Geographical Indications: Italian Food, Made Official Or “Complicated Simplicity”

For the first time in this blog, I have the pleasure to feature a guest post. This article is by enologist, writer, and photographer Melinda King. To know more about Melinda, check out The Premise of Italian Cuisine podcast.

Melinda King

Italian culture is special in ways that are delicately combined, tangible and intangible. It would be impossible to disconnect Italian culture from the topic of Italian food, and the entire nation is formed by connections of things grown and eaten. Eating evokes emotional, memory, sensory, spiritual, and gustatory reactions, which are born from chemistry and imagination. This is a proud food system made from thousands of years of place-specific combinations; exceptional raw ingredients, combined and shared at tables, are traded in markets and perfected with love. Italian flavors are a stunning collection of colorful stories that grow from field to city, within regions—after all, the country was a collection of nation-states until unification in 1861. The subject of authenticity is constant to hungry Italians, who does it best, according to the way it is supposed to be done. Although they are talented innovators, tradition is the mark of excellence and respect. Thus, we are left to wonder: what is Italian food? What is Italian? Now, the country that has been a historical crossroads is asking serious questions about identity. Thoughts on the Table is the brilliant work of a worldly Italian (Paolo Rigiroli) who is brave enough to explore these themes. What Italians eat (and how), he reminds us, is every bit who they are.

And it is the Italians who have the hardest time answering these queries. The food is a source of incredible comfort and passion, and it is very difficult to reach conclusions. In an effort to distill one singular definition for the entirety of “Italian food,” one might say it is agriculture. This reminds us that the cuisine is an honorable and humble form of hard work. It is the superlative expression of microclimate, microbiology, and sunshine. It is the Italian people, respecting the gifts of their land, who proceed to turn wheat fields into toothsome vermicelli, lemons to acrid limoncello, winter cabbage into soothing ribollita, and 140-kg pigs into rose-leather prosciutto. Wine is further example of Italian agricultural genius.

How is it possible to organize such an enormous, magnificent topic? Taking into consideration so many places, dialects, seasons, and details, what is Italian food, and where does it come from? Are we being too precious about what we eat? Does place truly matter? And how can an entire nation be world-known such a thing as flavor?

Italian PGI olive oil sold in the UK.[Photo by Paolo Rigiroli]Recently, a friend of mine traveled to Rome, and wanted to buy a bottle of “authentic” Italian olive oil, to take with him back to Sweden. He found a large store, and assumed it would be a simple purchase. He tells me that it took forty minutes for him to decide on a single bottle, after asking three employees for help and making various searches on his cell phone. “There were so many bottles!” he exclaimed. “So many oils, from so many places, and so many different prices! Why do they do this?” In the end, he bought the smallest one, and left. Italy is very proud of its products, and olive oil is an incredibly critical topic. I imagine my friend saw bottles from Puglia, Veneto, Sicilia, Toscana, and Umbria, at the least, as each claims its olives to be the best. There are then the categories of oils (virgin, extra virgin, cold press, organic, biodynamic, gold label, etc.) and sizes (1 oz. flavored with pepperoncini or truffle) to 5 kg. The oils are sacred to the places they come from, and one would use local oil for local dishes. Moreover, every Italian olive has different compounds (peppery, golden, green, honey, smoky, juniper), that is tied to the environment it was grown and processed in. Hundreds of such compounds have been identified which contribute to the distinctive organoleptic characteristics that make Italian olive oil so exceptional.

Added to that, there are currently some issues in the worldwide olive oil industry, as origin is not easy to certify. Olives may be grown in Tunisia, and bottled in Spain. California olive oils companies used to quietly fly their products to southern Italy, where the plane would touch down and fill with gas, only to return to California for sale. This meant the oil bottles could be labeled with the words “From Italy.” Confusion is rampant in the marketplace, considering the brand of Italian foods.

How can Italian food protect and promote itself, and guarantee quality? This is important, more than ever, with the increasing global economy—and with new technologies (it is easier to mass produce foods, or copy ones already existing). What about Italian traditions? The individual state governments of Europe have, for the past few decades, been dealing with these issues within their own cultures. How to protect the integrity of Bulgarian cheeses, Greek wine, or German blood sausage? Italy was the second country, after France, to take action on certifying its natural food products. It was both a post-war reaction to economic and land issues, as well as a way to acknowledge the most important pieces of lifestyle. European states have since cooperated under the umbrella of the European Union, recognizing one another’s specialized products. Italy has been a tremendous example in this movement, to certify traditions in and out of its borders.

This does not mean that Italy published a list of official foods. Protected status does not cover lasagna and tiramisu. The topic is Geographical Indications (GI), and means that certain food products are trademarked as Italian, and cannot be impersonated or misrepresented. To be certified, the item must have a specific place of origin, a historically documented meaning, and production methods that adhere to exact steps and standards. They are the ingredients (animal products, herbs, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and dairy products) that make Italian food “Italian,” that they are raised in Italy, by Italians, where taste represents what cannot be verbalized. It is also a way to maintain identity, while earning a decent income. This applies to small-time producers, as well as the entire industries.

Geographical indications (GIs) is a legal status, represented with a visual package or label symbol, that identify a food as having originated from a specific place where a given attribute, reputation, or other characteristic of that good is attributable to its geographical home. GIs act like a trademark–once established, they confer certain exclusive rights to the owner. Unlike other intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, copyrights), GIs are owned collectively by all producers in a region, rather than by an individual or a single company.

Note: there are Geographical indications are over the world (China, India, Sweden, Australia, South Africa, etc.). The United States is currently trying to garner support for their own system of GI (Georgia peaches, Idaho potatoes, California avocados), but the reputations of such products, and a strong system of capitalism, prevents the need for place/product protection. This article seeks to concentrate on the Italian context.

France was the first to certify national butter, cheese, and wine products (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, AOC). Roquefort cheese was regulated by a parliamentary decree in the year 1411; the modern system was reinstated in France in 1919. Italians followed with their own GI organization, post-war, as a way of naming and protecting cultural property within a delicate economic structure. Geographical indications were created by the European Union with Regulation 2081/921, seeking to solve communication problems between and within countries, for consumers and producers, while promoting rural development. Italian GI goods earned €15.2 million in production value in 2018, contributing 18% of the national agricultural economy.

There are 550 Sicilian growers certified for Sicilian arancia rossa (blood red oranges, IGP); each farm cultivates the same three arancia rossa varieties (there are three) according to the same rules, and is overseen and organized by a central ruling body called a consorzio. Each consorzio reports to the Ministero delle Politiche Agricole Alimentari, Forestali e del Turismo (MIPAAF), (Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies). These fruits are monitored by the Italian government, and have protection within the European Union.

The GI system has broad and precise stated objectives:

  • To promote foods, beverages, and wines with specific characteristics, particularly those coming from less-known or rural areas;
  • To improve the income of farmers who make “genuine effort to improve quality”;
  • Sustaining populations in rural areas;
  • Providing clear and “not-misleading” information to consumers regarding product origin;
  • Preserving cultural and historical identity.

Place-defined products connect value between food and territory, thus guaranteeing the quality for which a consumer pays a premium. The idea is to further prevent unwanted third parties from using terms, tactics, and marketing that mislead and misrepresent. Italian pride and livelihoods remain in the balance.

There are currently three European Union schemes for geographic preservation:

EU quality schemes
The EU Protected Geographical Status logos.
[Fair use of copyrighted logos]
  1. Protected Designation of Origin (PDO, red symbol): the entire product must be traditionally and entirely manufactured (prepared, processed and produced) within the specific region.
  2. Protected Geographical Indication (PGI, blue symbol): the entire product must be traditionally and at least partially manufactured (prepared, processed or produced) within the specific region.
  3. Traditional Specialties Guaranteed (TSG): food must be of “specific character” and either the raw materials, production method, or processing must be done in exact area (consistent for a minimum of 30 years).
PDO apples
The PDO logo applied on “Val di Non” apples, which are coincidentally brand-named ‘Melinda’.) [Photo by Melinda King]
Gorgonzola DOP
Gorgonzola DOP sold in the United Kingdom, branded with both the PDO and the Consorzio logos.

Protected Italian Foods

Many of the GI items are known to anyone interested in Italian eating. The names of these items are synonymous with the places they come from, and the name alone acts as an Italian ambassador. Some of the expected items on the list: PDO Chianti Classico olive oil, PDO Lago di Garda olive oil, PDO Mortadella, Asiago cheese, PDO Basilico Genovese (think pesto), PDO Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, IGP Nocciola Piemonte (hazelnuts famed for chocolates).

Still, most of the items may be called peculiar or even uninteresting to those outside the places they are made. Some unexpected items: IGP Acciughe sotto sale del Mar Ligure (anchovies), IGP Carota dell’Altopiano del Fucino (“A carrot? That’s not sexy!”), Pane di Matera (specialized bread loaves from the Sassi cave town), three kinds of saffron, IGP Bresaola della Valtellina (dried horse meat is highly esteemed), four kinds of asparagus (Bassano, especially), five kinds of lemons, eight kinds of chestnuts, Bergamotto di Reggio Calabria essential oil, Kiwi Latina (an Italian kiwi? Yes, and it is magnificent!). Of course, this country is always surprising.

Asparagus, unexpected IGP. [Phtoto by Melinda King]
It is quite common to see the PDO or IGP acronym in a restaurant or gelateria, where the pride of place ingredients is translated to the consumer, as a promise of something real and delicious to be had. And with the force of 0 KM eating, Slow Foods, Bio, Organic, and artisanal products, GI label status is not only economic, but “cool.”

