La Cucina Italiana
Umbria is called “the Green Heart of Italy “. It is largely an agricultural area where you often see harvesters and tractors on the roads. Farms keep the landscape open, and contributes to the picturesque scene of rolling hills dotted with sunflower and wheat fields. Melons, lettuce and tomatoes are also grown here.
Umbria is famous for its meat dishes, but there are also restaurants serving fish from the lakes. Most famous homely fare is Pici con Cinghiale – thick pasta with wild boar. Pici is a type of pasta, which is handmade, and much thicker than regular spaghetti. Sometimes called Umbriccelli in Umbria. In Tuscany it is always referred to as Pici. Cinghiale is wild boar in Italian and are quite abundant in Tuscany and Umbria. It is fantastic with a rich tomato sauce – the perfect combination with a robust red wine made from the grape Sangiovese.
It is also popular both in Tuscany and Umbria to use different types of beans, mostly in the winter season. Quite often served in soups, such as Zuppa di Farro, but also complements the pasta polenta. Menus are adjusted according to the seasons depending on available produce.
Umbria’s greatest culinary asset is without a doubt the fresh truffle. Black truffle is more common and slightly cheaper than white truffle. But if you see the white truffle on the menu, please do try it! The white tastes much stronger than the black, so you don’t need a lot. It can be enjoyed with just pasta or grated over meat. Trattoria Serenella in Città della Pieve serves even pizza with truffle.
In Tuscany wild boar is a popular dish.There is another Tuscan meat specialty called Fiorentina. This is a giant T-bone steak. Look twice before you order and see how big it is! It has a tendency to hang over the edges of the plate … if it is from the white Chianina cow you have had extra luck. Ristorante da Nilo‘s in Cetona, has this wonderful dish on the menu. We dare you to order tripp as a starter. This is the lining of the stomach – a Tuscan specialty.
On the coast of Tuscany you will find great seafood dishes. Very common fish are spigola, sea bass. It can be boiled, baked and grilled. Pesce Spada or swordfish is also recommended and is very good when smoked. Thin slices of carpaccio of tuna is a delicacy. Squid is in every imaginable size – pickled, fried or deep fried. On the island of Giglio there is even stuffed squid, ripieni, as an exciting experience for the curious restaurant visitor. Prawns and langoustines are grilled or fried, usually with shell and all. And do not miss the raw lobster, astice crudo, from restaurant owner Bruno in Porto Santo Stefano. His gourmet trattoria near the port is called Lo Sconiglio.