Italian cuisine as a concept is a non-existing one, as oppose to what many believe outside Italy. In essence is a regional cuisine developed for hundreds of years in different parts of the peninsula each with its own characteristics and unique ingredients, before the country finally unified in 1861. Each region had and has local ingredients that are unique and a few of them are not found in another regions, sometimes not known.
We all associate pasta as the quintessential part of the Italian diet, true up to a point but it is mostly towards the south, the northern part is associated with polenta and risotto, specially the Veneto region, and bold dishes which shows influences from bordering countries like Austria, Switzerland and the south of France. More often than not, recipes cross the borders back and forth becoming part of the town’s folklore, more pronounced with people in and around the borders who speak both languages and sometimes a dialect of both. Each region with its own fresh and local ingredients is what makes this cuisine the most celebrated cuisine in the world.
There are 20 regions in Italy including the islands of Sicilia and Sardegna, which represents different approach to culture and cooking on their own. In the case of Sardegna a different language is spoken by the population, Sardo, influenced heavily by Catalan from Spanish occupation in the past, Italian is now mandatory in schools.
In each region’s section you will find that often the names of the products are followed by the letters DOP, IGP and STG, that’s an indication of quality control law in the EU (CEE 2081/92) to certify origin, location and authenticity of products, which has to abide to before aquiring the seals.
DOP – Denominazione d’Origine Protetta, Denomination of Protected Origin.
IGP – Indicazione Geografica Protetta, Protected Geographic Indication
STG – Specialita’ Tradizionale Garantita, Guaranteed Traditional Specialty