Pepite McDonalds
The Italian McDonald’s featuring IG products. [Screenshot from]

Cin Cin

Italian wines have an exceptional portion of Geographical Indications to endorsement. GI wines are a vital element, though controversial, in the business and character of Italian winemaking. Autochthonous (native) grapes represent distinctive zones and methods of viticulture, each with unique climactic features. Nerello Mascaelese is a grape that only grows on Mount Etna, in Sicily; this grape is authorized as one of the grapes to be used in the Etna DOC red wine. Nerello Mascalese has been growing in this place for centuries. Popular international varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Syrah need no protection–nor do they have such a significant history, cultivation, or sensory connection to Italian soil.

In 1964, Italy established a series of laws to safeguard the brilliance and authenticity of their wines. The directives define wines by characteristics such as: type of grape(s) used, alcohol content, bottling, labeling, how long the wine is aged, how and when to harvest, who can work the fields, machinery and tools, irrigation, naming, and sales promotions. In the last decades, several modifications and changes have been made to original legislation, as the numbers of wines and regions grow to the list. The last addition, made in 2010, established four basic categories that read consistent with concurrent European Union wine regulations (2008-2009) — Italian wines GIs are categorized as:

  1. Vini (also known as ‘generic/table wines’): wines can be produced anywhere in the territory of the EU, label includes no certain indication of place origin (of grape varieties used or vintage); only the wine color is required to be listed on the bottle label (“Tavernello” often ‘house wine’). In some cases, however, table wines can have very high quality and be sought by connoisseurs that don’t need any official certifications (‘Super Tuscans’).
  2. Vini Varietali (Varietal Wines): generic wines that derive mostly (at least 85%) from one kind of certified ‘international (grown in many places)’ grape variety (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah) or entirely from two or more of them; grape used or vintage may be shown on the label (e.g. “Merlot-Raboso” blend from Veneto).
  3. IGP (‘Protected Geographical Indication’ also known as IGT: ‘Typical Geographical Indication’): wines produced in a specific territory within Italy that follow precise regulations on allowed varieties, growing and vinification practices, organoleptic and chemical/physical characteristics, labeling instructions, among others (e.g. “Toscana IGT”).
  4. DOP (‘Protected Designation of Origin’) which includes two classes:
    • DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) These wines must have been IGP wines for at least 5 years, and generally come from smaller regions within a certain IGP territory; far stricter regulations and focus on territorial personalities; a DOC wine can be promoted to DOCG after 10 years.
    • DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin) In addition to fulfilling DOC requisites, DOCG wines meet tighter analyses before going to market; they must also demonstrate a superior commercial value, and are linked with historical development.

Currently, there exist 332 DOCs (e.g. “Aleatico di Gradoli DOC”) and 73 DOCGs (e.g. “Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG”) bringing total to 405 DOPs. The financial aspects of the wine GI are momentous; a single bottle of DOCG Brunello di Montalcino can sell for up to $550. A scandal shook the Brunello consorzio in 2008 (known as “Brunellopoli”), where select winemakers were suspect for mixing lower quality wine grapes from other regions with local Sangiovese. Vineyards were quarantined and hundreds of thousands of bottles seized by authorities, facing millions of dollars in fines and years in prison. The issue was potential violation of GI purity rules, written by the Brunello Consorzio ruling body, and approved by the Italian Agricultural Ministry. Charges were ultimately dropped, and agreements to reinforce production principles were made between the Consorzio and winemakers.

Wine bottles display

I spent a number of years working in a wine business in California. When customers asked about Italian wines, they asked for wines by company or grape. Furthermore, their purchase decisions were generally based on price; customers were fascinated anytime I gave them a back story to the makers of the wine, the place it was made, or the types of grapes used. A wine was Chianti or Prosecco, but they did not know why. I would point to the labeling below the cork, when appropriate—if the bottle had the DOC or DOCG certification. “So the government says this wine is the best?” they would ask. No, I would shake my head and give a brief description of what GI represents. “Oh,” they would continue, “so the Italian government says this wine is the best?” they would repeat. Every time.

No, the government has no sensory opinion on the wines being made. This is a label that a company pays for, in a group with other companies in the same place, in order to show you, the consumer, that they mean business. The bottle of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano comes from vineyard lands that were budding vines hundreds of years before the pilgrims even built their boat. That is what the GI system would like us to remember. Currently, I am working in a vineyard/winery on Mount Etna, in Sicily. The DOC here is exceedingly proud of its work, and place (terra) is the language spoken in every glass. The soil changes from sandy to limestone, then lava rock, within a few meters, and vines stand fierce tests of weather and volcano. Add the salt of the sea and the shine of the sun, and it makes for an extraordinary natural beverage. The GI labels struggle to describe these things to an American wine shopper: philosophy of terra in an island borough founded by Greek settlers in 734 B.C.E.

Although GIs may promote a food or wine’s reputation, the level of quality is not guaranteed above similar food items. The perception of GIs is a matter of personal consumer taste and company/brand marketing, and this is an important concept to understand. For example, there may be six options of lemons at the local market. Two are certified GI status, from Siracusa (Sicilia) and Sorrento (Campania), and one from Spain. The other three, local fruits, do not list variety, but are stamped with the farm and city of origin. The GI status lemons cost twice as many Euros per kilo. Would you choose a locally made lemon, a higher priced GI, or the least expensive Spanish one?

How much sway does GI play, in the eyes of a shopper? Does it shift our priorities–taste preference, price, or place of being picked? Would you scrimp on lemons but splurge on cheese? How is this any different from brand name luxury Italian Gucci, Ferrari, or Armani? Normal people buy according to experience and reputation. If it works, they buy again. Italy, itself, has become a brand. The Italian GI is represented on the food or drink label with a small circular symbol (red and yellow or blue and yellow, depending on legal status), so we see as we buy. But these certifications are very expensive, and they require a long and thorough vetting process.

The symbol on the food (package, container, box, fruit seal, or wine label) will tell the buyer that it was made in according to the tradition of the area, by people who live there, with local or regional resources, in Italy by Italians. It will taste the way it is supposed to taste, according to history of the place, made flavorful by unique environmental conditions that only that place can provide. Terra, confirms that balsamic vinegar from Modena can only come from Modena. In this case, the Balsamic Vinegar Consorzio is a nearly secret society of older gentlemen who speak very little and carry out regular chemical “alchemical” analysis with small glass pipets and sensorial tastings. They meet in quiet rooms, and keep careful records. But they are extremely exclusive, and there is worry that the Modena vinegar community will soon disappear. It is not easy to pass on the legacy, or attract much excitement, as the work is difficult and unattractive to outsiders. This kind of work must be psychologically understood. But this is a common problem today, in Italy, with gentrification, separating family structures, and move towards tech jobs and city life.

Pomodoro di Pachino

The taste of Sicilian Pachino tomatoes cannot be reproduced. Heart-shaped Marostica cherries, from Veneto, are blessed by cool mountain breeze and warm sunshine. There is a cherry festival to honor the local fruits, as well as a famous chess game played with real-life human pawns in the Piazza degli Scacchi. The game dates back to 1454 when it was organized to settle a courtly duel between two noble lords competing for the hand of a lady. The history, the climate, and the science of place convene to create, in legal status, a true Italian flavor. Travelers can go to the game, enjoy the festival, and feel the life behind the GI, every September.

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is a prime example of a Geographical Indication, demonstrating food as an art form. Outside Italy, “Parmesan” (originally a term from France to refer to Italian hard cheeses) is used as a generic name to identify a product (cheese-like, but not always cheese), that has a flavor reminiscent of the famed nutty bite that we know from true Parmigiano Reggiano. However, this copy food lacks the origin, and artisan producers. Parmigiano Reggiano has a singular history, taste, and identity that is unmistakably Italian. The Consorzio for Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese was formed in 1934; in 1996, Parmigiano Reggiano earned complete legal status in the EU. The Consorzio states that “the secret of its goodness originates in the place of origin, in the natural feed, our types of milk cows, the wind, the incline of our hills and goodness of grass, and in the high-quality milk with no additives.” The term “Parmesan” comes from geographical origin and means “of or from Parma.”

Parmigiano Reggiano is not only a good cheese, but also healthy and nutritious (named the official food of the International Space Station). After creation, the cheese wheels are subjected to a maturation period of at least twelve months (twenty-four for the most common version, thirty-six months and more for finer stravecchio), allowing Parmigiano Reggiano to gain its characteristic granular structure. It is made from raw cow’s milk (not pasteurized; there are 245,000 cows in the production area registered to make Parmigiano Reggiano) only grass and hay, not silage. After primary creation, the cheese is put into a brine bath of Mediterranean sea salt for about 22 days and then aged. At twelve months, each cheese is inspected by an expert grader who uses a hammer to tap the cheese and by sound detect undesirable cracks and voids. Cheeses that pass inspection are branded on the rind with an inspector logo. To guarantee each cheese and catalogue quality, each cheese wheel (40 kg) is stenciled by hand with:

  • The Parmigiano Reggiano DOP acronym and consorzio seal;
  • Identification number of dairy (there are 363 certified Parmigiano Reggiano dairies);
  • Production month and year;
  • An alphanumeric code identifying every single wheel.
Rounds of Parmigiano-Reggiano
Rounds of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
[Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0]
Every cheese is inspected by the consorzio, to verify if they are worthy of the Parmigiano Reggiano title, then fire branded when PDO standards are satisfied. There is a well-documented 800-year history of production, as it was first made by Benedictine monks in the same hilly areas. The processes are fiercely controlled by the consorzio, and every cheese is crafted with care, for excellence.

