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Our Favorite Traditional Italian Foods (and Where to Get Them!)

Looking for the best traditional Italian foods to try during your next trip to Italy? Take it from us- we know all the best traditional Italian foods from each region of the beautiful country.  Check out our list below:

Pizza

Arguably the most iconic symbol of Italian food is the pizza.  What many may not know is that the modern development of pizza is argued to have originated in Naples after poor locals began using tomato as a topping on their yeast-based flat bread.  The dish slowly began gaining popularity in the early 1800s.

Most true Italians will argue that there are two different types of pizza — the marinara and the margherita.  The ‘marinara’ pizza is a flatbread pizza topped with tomato, oregano, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. La marinara refers to the seaman’s wife, who is traditionally known as the one to cook and prepare this meal for when her husband returns from the Bay of Naples.  The ‘margherita’ is a flatbread pizza topped with a light spread of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. As the story goes, Raffaele Esposito baked several special pizzas for King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy in 1889 while the two were passing through.  The Queen’s favorite was the one that captured true Italian patriotism, symbolizing the Italian flag. The basil leaves represented the green, the mozzarella was the white, and the tomatoes of course represented the red. In honor of how much Queen Margherita enjoyed this pizza, the creation was named ‘margherita’ pizza.

Due to its popularity, pizza can be found on nearly every street in Italy.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that every restaurant has great pizza however.  The general rule of thumb for ordering pizza in Italy is ‘less is more,’ in terms of toppings.  Italians traditionally like more natural flavors and believe that adding more will distract from the true beauty of the meal.

Best place to get it: Naples

Florentine Steak

When most people think of Italian cooking, steak isn’t usually one of the first traditional Italian foods to come to mind.  However, bistecca alla Fiorentina, is actually one of the most famous traditional Italian dishes in the city of Florence.  For all the meat lovers out there, this unique dish will make your mouth water.

Florentine steak has a very specific preparation.  The Porterhouse cut between the sirloin and tenderloin, or the costata, must come solely from the loin near the shoulder of the Chianina cow, which is raised in Tuscany.  The 5 centimeter-thick T-bone is cooked for 5 to 7 minutes on each side over a wooden fire until the outside is cooked, while the inside remains a dark red, tender rare.

Unlike the pizza, this Italian dish should be exclusively order within the Tuscan region, whether that be in the heart of Florence or more in the countryside.  Another unique aspect about this Italian dish, is that it’s meant to be shared. Italians customarily look down upon sharing food, but this 1-2 kg item, they’ll make an exception.  

One of the best restaurants within the heart of Florence is Ristorante Perseus, located near Piazza della Libertà and Piazza Savonarola.  Most people order the steak with a side of the crispy roasted potatoes.

Best place to get it: Florence

Risotto

Northern Italy is known for its delicious, creamy rice bowls known as risotto.  Arborio and Carnaroli are two of the most common varieties grown in the expansive rice paddies found in Italy.  To make risotto, rice is cooked in stock and mixed into a velvety consistency. Sometimes vegetables, seafood, porcini mushrooms, or sausage may be added to intensify flavors.

Saffron-infused risotto alla milanese is arguably the most famous type of risotto.  This dish is made with meat stock, bone marrow, cheese, and of course, saffron, giving the creamy soup-like meal a yellow tint.

Best place to get it: Milan

Gelato

If you go to Italy and don’t get at least one or two scoops of gelato a day, did you even enjoy yourself? 

Like pizza, gelato can be found everywhere in Italy.  When seeking to find the perfect gelato, however, there are a few things to keep in mind.  Look at the material of the containers the gelato is being stored in. If the gelato is in a silver or metal circular container, that usually indicates the gelato is freshly made.  True artisan gelato is slowly-churned to ensure an intense flavor and creamy texture. Gelato isn’t made for long-term storage, so stay away from the white or plastic containers. In addition, look at the actual color of the gelato — are they neon or natural tones?  If the fruit flavors (strawberry or fragola for example) are in season, they should be bright in color as good gelato is made with real, natural ingredients.

