Viva Italia! OK, homer post alert! It’s probably no secret that my heritage is 100% Italian. I’m 3rd generation and call Italy my second home, my summer vacation retreat, all thanks to my girlfriend and her family. I’m truly lucky.

With that said, when I visit Italy I’m always fortunate to have the opportunity to stay in a local town and experience Italian cuisine the way the locals do. There is something uber-authentic about eating amongst the locals, no matter where you are.

When you’re in Italy, you’d be remiss not try these dishes…

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe (source: Kurman Communications)

Cacio e Pepe is one of the simplest and most delicious dishes on the planet. Pasta, pecorino cheese, black pepper, and a tad bit of pasta water…that’s it. The pasta water melts the pecorino just ever so slightly so that it coats the pasta like an alfredo. It’s to die for!

Chef Massimo Bottura, owner of Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana in Modena, created a risotto cacio e pepe as a way to save dozens of pecorino businesses in Italy after their shops were damaged by earthquakes.

Arrosticini

Arrosticini (source: Wikimedia Commons)

The perfect Italian barbecue dish! Arrosticini are skewers of cubed lamb or sheep meat cooked over an open flame and topped with salt and pepper. Basic, easy, and delicious. Arrosticini are from the Abruzzo region of Italy (where my father is from!) and are often accompanied with bread and red wine. Couple that with amazing views and fresh outdoor air and what more could you want??

Frittura di mare

This one is a staple, but must be eaten in seaside towns and islands like Capri and Ischia. Frittura di mare is a plate of delicately fried local fish such as squid, prawns and anchovies. One of my fondest memories is eating frittura di mare (above) at Lo Smeraldo in Capri with this view…

Prosciutto e Melone

As you can see, the most basic dishes tend to be the best. This one is no exception. Prosciutto e melone is cantaloupe wrapped with prosciutto. That’s it….but the flavor is incredible and a shock to the tastebuds. First, you taste the saltiness of the prosciutto, but this is quickly cut by the sweetness of the melon. It’s a magical combination well suited for a summer afternoon!

Bucatini all’Amatriciana

Bucatini all’Amatriciana (source: Wikimedia Commons)

One of my favorites. Bucatini all’Amatriciana traces its roots to the Lazio regio of Italy’s South. This dish is made with thick bucatini pasta cooked al dente and sauce made of tomatoes, guanciale (pork jowl), and chili flakes…making this a pretty spicy dish. Best way to eat this is wearing a white shirt, somewhat low cut, a Nastro Azzuro, and of course a towel nearby to wipe the sweat off your brow 😉

What are your favorite Italian dishes?!

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