The cultural meaning for this cheese is also economic: in 2018, 149,000 tons (3.65 million wheels) of it was made by 50,000 Italians in Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Mantua (to the right of the Po river), and Bologna to the left of the Reno river). In the same year, the cheese had a €2.2 billion estimated turnover at consumption (51,900 tons of it being exported). This is a meaningful cheese! It is easy to understand how such powerful food would have imitators. The name, alone, is sacred to the Italian people.

In 2003, the EU responded to a complaint filed by the Parmigiano Reggiano consorzio concerning the improper use by certain German companies of the name “Parmesan” as a generic name, on cheeses that neither exhibited the peculiarities of Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO, nor came from the area of origin—thus manipulating consumers and damaging reputation. German authorities refused to intervene, and thus the case was taken before the European Court of Justice. However, the case was ultimately dismissed, as the EU court did not have enough evidence to demonstrate German misuse of the generic name.

However, problems arise when deciding which phrases to protect as GIs. For example, although “Parmigiano Reggiano” is a protected GI under U.S. law (in an agreement made with Italian authorities and the cheese consorzio), the name “parmesan” is not protected—and this term is ubiquitous in American grocery markets on products that Italians would find abhorrent and embarrassing. Shoppers might even see Parmesan Reggianito, a hard Argentinean cheese invented by Italian immigrants who left Italy for South America after the Wars. They wanted to make something that would remind them of their native Parmigiano Reggiano.

Every few years, the Italian Parmigiano Reggiano consorzio tries to file legal action against a company in North America, regarding “Parmesan,” but an outright purge of all such cheese products would be impossible, and expensive. The issue comes down to labeling, but mostly, quality.

In 2012, American FDA agents investigated a cheese factory in Pennsylvania, called “Castle Cheese.” They were making goods sold as “100% real Parmesan” across the country; the cheese was found to contain cut-rate substitutes, chemicals, and fillers, such as wood pulp and cellulose. The Castle Cheese president pled guilty and was spent one year in prison, with a fine of one hundred thousand dollars, but the case was made on health standards—not Parmigiano Reggiano GI name protection. Kraft, America’s well-known mass pasteurized cheese mass brand, has argued that their parmesan cheeses actually promote and encourage the Parmigiano Reggiano product, rather than compete with or mock it.

Thoughts on the TableThis is why a podcast like “Thoughts on the Table” is so important: there is a tremendous need for a cross-cultural conversation about Italian food, by Italians and non-Italians, in the name of taste, access, affordability, and integrity. I can only imagine what it was like for Paolo, experiencing his first visit to a Canadian grocery store. It would be like showing him a roller skate and trying to convince him it was a car. Food is passionate and evocative; what happens when it is reduced to a transaction? We want to talk about grandmother’s soothing pasta dishes, not packaging standards.

Place Matters

Food is grown, traded, prepared, and shared according to geographical context. What you eat, for most of human history, depends on where you live. This is a field of study known as the GEOGRAPHY OF FOOD, which includes complex patterns and relationships between “space” and “place.” Taste transforms during stages of preparation. Quality means safe and wholesome ingredients, and consistency. This is where Italy excels. It has a vast range of topography, proximity to water, varieties of microclimates, and brilliant, creative farmers and chefs. As one of my friends reminds me, “our government is terrible, jobs are hard to get, and our soccer team fails in the World Cup, but we have the best eating in the entire world to console these pains.” The Mediterranean hits the Alpine ranges, and leave centuries of collaboration, giving this nation gastronomical and agricultural superiority. Science proves this, as well as our own opinions. And while so many things did not “originate” in this country, they are respected and perfected here: tomatoes, wines, pastas, coffee, and chocolate.

Place does matter—very much. In terms of food and wine, terra is the philosophical combination of physical and spiritual “place” that gives flavor. By flavor, I mean “memory,” the kind of meal we remember years after the dishes have been washed.

Geographic Indication is a legally recognized certification of quality for place-driven taste. It happens by tradition–meaning what is produced, how, and by whom. The Italian government is very serious about protection and recognition. History is, in my opinion, based in agriculture, and agriculture reveals identity. GI status strives to keep identity, while preserving the taste of memory.

In the name of authenticity, GI hopes to maintain marketplace clarity. Every protected food is traced, tracked, and guaranteed. There are major efforts by law enforcement agencies to uphold the legitimacy of food products. Olive oil, wine, balsamic vinegar, cheese, and prosciutto are some of the Italian products that are most copied and sold by fraud, or produced in sub-standard ways. Livestock are RFID tagged, and documented from conception to market shelf, and full records of genetic breeding are kept by the consorzio. A vegetable, a cheese, or a grape can be tracked by DNA testing, to assure the place it has come from. Italy has 822 registered GI products, more than any other nation, of the worldwide total 3,036 (2018 ISMEA). “Made in Italy” is very big business.

Of course, the Geographical Indications are quite general, and work with ideals. It is basically a package of economic safeguards—copyright schemes made in a non-capitalistic system. The European Union oversees each country’s regulations, and promotes communication across the board. Italy does not always enjoy being a part of the Union, though it gains considerably from the Geographical Indication projects. Aside from the spiritual and cultural lauds from economic protection, the PDO and PGI symbols are basically there to pay people to make good raw materials (beans, sardines, and kiwis). Italy must also realize that certification means Italians competing with Italians, long before the rest of the world. As Italians are hungry for creative and economic innovation, they are, more than ever, hungry to strengthen the core of their traditions.

Cultural Meaning

Nostalgia is everything to an Italian palate. So are relationships. Although larger food chains and grocery stores are trending, there is still a strong and regular desire to shop locally. How do GI products interact with everyday eating? How can we trust that the story behind the label is true? Some Italians do not support the GI system; there are many barriers to entry (certification costs, registration, legal oversight, documentation, North versus South quarrels) that prevent many from participating. Others detest the European Union. In a conversation with my elderly neighbors, Don Donato and his wife, Luciana, I asked their view on Italian Geographical Indications. Don Donato was quick to answer: “We do it because France did it, and we always have to compete with France. We have Italian food in a French system. Even the supermarkets are from France (Carrefour, Auchan in Veneto)… the problem is that Italians are very bad organizers. We have the good food, and the government doesn’t trust us with it.

His wife does the food shopping, and said she never really noticed the food labels until last year, when she read about it in the paper. She generally keeps to the butcher, bakery, and produce shop in our small village, but goes to the shopping centers once or twice every month with her children’s families. Two things regularly astonish her: the amounts of products in the aisles, and the prices. Having choices, she told me, is very expensive. “If I want lentils from Umbria, we will go there. I am not about to pay so much for a bag of lentils. These are things that are made very well in my own area.” She told me that food is only as good as the person making it, and she can make any lentil taste Italian.

GI advertisement
GI brands advertisement in Italy.

Can you taste the difference between a GI product and a non-GI product When it is late in the evening, and someone has prepared a beautiful Italian meal, simple and warm—what is the role of Geographical Indications for regional foods?

If my Swedish friend had known, at the least, to look for red and blue symbols on olive oil labels, his search would have been much simplified. He was looking for the best representation of an Italian olive oil, and those certification marks would have spoken for the people, processes, and places that make the oil authentic—as so the label would ideally have us believe. Later, I curiously asked which bottle he had selected from the large Roman grocery store. He laughed when he told me, “I don’t remember the name, but I bought an expensive one.” He continued, “But when I got home, I went to use it and saw, written right there on the backside: 100% California Olives.”

These contradictions make Italian food fascinating. The conversation continues…

Top 15 highest value (by production numbers) Italian Geographical Indications, 2018 (source: ISMEA—Qualivita)

Product Minimum value 2016 Minimum value 2017 % Change
Parmigiano Reggiano DOP €1.123 €1.343 +19,5%
Grana Padano DOP 1.293 1.293 0,0%
Prosciutto di Parma DOP 816 850 +4,1%
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP 372 391 +5,0%
Aceto balsamico di Modena IGP 381 390 +2,5%
Gorgonzola DOP 316 356 +12,8%
Prosciutto di San Daniele DOP 293 304 +3,8%
Mortadella Bologna IGP 326 301 -7,4%
Bresaola della Valtellina IGP 220 224 +2,2%
Pecorino Romano DOP 251 155 -38,0%
Pasta di Gragnano IGP 107 115 +7,2%
Speck Alto Adige IGP 100 109 +9,4%
Asiago DOP 95 98 +2,8%
Mela Alto Adige IGP 132 88 -33,2%
Mela Val di Non DOP 75 65 -14,0%


Product Minimum value 2016 Minimum value 2017 % Change
Prosecco DOP €629 €631 +0,3%
Conegliano Valdobbiadene – Prosecco DOP 161 184 +14,0%
Delle Venezie IGP 169 114 -32,7%
Asti DOP 103 107 +4,0%
Terre Siciliane IGP 82 107 +29,9%
Amarone della Valpolicella DOP 83 103 +23,4%
Alto Adige DOP 82 100 +22,3%
Chianti Classico DOP 112 98 -12,6%
Barolo DOP 79 89 +12,3%
Valpolicella Ripasso DOP 63 86 +35,9%
Chianti DOP 87 81 -6,7%
Veneto IGP 101 79 -21,9%
Brunello di Montalcino DOP 61 72 +18,3%
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOP 67 63 -6,0%
Trentino DOP 50 51 +1,7%

Source References

Recommended Further Reading

NOTE: This article’s featured image is a view of Govone, Cuneo, from its castle. [Photo by Paolo Rigiroli].

