lamb and sheep's milk cheese are common.


Since corn and rice are widely-grown crops in Lombardy, polenta and risotto are typical dishes. There's also more meat than in some Italian styles, particularly beef. You might be surprised to find little in the way of tomatoes, making it quite different from many Italian regional cuisines.


Tuscany is famed for its picturesque scenery, and in many ways, its food reflects the untouched nature it's known for. Simple, rural ingredients come together to form delicious dishes. A big olive growing and wine producing region, expect both of these products to feature heavily alongside beans, sausages, and local cheeses.


Most well known as the area you'll find Venice, Veneto has the perfect position for gathering plenty of delicious seafood. You'll often find this in soups and risottos, with polenta almost always making an appearance.


This island region takes in influences from several other cultures in addition to its Italian heritage, including Greek and Arab styles. Alongside pasta and rice, there's never a shortage of meat and fish, and ingredients like dried fruit showing some of the outside influences you'll find in the food of this unique island.