Most of the food for which Italy is best known comes from the central and southern regions of the country. Thick, rustic pasta sauces and traditionally made pizza are highly representative of Italian cuisine, but those types of dishes aren’t very prevalent in Northern Italy. The regions of Northern Italy, which include Liguria, Val D'Aosta, Piemonte, Lombardia, Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Emilia-Romagna, are more influenced by the cuisine from the other European countries bordering them. So let’s take a look at the most popular dishes in Northern Italy by region.
The most famous city in the Liguria region of Italy is Genoa, which is best known for its pesto. Pesto alla Genovese typically incorporates the green pesto with which people are most familiar, but pesto bianco (white pesto) is also popular in the region. In fact, most of Ligurian cuisine is practically vegetarian because there isn’t much land suitable for meat farming.
Piemonte (Piedmont) is beloved for its wine, but that doesn’t mean their food isn’t just as impressive. Here, one of the people’s favorite ingredients is the white truffle which comes from the city of Alba. Overall, risottos are more popular dishes in Northern Italy than pasta dishes, so Risotto Tartufato Piemontese (white truffle risotto) is probably the best representation of Italian food from this region. Check out this recipe for Folios Mushroom Risotto.
The Aosta Valley is a very small region that is bordered by France and Switzerland. Thus, the food here is very similar to the types of European food found in these countries. This region is best known for its Fontina cheese, which is often melted and consumed as Fontina cheese fondue.
Everybody recognizes the city of Milan as one of the fashion capitals of the world, but there is also plenty of rich Italian cuisine to explore here. The people of Milan are as forward-thinking with their food as they are with their fashion, so there are a lot of modern Italian dishes to be found here. The most recognizable, though, is Risotto alla Milanese, which is given its intensely yellow color from the amount of butter used in the recipe. Actually, in the north as a whole, butter is typically preferred over olive oil.
Trentino-Alto Adige is a region similar to Valle D’Aosta in that most of its cuisine is almost identical to European food from its bordering countries. The culinary influence of Austria and Switzerland have made dishes such as goulash and polenta staples of this most northern part of Italy.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is a region of Italy that shares its northern border with Austria and its eastern border with Slovenia. Signature dishes from these countries, and from nearby Hungary as well, inform the cuisine of this Italian region. Aside from the quintessential Italian meat of prosciutto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is home to dishes such as stews, soups, and strudels.
The incredibly picturesque city of Venice is marked by its canals and gondolas, but the food here is also an important part of the true Venetian experience. Being surrounded by water as they are, it’s not surprising that the people of Venice love dishes such as Risotto al Neri di Seppi, or risotto with squid ink.
Of all of the northern regions of Italy, Emilia-Romagna is the closest to central Italy, which is why you will find more “typical” Italian cuisine here. Emilia-Romagna is famous for Prosciutto di Parma and, of course, the food capital of Bologna. In Bologna, hearty meat sauces are extremely popular, as well as stuffed pastas. Enjoying a plate of Tortellini alla Bolognese is, therefore, probably the best representation of food from this area.