Vodka Pasta (Made Vegetarian)

I’ve been away for so long that I feel almost ashamed of myself! Luckily, this is not sufficient to stop me from posting again 🙂

As you can see from the pictures below, I’m cooking in a different kitchen 🙂 – this is part of the reason for my prolonged absence: we have moved to a new apartment and I haven’t been cooking much lately, let alone blogging!

This quick and simple pasta recipe (adapted from the Silver Spoon) is another Italian classic although it’s made with vodka, a classic Russian spirit. Vodka pasta traditionally contains ham, but it can be omitted without taking too much away from the original flavor. As always when cooking with liqueurs and spirits, it has to be noted that any alcoholic content ends up evaporating completely. What is left, however, is more than the drink’s flavor – alcohol as a solvent has the ability to extract aromatic compounds from other ingredients (including some that don’t mix with water), increasing the overall flavor of the dish.

Vodka Pasta (Made Vegetarian)

Yield: 2 servings

Total Time: 25 minutes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Vodka Pasta (Made Vegetarian)


  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup cream (33% fat)
  • ¼ cup vodka
  • 2 cups penne rigate (dried pasta)
  • salt and pepper


  1. While bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil, finely chop the parsley.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan, then add the tomato paste and the parsley.
  3. Cook for 10 minutes at low heat, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, start cooking the pasta.
  4. Mix in the cream and the vodka, then continue cooking until the vodka evaporates completely and the sauce thickens again. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. When the pasta is a couple of minutes from being ready, drain it quickly and finish cooking it in the sauce. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

Amaretti and Amaretto

Amaretti cookies and Amaretto liqueur are both well known in Italy and have been gaining popularity worldwide. The word ‘amaretto’ comes from the Italian ‘amaro’ (bitter) in reference to the sharp flavor of bitter almonds or apricot kernels. Despite the name, both products are predominantly sweet, and their bitterness only enhances the depth of flavor. Amaretti cookies are a treat to eat on their own, or they are used as an ingredient in desserts and even in some savory dishes. The Amaretto liqueur is a classic accompaniment to coffee at the end of a meal or used in cocktails, long drinks, and to flavor hot chocolate. This article considers both the cookie and the liqueur, starting from their key ingredients: bitter almonds or their close relatives, apricot kernels.

Bitter almonds differ from sweet almonds far more than in bitterness. Sweet almonds were born as a natural mutation of bitter almonds lacking amygdalin, a compound that is found in the kernels of many stone-fruits (apricots and peaches included). When such kernels are crushed, the amygdalin breaks down into glucose, the aromatic benzaldehyde (which is responsible for the sharp almond flavor), and the highly toxic hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Each bitter almond may contain an average of 6 mg of HCN, which, incidentally, is far more than the amount of HCN found in the smoke of one cigarette (0.01 to 0.4 mg) and which can seriously harm an adult.


When amygdalin is not present, however, benzaldehyde is also missing – sweet almonds lack a lot of the flavor of their bitter counterparts and are impractical for use in the pastry and confectionery industry. In North America, bitter almonds are strongly regulated due to the cyanide content and are not commercially available; almond flavoring (extracted from a variety of other sources) is used instead. In Europe, moderate amounts of bitter almonds as well as apricot kernels (called ‘armelline’ in Italian), are used despite their toxicity after blanching, which reduces the HCN, making them safe (in small amounts) even as an uncooked paste, e.g. to flavor marzipan.

Almonds are native to western Asia and the Middle East and adapted well to the Mediterranean climate, where they still grow naturally. Sweet almonds, possibly identified by the early farmers, have been cultivated since the early Bronze Age (3000-2000 BCE). Nowadays, according to the FAO, California is the largest producer (1.4 million tons in 2010), with Italy coming in 6th (85.500 tons), after Spain, Iran, Morocco, and Syria.

Almonds with shell, shelled almonds, and blanched almonds

The best example of the use of apricot kernels is in the almond macaroons known as amaretti, of which they constitute 10-20% in weight. The earliest written recipes for amaretti (as early as 1725) describe them as crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and made with egg whites, sugar, sweet and bitter almonds, and no flour. Nowadays, different kinds of amaretti exist – some that follow similar recipes, and some that also contain flour (wheat, rice, corn, or potato) for added body. Texture-wise, amaretti range from soft and mildly chewy to light and crunchy.


Amaretti vary substantially throughout the Italian territory. In Sicily, Pasta di Mandorle (almond paste) is very popular and used in many kinds of pastries. In Sardinia, well known are Sospiri, made with sweet almonds and lemon rind. In Lazio, the Amaretti of Fiuggi and of Guarcino are made of sweet and bitter almonds, egg whites, and sugar on a disc of wafer paper. Also from Lazio, the Paste Reali are a typical Christmas cookie made with sweet almonds, sugar, and baking powder. From Tuscany, soft and sugar-coated Ricciarelli are popular in all of northern Italy. In Liguria, renowned are the soft almond cookies from Sassello (on the Apennines, at the border with Piedmont), made with sweet almonds and apricot kernels. In Emilia-Romagna, well known is the Amaretto di Modena, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, made with sweet and bitter almonds. In Piedmont, the crunchy Amaretti di Mombaruzzo are made with sugar, egg whites, sweet almonds, and apricot kernels. In Lombardy, the soft and irregularly shaped Amaretti di Gallarate are also made with sweet almonds and apricot kernels. Also from Lombardy is the famous Amaretto di Saronno (from the homonymous town). Particularly well known is the version commercialized by D. Lazzaroni & C. called Amaretti Originali and made exclusively of sugar, apricot kernels (19%), and egg white.

Amaretti del Chiostro Autentici

Recently, a different but related company: Paolo Lazzaroni & Figli (PLF) also entered the amaretti market with Amaretti del Chiostro Autentici. PLF was founded by Paolo Lazzaroni in 1851; in 1888, his brother, Davide Lazzaroni, started “D. Lazzaroni & C.” (better known as Lazzaroni). PLF historically focused on liqueurs (especially Amaretto, see below), whereas Lazzaroni mainly produced cookies (especially amaretti), both following the original recipe that belonged to the Lazzaroni family well before both companies were founded (since 1718, according to a legend). Despite the attempt of Lazzaroni to patent their amaretti recipe, PLF was authorized to market their cookies under a different name. Amaretti del Chiostro are advertised as made of apricot kernels, sugar, and egg white.

Amaretti di Saronno are used as an ingredient in several preparations, either whole, crushed, or crumbled. Among the many desserts, particularly famous is the Piedmontese Bônet, a chocolate pudding with crumbled amaretti and rum. Also well known are Pesche Ripiene (stuffed peaches), baked half peaches filled with crushed amaretti, egg yolks, sugar, and dark chocolate. Amaretti are also featured in important savory dishes, such as Tortelli di Zucca (Lombardy), Gnocchi di Zucca e Amaretti (pumpkin and amaretti gnocchi), and Fritto Misto alla Piemontese (Piedmontese mixed fry), which consists of fried entrails and fried Amaretti di Mombaruzzo (softened in milk and breaded).

Disaronno Originale

Just like the amaretti cookies, the Amaretto liqueur is also made with bitter almonds or with apricot kernels, this time in the form of an infusion. Since alcohol is particularly effective in extracting the benzaldehyde, there is no hydrogen cyanide in the liqueur, and even no traces of nuts in it, making it safe for those who have allergies. Amaretto has nothing to do with ‘amaro‘, a distinctly bitter herbal liqueur usually had as a digestive.

Being an infusion, the Amaretto liqueur can be easily made at home. Just like for Limoncello, many Italian families make their own by soaking minced bitter almonds (and/or apricot kernels) in pure alcohol (although brandy can also be used).

The historical origin of Amaretto is unknown, but the legend goes that it was invented in Saronno in 1525. According to the tale, a young innkeeper created a concoction of almond and brandy as a gift for the painter Bernardino Luini out of gratitude for choosing her as a model for the painting dedicated to the Virgin Mary, in the city’s sanctuary. The story is also endorsed by ILLVA Saronno S.p.A., the firm that makes the world-famous “Disaronno Originale” (28% vol.), an “Italian liqueur flavored with herbs and fruits soaked in apricot kernel oil”. The company’s name is the acronym of “Industria Lombarda Liquori Vini e Affini”, literally: Lombard Factory of Liquors, Wines, and Similar goods.

Less known outside of Italy, Disaronno’s main competitor is the “Lazzaroni Amaretto” (24% vol.) by Paolo Lazzaroni & Figli (PLF), which started being produced in 1851. PLF’s Amaretto owes its “delicate almond/apricot flavor” to an infusion of crushed amaretti cookies, which were made according to the Lazzaroni family’s recipe.

More featured articles

Vin Brulé (Mulled Wine) – A Warming Festive Accompaniment

Most European countries have their variation of the British mulled wine, a drink made with red wine and spices, served hot during winter. Northern Italy’s version, popular around Christmas and especially at Christmas markets, is called Vin Brulé (from the French word brûlé, burnt).

The practice of mulling wine goes back to medieval times, probably as a way to use up low quality or spoiled wines. Mulled wine has then remained popular as a comforting winter drink and as a remedy for colds and cases of flu. Its curative effects have then found confirmation in the anti-inflammatory properties of red wine and in the high content of antiseptics and antioxidants of cloves and cinnamon.

