Simply visiting Italy is pleasant. Add in all of the country’s famous food, and a trip becomes heavenly. Regarded as one of the best, if not the very best, food countries in Europe, Italy has long been known for its unmatchable culture surrounding food — and its cup runneth over with wine, too. Each region has its own special dish and a wine or two to match. To eat and drink like the locals, pair your Italian meals with wine from the same region. If you can’t get to Italy, these pairings are the next best thing. Here are iconic dishes from seven regions and the wine to pair with them.
1. Piedmont’s risotto al tartufo with Nebbiolo
When it comes to all things truffle, Piedmont is king. Every fall, Piedmontese locals gear up to harvest the cherished fungi, elevating the region’s food from good to outstanding. One of the most famous dishes to get the truffle treatment is risotto al tartufo. The rice-based risotto is rich and earthy, and the soil-driven flavors scream for an equally savory wine. Opt for a wine made with the Nebbiolo grape, such as Barolo or Barbaresco. Nebbiolo is Piedmont’s signature variety, known for its rustic flavors of rose petal and tar. The big tannins and floral notes in the wine are the perfect match for risotto al tartufo.
2. Emilia-Romagna’s ragù Bolognese with Lambrusco
With food like Prosciutto di Parma and Bolognese sauce, meat is the defining ingredient in many dishes from Emilia-Romagna, which is in the northeastern part of Italy. That goes for the region’s pasta sauce, as well. It’s hard to get enough of the textured, spice-enhanced ragù Bolognese. A big, bold red wine might be the first pairing that comes to mind, but if you’re looking to drink like a local, grab a bottle of Lambrusco. It’s fruity, frothy, and insanely gulpable. This fizzy red wine is almost too easy to drink — especially with a heaping plate of ragù Bolognese in front of you.
3. Tuscany’s ribollita with Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Bistecca alla Fiorentina with Chianti
Choosing just one dish to highlight from Tuscany is impossible, and the same goes for the wine. To start, there’s ribollita, the region’s signature bread soup. It’s crafted from a hearty mix of carbs and vegetables then loaded with cannellini beans, kale, and a mix of chopped vegetables. The pairing for this savory soup is the region’s famous white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano. The wine is full of crisp citrus flavors and bright acidity that balances the wholesomeness of the soup.
For a heartier food and wine pairing, there’s Bistecca alla Fiorentina. It’s a thick cut of steak loaded with local herbs and served with lemon wedges and cannellini beans. Red wine shines in Tuscany — and also when paired with this dish. Look for a wine from the Chianti or Montalcino regions. Here, Sangiovese is the star, producing both of the above wines in an array of styles. For a more affordable option, stick to Chianti. Pro tip: For affordable options from Montalcino, look for bottles labeled Rosso di Montalcino. These wines are essentially baby Brunello, produced in the same fashion just aged less.
4. Liguria’s pesto Genovese with Vermentino
There’s no place in the world like Italy’s northwestern coast. There are colorful hillsides crystalline waters; and salty, lemon-tinged pesto as far as the stomach can dream. Made from lemon juice, pine nuts, and an array of local spices, the pesto needs a local, high-acid white wine to stand up to all of the flavors within the sauce. Grab a Vermentino-based white, which has citrus-driven minerality and plenty of acidity. It’s a wine that’ll keep your mouth watering for more.
5. Campania’s pizza Napoletana with Aglianico and Falanghina
There’s pizza, and then there’s pizza from Napoli. To really enjoy it, grab a glass or two of wine to wash it all down. Although your first instinct is probably to grab a glass of red, the high-acid white varieties of Campania are equally refreshing when served alongside cheesy pizza — especially slices loaded with vegetables. For a red-wine pairing, choose one that uses the Aglianico grape. For white, pick a wine made with the Falanghina grape.
6. Lombardy’s osso buco with Chiavennasca
Osso buco is one of Lombardy’s most famous dishes. It’s centered around braised veal shanks, vegetables, and a white wine broth, and it’s generally served with risotto or polenta on the side. The meat’s fatty structure needs some hearty tannins in the wine pairing to balance it out, making the local Chiavennasca-based reds (that’s Nebbiolo in the local dialect) the perfect pairing. Of course, you can’t go wrong with pairing Lombardy’s méthode traditionelle-style sparkling wine, Franciacorta, as well. Because who ever said no to bubbles?
7. Sicily’s arancini with Nero d’Avola
Arancini is Sicily’s best-known street food. It’s made of stuffed rice balls dipped in bread crumbs, deep fried, and then served with local ragu and mozzarella. It’s especially tasty when washed down with a regional red wine. The island’s wine production is synonymous with the Nero d’Avola variety, which makes fruit-forward, juicy reds with medium acidity. For a smokier flavor, check out the savory reds of Etna (known as Etna Rosso), produced from the Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio varieties.
Look for wines from these wineries: I Custodi and Arianna Occhipinti