Best place to get it: Sicily

If you’d like to try some of these traditional Italian foods right here in Los Angeles, come join us at Spumoni Restaurants! Buon appetito!

Book your reservation today here: http://www.spumonirestaurants.com/reservation/

Our locations are listed below.

Santa Monica

713 Montana Ave. 

Santa Monica, California

90403 United States

(310) 393-2944

Sherman Oaks

14533 Ventura Blvd.

Sherman Oaks, California

91403 United States

Stevenson Ranch

24917 Pico Canyon Rd.

Stevenson Ranch, California

91381 United States

Newbury Park/Thousand Oaks

1714 Newbury Rd.

Newbury Park, California

91320 United States

Best Health Benefits of Italian Food

Italian cuisine has had a bad reputation in the world of health for as long as we can remember. It is true that Italian food is typically full of cheesy goodness, carb-filled heaven, and rich deserts.

However, there are actually countless health benefits of Italian food that many people don’t know about. If you weren’t already, here are some healthy reasons to indulge yourself in the best cuisine in the world.

 

Olive Oil

Olive oil might be the most obvious health benefit. Olive oil is widely known as a very healthy fat, filled with ones called monounsaturated fats that are extremely beneficial for your heart health. It also helps reduce low-density lipoproteins, which are the “bad” cholesterol that negatively affects your heart. Instead, it boosts levels of high-density lipoproteins, which are the good kind of cholesterol that removes harmful cholesterol. It can be found in salad dressings, pasta dishes, used to cook seafood, meat, or veggies, or simply in a dish for bread to be dipped in.

Garlic

Garlic is strong in more ways than just spicing up your food and making your breath smell bad. It has amazing antibacterial and anti-fungi properties. Even better, it contains sulfides that fight risks of almost every type of cancer; breast, colon, throat, stomach, skin, etc. Its commonly found in the majority of Italian dishes, from sautéed vegetables to pasta sauces.

Tomatoes

Also known as the staple fruit of Italian food, tomatoes are rich with potassium, and both vitamin C and A. If thats not enough, tomatoes also contain lycopene, a heart protective antioxidant. Cooking tomatoes is an easy and effective method to bring out the available lycopene. Eating pastas dishes with fresh, homemade tomato sauce is a great way to boost your lycopene intake, ensuring a healthy heart.

Whole Grains

Thats right, carbs aren’t all bad for you! As opposed to refined grains, whole grains have a lower glycemic index which means they don’t raise glucose and insulin levels with a dramatic spike. Instead, they retain fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E. Sustaining a diet rich with whole grains can protect against heart disease and diabetes. Whole grain pastas are served in a variety of ways at Italian restaurants so you will never be limited to one dish.

Seafood

Whether it be grilled fish, shrimp, or octopus, the health benefits of seafood are plentiful. Specifically, salmon is often attributed with low cholesterol and high protein. It is true that salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, B vitamins, and antioxidants. However, shrimp doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the omega-3 fatty acids it contains. A healthy dose of shrimp provides a sufficient amount of omega-3 acids to decrease inflammation, lower blood pressure, and improve the function of cells lining your arteries. Stop in for our salmon dish complete with lemon, capers, and a white wine sauce or our Cioppino Mediterraneo, which is a seafood lover’s heaven; fresh fish, clams, shrimp, calamari, and mussels in a light tomato fish broth.

If those don’t appeal to your taste buds, Spumoni is proudly home to all of the healthy ingredients above! We are proud to offer something that everyone will love, especially when they include these health benefits. Next time you’re craving Italian, head into Spumoni Restaurants and don’t feel guilty indulging a little bit!

Santa Monica Italian Restaurants

Great Santa Monica Italian restaurants can be difficult to find. There are many Santa Monica Italian restaurants, but their is definitely a favorite Santa Monica Italian restaurant among the locals. The secrets out, Spumoni is the neighborhood’s first choice when selecting a Santa Monica Italian restaurant. Depend on Spumoni to provide excellent Italian food with a great atmosphere.