As far as the recipe goes, many variations can be found, although they all revolve around similar ingredients. The main difference between mulled wine and vin brulé is in the preparation. Vin brulé is usually boiled until no alcohol remains (a process sometimes accelerated by lighting a flame on the surface). Mulled wine instead is only warmed up for a short amount of time and at lower temperatures to preserve the alcoholic content of the wine. Occasionally, a shot of brandy or sherry is also added at the end for an extra bite.

Vin Brulé (Mulled Wine)

Yield: 6 cups

Total Time: 25 minutes

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Vin Brulé (Mulled Wine)


  • 1 liter of red wine (any full-bodied wine will do, choose an inexpensive bottle)
  • 200 g of sugar
  • 8 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 orange (preferably with untreated rind)
  • 1 lemon (also preferably with untreated rind)


  1. Peel the lemon and the orange making sure to discard all of the white part as it would bring an undesired bitterness.
  2. Put all the ingredients in a large stainless steel pan.
  3. Bring to a boil stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Ensure all of the sugar is perfectly dissolved.
  4. As soon as it boils, the alcohol vapors will start to form. By using a long toothpick, carefully light a flame on the surface.
  5. When the flame goes out, the vin brulé is ready. Filter it with a colander and serve hot.

Pomegranate with Grappa

If you’ve only tasted grappa a few times and you found it a bit too dry, you will enjoy this spectacular after-dinner treat of pomegranate seeds soaked in pure grappa.

The sweetness and the tartness of the pomegranate perfectly balance the harshness of the grappa, which becomes sweeter and more palatable. In return, the grappa lends some of its alcohol to the seeds, giving them a pleasant “kick”.

Also known as ‘acquavite’ (“grapevine-water”), grappa was born as an unpretentious liqueur made from the byproduct of winemaking (grape skins, seeds, and stems). By the means of distillation and controlled aging, grappa became a more refined product (pun intended!), at par with other fine spirits. Grappa is popular in all northern Italy, and especially in the northeast, where the city of Bassano del Grappa (60 km from Venice) is home to the prestigious brand Nardini.

Straight grappa is traditionally used as a digestive, although its pronounced dryness makes it an acquired taste for most people. More widely appreciated is the use of grappa as a coffee add-in, called ‘correzione’ (“correction”) by the Italians. A caffe corretto (“corrected coffee”) is a traditional twist to the espresso ritual, an after-dinner favorite as it combines coffee and digestive. Aromatized grappa also targets larger audiences, especially in its fruit-infused varieties, such as blueberry (‘mirtillo’), pear (‘pera’), and pomegranate (‘melograno’).

Pomegranate with Grappa

Yield: 4 shots

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Pomegranate with Grappa


  • 1 pomegranate
  • 2 shots of unflavored grappa


  1. Extract the seeds out of the pomegranate, place them in the shot glasses.
  2. Fully cover them with grappa, let them rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Serve in shot glasses, along with coffee spoons.


Search Queries

One of the most interesting aspects of keeping a blog is to look up the statistics on how people come across it. Aside from being referred by other websites, many visitors stumble upon the blog by using search engines. When they do, the exact sentence that they typed in into the search bar is collected in the statistics (although anonymized).

This atypical post contains the verbatim transcripts of some of the most interesting search queries that I have seen over the 15 months of running Quatro Fromaggio and Other Disgraces on the Menu. Some of these queries led the visitors to relevant articles which hopefully answered them. Some other queries instead brought up pages that did not satisfy the visitor at all. For some of those, this post also tries to provide some answers. In a way, this post was written by the visitors themselves!

To get started, something that surprised me. Some people were able to get here by performing extremely generic searches. Here are some examples:
Q: what to eat in Italy
Q: type of italian food
Q: typical italian breakfast
Q: various cheese names and their origin
Q: frequently mispronounced Italian
Q: most often misspelled italian words
A: Answering these questions is really hard, but if you read this blog you’ll hopefully get an idea 🙂

Speaking of spelling, many visits came from people who were unsure how to write Italian words. For instance:
Q: correct spelling of margarita pizza
Q: correct spelling of osso bucca
Q: correct spelling of proscuitto
Q: foccaccia misspelling
Q: fromaggio or formaggio
A: Pizza Margherita, Osso Buco, Prosciutto, Focaccia, Formaggio (see Top Misspelled).

Other people were instead completely confused on the meaning of some Italian words:
Q: what is formaggio cheese
Q: how many cheeses i n qu atro formaggi pizza
Q: how many cheese’s in a formaggi cheese
Q: what is formaggio cheese in english
Q: is parmesan cheese the same as formaggio cheese
Q: what cheese can i use in place of formaggio
A:Formaggio‘ is Italian for cheese. “Parmesan” is the English translation of Parmigiano, a type of formaggio.

Q: in cuisine what does colazione mean
Q: colazione for breakfast
A:Colazione‘ is Italian for breakfast.

Some people got here while looking for tips and tricks on Italian food and wine. These are some examples:
Q: why should cored wine bottles be stored on their side?
A: To keep the cork wet, as a dry cork will shrink and let some air into the bottle.

Q: “passito de pantelleria “once opened”
A: Fortified wines such as Passito di Pantelleria usually keep really well, they can be stored in a cool place or in the fridge for quite some time. See the Wine and Italy article for more information.

Q: porcini risotto “dirty water”
Q: do i have to wash porcini mushrooms before rehydrating them
A: The leftover water where the mushrooms have been re-hydrated may or may not be clean (it depends on whether the mushrooms had been cleaned before being dried). Personally, I don’t find that using that water adds that much flavor to my risotto, so I discard it. However, I don’t squeeze or rinse the re-hydrated mushrooms.

Q: perforated pan on top of a pizza stone
Q: perforated pizza disc versus regular pizza disc
A: As far as I know, the perforated pan works better than a regular pizza pan, but it’s used directly in the oven – not on top of a pizza stone. The pizza stone (alone) works best, but it’s harder to use.

Q: can prosciutto ham be kept unrefrigerated
A: No. The whole uncut prosciutto can be stored at low temperatures; once opened it needs to go in the fridge.

Q: where to fill demi johns with amarone della valpolicella
A: I don’t know, but let me know as soon as you find out!

Sometimes the results of searches must have been really disappointing! For example for queries like:
Q: dolcetto d’asti wine kit
A: Seriously? You can’t have a wine kit for a DOC wine, sorry! Unless of course you live in Piedmont 🙂

Q: what white wine goes with limoncello
A: Limoncello is a liqueur. Why would you pair a wine and a liqueur?

Other times instead, people were really onto something. For instance:
Q: why italians call a croissant, brioche?
A: Because they don’t know French pastries 🙂

Q: is gelati plural for gelato
A: Yes!

Q: is formaggio another word for cheese
A: You got it!

People also wondered about weird stuff, or they wanted to know they’re not alone:
Q: what is the italian gelati flavour that tastes like cough medicine
A: Amarena? (Sour cherry)

Q: most popular mouthwash in italy
A: I don’t know… but it’s probably mint flavored.

Q: which type of pasta goes best with aglio
A: Aglio is Italian for garlic. I hope you mean ‘aglio, olio e peperoncino’, in which case I’d say ‘spaghetti’.

Q: soft meringue is disgusting
A: I agree 🙂

Some people wanted to know more about the Italian multi-course meal:
Q: italian courses in a meal
A: See the Italian Courses article.

Q: what is companatico and why am i charged for it
A: ‘Companatico’ is the collective name given to anything that goes with bread. That is the entire meal 🙂 No wonder why you were charged!

Or they had specific questions about the Italian breakfast:
Q: italians eat cold cuts for breakfast
A: Some do, but most don’t. It’s more common in the northern regions, near the border with Austria.

Q: qhat to eat dor breakfast in italian bars
A: The most popular breakfast in bars is cappuccino and croissant. See the Breakfast or Colazione article.

Q: what do italians eat for brunch
A: Brunch is not an Italian tradition. When Italians feel like a late breakfast, they just call it early lunch.

Q: reasons italians don’t have milk in their coffee
A: A lot of Italians do, actually. Not the majority though.

Q: what do italians enjoy with their coffee
A: It depends – something sweet, some chocolate, a glass of mineral water.

Lots of searches were also about autogrill, aperitivo and antipasto.
Q: autogrill panini italy
Q: camogli autogrill
Q: how to order at autogrill italy
A: See the Autogrill article. It’s particularly interesting that people don’t know how to order at an autogrill. It’s probably not the most obvious process 🙂

Q: appertivo – free buffet offered at bars during the happy hour
Q: best aperitivo in milan
Q: non alcoholic aperitivo
A: See the Aperitivo article.

Q: antipasto pickled in oil
Q: antipasto with tuna and pickled vegetables
Q: types of green olives for antipasto
A: See the Antipasto article.

Many people were interested in learning more about Italian wine:
Q: term for wine in italy with atleast 1% more alcohol than the legal minimum
Q: uva fragola wine illegal italy
Q: what does the term “novello” indicate on a wine label?
A: The term for a wine whose alcohol level is greater by at least 1% than the minimum established for its designation is ‘Superiore’. The wine “Fragolino” (made with ‘uva fragola’, Concord grape) is illegal in Italy. The term ‘Novello’ indicates that the wine has been bottled within the end of the year of when (at least 30% of) its grapes have been harvested. See the Wine and Italy article for more information.

Or Italian cheese:
Q: mozzarella cheese in north america compared to italy
A: Italian mozzarella is better than North American mozzarella, and mozzarella from Naples is better than mozzarella from Milan.

Q: what cheese is aged less than 6 months
A: All fast and medium ripening cheeses (e.g.: Mascarpone, Taleggio, Gorgonzola). See the Formaggio Cheese article for more information.

Q: what is the name for cottage cheese in italy
Q: what kind of cheese is sottilette
A: The Kraft product “Jocca” is cottage cheese. ‘Sottilette’ is (processed) cheese slices.

Q: what cheese do you use in quatro formaggi
A: There isn’t a rule, any four kinds of cheese will do. On pizza, they are usually chosen between gorgonzola, scamorza, ricotta, fontina, grana padano; plus of course mozzarella (which may or may not be counted).

Q: formaggio taleggio in north america buy
A: Specialty Italian stores usually have it.

Q: what kind of cheese mixes well with gorgonzola
A: It’s an interesting question. Gorgonzola is normally eaten by itself (delicious on bread!). It is however mixed with other cheese when making cheese sauces, or on gorgonzola pizza (where mozzarella is also added). Another interesting mix is the Torta al Gorgonzola e Mascarpone.

Or gelato:
Q: ice cream in italy
Q: semi fredi gelato
Q: what is the meaning of gelato
A: ‘Gelato’ literally means frozen. It may resemble ice-cream, but it’s a completely different product. A ‘semi-freddo’ is the equivalent of an ice cream cake. See the article on Gelato vs. Ice Cream for more information.

Or even the soft drink “Chinotto”:
Q: what does chinotto taste like
Q: aftertaste chinotto
A: Chinotto is a citrus used to make a popular Italian soft drink. Its bitter aftertaste makes it an acquired flavor.

Italian dressing is also often puzzling to people:
Q: what kind of vinegar is in italian dressing?
Q: what oil is most commonly used in italian dressing
Q: different types of italian dressings
Q: how do italians dress their salads
Q: what kind of oil and vinegar goes on a table
A: See the Italian Dressing article.

People were also interested in the proper way to cook pasta, and some were particularly confused on this regard! For instance:
Q: why it is suggegted to cook the food in salty water
Q: how salty should water for pasta be?
Q: how much salt stays with pasta
A: Salted water gives flavor to the pasta and makes it less likely to stick to itself. Typically, ½ Tbsp of salt is needed for every 4 cups of water. Not much salt will be actually absorbed by the pasta. See the Cooking Pasta 101 article for more information.

Q: “dried egg noodles” gram per person
Q: how much fresh pasta for a first course
Q: how much pasta is a serving in italy?
Q: 80g raw pasta how much cooked
Q: how much is 60g of pasta
A: See the Cooking Pasta 101 article.

Q: which italian pasta doesnt overcook?
Q: what does it mean when it says cook pasta raw
A: Every pasta eventually overcooks. Quality durum semolina pasta takes longer to cook and therefore it also takes longer to overcook. Cooking pasta ‘raw’ doesn’t mean anything, cooking pasta ‘al dente’ (to the tooth) means that the cooked pasta should be firm enough to require it to be chewed. See the Pasta 101 article for more information.

People were also quite interested in gnocchi:
Q: what sauce should gnocchi be served with?
Q: fist size gnocchi
Q: gnocchetti alla romana
Q: ricer alternative gnocchi
A: Gnocchi are served pretty much with any kind of pasta sauces. Perhaps we can consider ‘canederli‘ as fist-size gnocchi. ‘Gnocchi alla Romana’ are made with semolina flour (and no potatoes). In making gnocchi, a potato masher or a food mill can be used as an alternative to the potato ricer.

But they were mostly curious about “Pizzoccheri della Valtellina” – the article which has the highest number of hits to date:
Q: pizzoccheri meaning
Q: pizzoccheri what sort of cheese should i use
Q: what is an equivalent to valtellina casera cheese
A: the name Pizzoccheri has nothing to do with pizza. According to their official website, it derives from ‘pinzocheri’, which jokingly means “bigot people”. ‘Valtellina Casera’ cheese can be replaced with other mild semi-cooked cheeses (such as young Fontina, Montasio, Raclette or Gouda).

Finally, other people were instead more into science and wanted to find out how certain ingredients compare between Italy and North America.

For instance, they look for facts about olive oil:
Q: facts about italy’s olive oil
Q: fats and oils triangle
A: See the Olive Oil Facts article.

Or about rice:
Q: indica and japonica rice examples
Q: relative absorption of water different type of rice
A: See the Rice Demystified article.

Or milk:
Q: difference between italian and american milk
Q: is milk in italy fortified with vitamin d
Q: pasteurized milk shelf life canada italy
Q: does milk in italy taste different
A: Italian milk has a shorter shelf life, and it’s not fortified with Vitamin D. The difference in flavor is mostly due to the cows’ different diet.

Q: is italian milk homoginized
A: Yes, it’s homogenized.

Q: does italy have pasteurized milk
A: Yes, though unpasteurized milk can also be found. See the There’s Milk and Milk article for more information.

The Boom of Limoncello

Limoncello (pronounced: lee-mon-chel-low) is a sweet, lemon-flavored liqueur made by soaking lemon peel in pure alcohol to extract its aromatic oils. Straight chilled limoncello is served after dinner as a digestive, or to accompany a dessert. When mixed with tonic water or sparkling white wine, limoncello can also make for a refreshing aperitif.

The origins of limoncello

Lemons made their first entrance into the Mediterranean region as early as 100 BCE. Around 1000 CE cultivated lemon trees were common in Italy, especially in the regions of Sicily, Calabria, Campania, Sardinia, and Liguria. Despite the availability of lemons and a proven Italian tradition in liqueur production, it took until the beginning of the 20th century for limoncello to be invented. The exact birthplace is unknown, with many of the areas renowned for its production claiming its paternity. These include:

  • The Sorrento peninsula and the island of Capri. The liqueur is officially called “Liquore di Limone Di Sorrento IGP” (though the name Limoncello is commonly used), made exclusively with Sorrento “IGP” lemons (Protected Geographical Indication).
  • The Amalfi Coast, e.g.: D’Amalfi Limoncello IGP Russo (also of Protected Geographical Indication).
  • Riviera delle Palme (western Liguria), though the liqueur generally goes under the name ‘limoncino’. ‘Arancino’ (a similar liquor made with oranges) and ‘Crema di Limoncino’ (a creamier version) are also produced.
  • Cinque Terre (eastern Liguria), and particularly Limoncino di Levanto, from the city of Levanto, part of the National Park of Cinque Terre.

The boom of limoncello

Thanks to its unique lemon flavor (intense, but not sour), and to its relatively low alcoholic content (around 30% in volume), limoncello became very popular in Italy and gradually spread to most of Europe. The highest peak of popularity was reached between 1990 and 2005 in Italy when limoncello became fashionable as the digestive of choice, a must at the end of every restaurant meal, and of every home dinner with guests. Many Italian restaurants started to offer it free of charge after coffee, even by leaving a bottle at each table for the guests to help themselves to. While generally appreciated by the diners, the trend eventually wore out and lately limoncello, although still popular, is back to being one of the many digestive liqueurs (which are rarely complimentary in restaurants).

Part of the success of limoncello is also due to its simple and reliable production process – many Italian families produce their own using a variation of the following recipe.

Homemade Limoncello

#Homemade Limoncello


  • 1 liter of pure alcohol (95% in volume)
  • 8 untreated (organic) lemons
  • ½ kg white sugar
  • 1 and ½ liters of drinking water.


  1. Wash and peel the lemons.
  2. Gently scrub the lemons under running water, then carefully remove the yellow part of the peel (flavedo). The white part (albedo) has a bitter flavor and needs to be discarded. After peeling, the lemons can be squeezed and their juice frozen and later used to make drinks or in cooking.
  3. Soak the lemon peel in the alcohol
  4. Pour the alcohol in a glass jar that can be closed tightly. Add the the lemon peel and then keep in the dark for 25 days, at room temperature, shaking occasionally. The aromatic oils will gradually dissolve in the alcohol, which will turn yellow.
  5. After 25 days, prepare the syrup
  6. Prepare sugar syrup by bringing water and sugar to a boil, then let it cool off.
  7. Add the flavored alcohol to the syrup
  8. Filter the alcohol to remove the macerated peel and any undesired residue, then add it to the syrup.
  9. Pour the liqueur in a glass bottle
  10. Put the mix of syrup and flavored alcohol in a glass bottle.
  11. Store in the fridge or in the freezer
  12. As soon as chilled, the liqueur is ready for consumption, but it will keep for over 2 years in the fridge or even longer in the freezer (the high percentage of alcohol will prevent it from freezing).
Lemons of Levanto
Lemons of Levanto

Note. When choosing the lemons, it’s extremely important to go for the highest possible quality. The best lemons are medium-large, with an elliptical shape and a thick peel. The lemons must be untreated (we are going to only need the skin!) – any pesticides or even just waxing (commonly applied to help preserve the citrus’ moisture) would end up in the finished product.

Disclaimer. In certain areas of North America, pure alcohol can only be sold to professionals who have a special license! This is the case in many American states and in all of Canada except for the province of Alberta, where it’s sold under the brand name “Everclear”.

Aperitivo – The Italian Pre-Dinner Cocktail with Accompaniments

Known in North America by the French name apéritif, an aperitivo is a drink meant to be had before the meal as an appetizer. To this purpose, the apertitivo is usually a moderately alcoholic cocktail based on vermouth, bitters or white wine. Non-alcoholic versions also exist.

Even though the aperitivo is technically a starter to the meal (the word comes from the Latin verb ‘aperire’, to open), Italians usually have it well before lunch or dinner, accompanied by a snack. Because of this, the aperitivo often refers to the whole experience of drink plus food (as Italians say: “fare l’aperitivo”, do the aperitif), with the actual purpose of quenching the appetite while waiting for a late meal.

As described in the article on breakfast, in Italy bars double as coffee shops and are often part of people’s daily routine. And in the bars of Milan and other north Italian cities, the evening aperitivo has evolved into its own tradition. Starting at around 6 pm (which is at least one hour before restaurants open) and continuing until 8 or 9 pm, most bars offer a lot more than peanuts and chips to accompany their drinks. For a slight surcharge on the aperitivo drink, a complimentary buffet of appetizers is commonly offered.

The best aperitivo venues overflow with customers attracted by their luscious buffets and compete in providing the best ambiance and quality. They are especially popular as social hubs, typically for after-work gatherings, while waiting for dinner time. Even though the buffets can be very tempting, generally people try not to take advantage and limit themselves to one or two small appetizer plates. However, aperitivo spots are also appreciated by students and younger crowds in general, which may help themselves more generously and even decide to have more than one round of drinks and skip dinner altogether.

As for the actual drink, all of the standard “pre-dinner” cocktails are served. These include:

  • Dry white wine, especially the sparkling Prosecco (see the article on wine);
  • Martini, which in Italy is just straight vermouth on the rocks (from the historical brand Martini e Rossi), as opposed to North American Martini – a cocktail based on gin or vodka;
  • Classic long-drinks, such as gin and tonic, rum and coke (also called Cuba Libre), Americano (gin and sweet red vermouth).

But the Italians favorites are bitters-based, they include:

  • Straight Campari (25% alcohol, created in 1860) or Aperol (11%, created in 1919), both served on ice and possibly topped up with soda water;
  • Campari (or Aperol) and white wine;
  • Negroni (gin, Campari and sweet red vermouth);
  • Spritz (Aperol or Campari, sparkling wine and soda water), which originated in the North East of Italy.

It has to be noted that none of the alcoholic aperitivo drinks are particularly strong. In North America they would all be considered “girly” drinks, also because of their bright colors. Italians enjoy them as appetizers, leaving red wine and beer to accompany dinner, and stronger liquors for later in the night.

Aperitivo drinks can even be entirely non-alcoholic and are quite popular in the morning before lunch. The most common are ‘San Pellegrino Bitter’ (more recently commercialized as ‘Sanbittèr’) and ‘Crodino’, both of which contain herb extracts that give them a bitter aftertaste. They are sold in small individual glass bottles (100 ml) and served on ice with a slice of lemon or orange, or as part of juice-based cocktails.

Pre-made low-alcohol aperitivo cocktails also exist and can be bought in single-dose glass bottles. The most important are Camparisoda (10%, created in 1932) and Aperol Soda (3%).

Appetizer display at Spritz bar.
Appetizer display at Spritz bar in Milan-Navigli.

As for the accompanying appetizers, other than the typical potato chips and toasted peanuts, it’s common to have olives, savory tarts, bruschette, pasta salads, pizzette. Also quite standard are cold cuts (including prosciutto, mortadella, salame), mozzarella and tomatoes, grilled vegetables, cheese bites (e.g.: Parmigiano slivers, smoked scamorza), or even generous blocks of spreadable cheese (e.g.: gorgonzola or brie), and a selection of breads (small buns and sliced loaves). More rarely deli appetizers are featured, for instance ‘insalata di mare’ (seafood salad, containing boiled octopus, squid, and shrimp in olive oil and lemon), ‘insalata russa’ (Russian salad, containing diced boiled potatoes, peas, carrots, in mayonnaise).

More appetizers at "Spritz" bar.
More appetizers at “Spritz” bar.

Occasionally, warm appetizers and even actual hot courses are offered in the classic buffet chafing dishes, heated with alcohol burners. Example include first courses that don’t need to be freshly made (e.g.: butter and sage tortellini, gnocchi with cheese sauce, baked pasta), second courses (e.g.: meat stews), and sides (e.g.: roasted potatoes or polenta).

Half-wheel of Parmigiano and focaccia slices.
Half-wheel of Parmigiano and focaccia slices, also in a Milan bar.

Every appetizer is served in bite-size portions meant to be eaten directly at the buffet or put on a small disposable plate and taken to the table. Plastic forks and knives are usually provided, though some places limit their customers to using toothpicks and serving spoons.

Wine and Italy

With over 50 liters per person per year, Italy is one of the largest wine consumers in the world. It goes without saying that wine is deeply entrenched in Italian culture. Wine is standard on the dinner table of every family and it’s generally not seen as a decadent treat, but rather as a noble complement to the meal, at par with bread. And, right next to bread, wine is even “sanctified” by being an important part of the Catholics celebrations.

Even though Italians are exposed to wine from the time they are very young, children are generally not attracted to it. This is partly due to the fact that table wines tend to be an acquired taste, and arguably also because the wine’s appeal is demystified by its wide availability. As a result, generally, there is no need for the law to regulate wine commercialization or consumption based on age. Anybody can buy wine (or any other type of alcohol, for that matter) in regular grocery shops and supermarkets. The young generations, however, are nowadays getting more and more attracted to wine in a phenomenon that has seen the rebirth of ‘enoteche’. Literally meaning wine cellars, enoteche are wine-tasting bars that offer wine by the glass or by the bottle, usually along with cold cuts and cheese.

The passion for wine is big in most Italians, but excluding professional winemakers almost no Italian is interested in making their own – certainly, there are no wine kits available! This is because winemaking is considered a challenging process that is usually not worth the effort, given that in Italy basic wines are inexpensive and generally far more pleasing (to the refined average palate) than any amateur wines. Some people, however, order large quantities of wine from the makers and have it delivered to their homes by tanker. They usually store it in their own demijohns and then fill one flask at a time, or bottle it in glass bottles meant to be reused. This is a relatively common practice in certain areas, both and as a hobby and to save money on an item of everyday consumption, as wine is.

Vineyards in Tuscany
Vineyards in Tuscany

As we were saying, winemaking is complex. The process starts with the preparation of the grapes, which is different for red and for white wines. To make red wine, black or red grapes are machine crushed (no one stomps on the grapes with their feet anymore!) and allowed to have a first fermentation along with their skins. White wine is instead fermented grape juice, extracted by pressing grapes and discarding the skins. As a result, it’s technically possible to make white wines out of red grapes, though generally, this is not the case. Rosé wines are made by extracting juice from red grapes while allowing a minimal contact with their skins (and absolutely not by mixing red and white wines!) The reason why the skin makes so much difference lies in its high content of polyphenols, compared to the grape’s pulp. Not only do polyphenols affect the flavor and the color of the wine, but they are also responsible for the tannins (and the astringent mouthfeel that they bring). Polyphenols also act as antioxidants with a stabilizing effect that allows red wines to age far longer than any white wines.

The first fermentation starts when yeast is added to convert the sugars into ethanol (and CO2, which is released into the air), a process that usually takes a couple of weeks. If this transformation is incomplete, some of the sugars contained in the grapes remain in the must and the resulting wine will be sweet (the fermentation can be interrupted by lowering the temperature or by adding chemicals to kill the yeast). Wines then undergo a second fermentation: a bacterial process meant to reduce the wine’s acidity. White wines are generally fermented in stainless steel containers, whereas reds can be transferred to wood kegs to absorb additional flavors. To obtain sparkling wines, a third fermentation takes place inside of the bottle, where CO2 is trapped.

Because of their different composition, red wines and white wines have unique properties and different uses. White wines usually have a lower percentage of alcohol (10-12%), they are consumed slightly chilled (around 10 °C) and are paired up with appetizers, delicate first courses, white meats, and particularly fish and seafood. Red wines have instead generally higher alcohol content (11-14%), they are consumed at room temperature, or slightly below it (around 18 °C) and are paired up with strong first courses, aged cheeses, and red meats. Both white and red wines are also fundamental in cooking, and, generally, they are not interchangeable.

Most commercial wines are sold “ready to drink” and are not meant to be stored for a long time. Aging wine is a very difficult process that requires perfect conditions of temperature and humidity, conditions that can’t be easily achieved without proper equipment or environment. Storing wine is instead relatively easy: wine bottles should be kept away from direct sunlight and laying on their side to keep the cork wet (a dry cork will shrink and let some air into the bottle). Once opened, some wines need to rest briefly in a decanter both to allow sediments to deposit and to promote some “aeration.” Though slightly controversial, aeration is considered beneficial to “soften” strong red wines, reducing the harshness of their tannins. Aeration is generally not recommended for white wines and more delicate reds as it may disperse some of their aromas and is never recommended for sparkling wines.

Main types of wine glasses
Main types of wine glasses

Wine is best appreciated in proper stemware. The stem allows the wine to maintain its temperature by ensuring minimal contact with the hand of the person holding it. Red wines are generally served in larger glasses, with wide openings to allow for more aeration (large surface of contact between wine and air). White wines require less aeration and are usually tasted in taller, narrower glasses that also help the wine better maintain its temperature. Sparkling wines are instead served in very narrow and tall glasses (called flûtes) to reduce the contact with the air and keep the bubbles inside and towards the nose of the person drinking it.

Before introducing a list of the main Italian wines, let’s go over the denominations recognized by law:

  • Table wines that don’t follow naming regulations. Generally, these are lower quality wines where the grape and the year of production are not indicated on the label. In some cases, however, table wines can have very high quality and be sought by connoisseurs that don’t need any official certifications.
  • IGT – Table wines with Indicazione Geografica Tipica. The grapes are certified to come from a geographical area where the named grape is typical. Currently, there are about 120 wines under this category.
  • DOC – Wines with Denominazione di Origine Controllata. The exact location of the origin is certified. In Italy, there are currently about 300 DOC wines.
  • DOCG – Wines with Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. The designation of origin is certified and guaranteed. Currently, only 35 wines belong to this category.

The law also specifies which qualifiers can be appended to the name and their exact meanings:

  • When a wine’s name contains the word ‘Classico‘ (e.g. Chianti Classico), the wine is guaranteed to be made in the core of its typical region. All ‘Classico’ wines are DOC or DOCG.
  • The word ‘Riserva‘ can only be used on wines that have been aged more than the time strictly required by their denomination. The label must show the year of production.
  • When a wine’s label shows the word ‘Novello‘, the wine is guaranteed to have been bottled within the end of the year of when (at least 30% of) its grapes have been harvested. The label must show the year of the vintage.
  • The qualifier ‘Superiore‘ can only be used to indicate a wine whose alcohol level is greater by at least 1% than the minimum established for its designation.

Finally, here is a list of some of the most renowned Italian wines. Many of them are named after the grapes that they are made of (highlighted in bold). Some other wines, instead, have their own unique names, usually to reflect their areas of origin.

Amarone -Veneto-, e.g.: Amarone della Valpolicella [DOCG]. Like the actual Valpolicella, it’s made with a grape called Corvina after it has been partially dried out (in a process called ‘passito’) to increase its sugar level and consequently the alcohol level of the wine (up to 15% and higher). Amarone is a well-known wine that improves when aged and can get quite expensive.
Barbaresco [DOCG] -Piedmont-. High-quality wine made with Nebbiolo grape, aged at least 2 years in kegs, and with an alcohol level of 12.5%. Its color is ruby with a burgundy tint, with a full body and hints of spices and bitter almond. It’s usually at its best after aging for 10 or more years.
Barbera -Piedmont-, e.g.: Barbera d’Alba [DOC], Barbera d’Asti [DOCG], Barbera del Monferrato [DOC], Barbera del Monferrato Superiore [DOCG]. Barbera is the most common grape in Piedmont, its wines are intensely ruby in color, quite dry and with relatively high acidity that decreases with aging.
Barolo [DOCG] -Piedmont-. Considered the best Italian wine, Barolo is made with Nebbiolo grape, like Barbaresco, but is aged at least 3 years, 2 of which in oak or chestnut kegs. With a minimum alcohol level of 13%, Barolo reaches its best characteristics after 10-20 years. It’s burgundy in color, full-bodied, complex and balanced in flavor, with berries and violet inflections and a spice aftertaste. Barolo can reach astronomical prices.
Brachetto -Piedmont-, e.g.: Brachetto d’Acqui [DOCG]. Brachetto is a grape used to make a red dessert wine. Sweet red wines are not very common, aside from Brachetto the only other renowned one is the somewhat similar Fragolino. The commercialization of Fragolino is however illegal in the European Union because it’s made with a grape not indigenous to Europe (called Concord grape, ‘uva fragola’) – it’s however sold in Switzerland, because not part of the EU.
Brunello di Montalcino [DOCG] -Tuscany-, made with the Sangiovese grape. Brunello di Montalcino is bright ruby in color, with dry strong tannins. It is aged a minimum of 4 years. It’s younger version is called Rosso di Montalcino [DOC], more fruity and with more moderate tannins.
Chianti [DOCG] and Chianti Classico [DOCG] -Tuscany-, made with a blend of grapes including Sangiovese and Malvasia. One of the most famous Italian wines in the world, Chianti has a dark ruby color, with burgundy hints, a very balanced dry and just slightly tannic flavor that turns more velvety with aging. It used to be known for being bottled in the typical ‘fiasco‘ (nowadays, however, this is no longer the case).
Dolcetto -Piedmont-, e.g.: Dolcetto d’Asti [DOCG], Dolcetto d’Alba [DOCG], Dolcetto d’Acqui [DOC]. The name means ‘cute little sweet’ and refers to the fact that the Dolcetto grape grows very easily and produces good everyday’s wines. Its flavor is fruity with hints of almonds and bitter herbs.
Grignolino -Piedmont-, e.g.: Grignolino del Monferrato [DOCG], Grignolino d’Asti [DOCG]. Grignolino has a light ruby color and a dry flavor, just slightly bitter.
Lambrusco, e.g.: Lambrusco Salamino di Santacroce [DOC] -Emilia-Romagna-, Lambrusco Mantovano [DOC] -Lombardy-. Lambrusco wines are sparkling, either dry or semi-sweet and have intense fruity perfumes and rich flavors, with low acidity and alcohol levels; their color is dark ruby, with violet foam. Lambrusco is usually enjoyed chilled and paired up with pasta and white meats.
Malvasia Bianca, e.g.: Malvasia di Grottaferrata -Lazio-, Malvasia di Cagliari [DOC] -Sardinia-, Malvasia delle Lipari -Sicily-. Malvasia Bianca is the most common variety of the Malvasia grape, used in the production of many white wines (including Frascati [DOC]). White Malvasia has a full body and fruity/nutty inflections. A red version (Malvasia Nera) also exists.
Marsala [DOC] -Sicily-. Marsala is a fortified wine similar to Port, made by adding ‘Grappa’ (an alcoholic beverage made by distillation of wine press residue) to elevate the alcohol level to about 20%. Different varieties exist (golden, amber, ruby), made with different Sicilian grapes.
Montepulciano -Abruzzo-, e.g.: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo [DOC], Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane [DOCG]. The Montepulciano grape produces intense dark wines, with moderate acidity and low tannins.
Moscato, a grape grown all throughout Italy used for making sweet, lightly sparkling or sparkling dessert wines. E.g.: Moscato d’Asti [DOCG] -Piedmont-, moderately sparkling, golden in color and Asti Spumante [DOCG] -Piedmont- sparkling, light yellow in color.
Nebbiolo -Piedmont-, the grape used to make several DOCG wines, including Barbaresco, Barolo, and Nebbiolo d’Alba [DOCG]. The wine commercialized under the name Nebbiolo is the youngest of all three, with a minimum aging of 1 year and a minimum alcohol level of 12%.
Prosecco, e.g.: Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene [DOCG] -Veneto-. Prosecco is a dry, very sparkling wine (‘spumante’ in Italian, which means foaming). Considered the Italian (cheaper) substitute of Champagne, can go from slightly sweet to very dry (‘brut’).
Sangiovese, e.g.: Sangiovese di Romagna [DOC] -Emilia-Romagna-. The Sangiovese grape is also used in the production of several renowned wines, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Rosso di Montepulciano.
Tocai, e.g.: Tocai Friulano Colli Orientali del Friuli [DOC] -Friuli-Venezia Giulia-. The grape is related to Sauvignon Vert, light yellow with hints of green in color, and hints of bitter almond flavor.
Trebbiano, e.g.: Trebbiano d’Abruzzo [DOC] -Abruzzo-, Trebbiano di Romagna [DOC] -Emilia-Romagna-. Trebbiano, pale in color and relatively light in flavor, is the most common white Italian wine. It’s used used to make several DOC wines including Orvieto [DOC] -Umbria-.
Valpolicella [DOC] -Veneto- made with Corvina grape and a blend of other red grapes. A very balanced wine, with inflections of almonds and spice.
Verdicchio -Marche-, e.g.: Verdicchio di Matelica [DOCG], Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi [DOCG]. The name comes from the word ‘verde’ (green). The wines made with Verdicchio grape have relatively high acidity and a nutty flavor.
Verduzzo – e.g.: Verduzzo Piave [DOC] -Veneto-, Verduzzo Friulano Colli Orientali del Friuli [DOC] -Friuli-Venezia Giulia-. Like for Verdicchio, the name also comes from ‘verde’ (green). Verduzzo wines are dry and slightly sparkling (‘frizzanti’).
Vermentino -Sardinia, Liguria, Piedmont-, e.g.: Vermentino di Sardinia [DOC], Vermentino di Gallura [DOCG] -Sardinia-. Vermentino is light yellow in color, with slight hints of green. Its flavor is dry, fresh, slightly sour and with a moderately bitter aftertaste.
Vernaccia, the name of several unrelated grapes, used in the production of many important wite wines, e.g.: Vernaccia di San Gimignano [DOCG] -Tuscany-, Vernaccia di Oristano [DOC] -Sardinia-, Vernaccia di Serrapetrona spumante [DOCG] -Marche-.
Cantucci con vin santo
Cantucci with Vin Santo

Vin Santo, dessert wine usually made with Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes, e.g.: Vin Santo del Chianti [DOC], Vin Santo del Chianti Classico [DOC], Vin Santo di Montepulciano [DOC] -Tuscany-. The name ‘santo’ (which means holy in Italian) possibly comes from the fact that it was typically used during the mass. The wine’s elevated sugars and alcohol level is obtained by allowing the grapes to dry out before fermenting. A common way to enjoy Vin Santo is to pair it up with almond biscotti called Cantucci, according to the Tuscan tradition.