Friuli Venezia Giulia - Food and Wine
Tucked away into the northeast corner of Italy is the breathtaking region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. The four borders of the region highly influence the mix of mouthwatering cuisine enjoyed by locals.
Delicious seafood fare comes from the region’s southern border with the blue expanse of the Adriatic Sea. Typical Italian fare is very much a product of the area’s shared border with the Veneto region. The northern border of Austria and eastern border of Slovenia infuse local dishes with strong flavors native to those countries. No matter where in Friuli Venezia Giulia you dine, a little slice of culinary heaven is what you will find.
The Province of Trieste is a mixture of Friulian, Venetian, and Austrian influences. Some of the more popular dishes on the menu here include a polenta based dish called zuf, a pork and vegetable soup named jota, bread dumplings known as ghochi de pan, and a specialty of prune dumplings called gnocchi de susini.
With such close proximity to the coast, the Province of Gorizia thrives on seafood dishes of every kind.
While still seafood based, further inland the flavors become stronger and richer in flavor due to Slovenia and Austrian influences.
The Province of Udine incorporates some seafood fare but is primarily based on farm raised fruits, vegetables, rice, and beans. Bisna, a polenta made with beans and sauerkraut, and cjalzons, ravioli stuffed with a mixture of veggies, eggs, and cheese, are two traditional dishes for this region.
A little richer and more savory in flavor are the delicacies of the Province of Pordenone. Common menu items in this area include risotto, broths, vegetable soups, and a stale bread soup called panada.
Polenta is commonly used in Friuli Venezia Giulia as a stand-alone dish or as a beginning base for another. Somewhat similar to polenta is paparot, cornmeal that is mixed with spinach and garlic for flavoring. Also a popular corn based meal is patissada, a mixture of cornmeal, butter, cheese, and savory meat sauce.
Breads are commonly served alongside hearty soups. Gubana is a local bread recipe that is traditionally served during the Easter holiday. It is rich in taste as it is filled with layers of decadent cocoa and grappa flavored dried fruit and nuts. Although bread is usually served as a complement to a meal, sometimes it is used to make canaderli, a kind of dumpling served in broth and often topped with meat.
Perhaps the most requested appetizers in the region are those that Friuli Venezia Giulia is known for internationally. Montasio cheese, Sauris smoked hams, and Prosciutto of San Daniele can be found almost anywhere food is sold and are all popular exports of the region.
The region’s Italian roots find a distinguished place of honor in the first course of many meals. Pasta is a staple and the variations of it are practically endless. Gnocchi, a regular menu item in the region, is a thick and solid rounded pasta that is about the size of a dried apricot. Gnocchi filled with food other than potato is referred to as bauletti. This version of the pasta is often stuffed with winter squash, potato, spinach, onion, and various meats.
Some pasta dishes flavored with herbs are served with fresh or grilled veggies, bread, and even chocolate. Strukli, a traditional strudel filled with ricotta and potatoes, is also standard throughout the region. While many of these pasta creations can be carbohydrate heavy, they are very filling, inexpensive to make, and have been served in the homes of residents for hundreds of years.
The fogolar is considered standard kitchen equipment for cooking or grilling meats and vegetables for meals. A beautiful open-hearth oven perfect for cooking or warming a home or dining establishment, the fogolar is most often used to prepare lamb, goat, sausage, poultry, beef, and mushrooms. The traditional stove is easily recognizable because of its open air nature and high cone shaped chimney.
Protein is derived primarily from various meats and fish. Salmi is a hearty source of protein consisting of venison and rabbit meat cooked in a robust wine sauce. A hearty stew, gulasch is made with beef, hot peppers, tomatoes, onions, various seasonings and is often served with polenta. Other favorites include rambasici, or stuffed cabbage, and cevàpcici which is a patty-shaped mixture of beef and pork.
The Adriatic Sea serves up a vast line of dishes with squid, shrimp, scallops, crabs, and cuttlefish as the main ingredients, just to name a few. Granzevola alla triestina is a popular local delicacy of baked spider crab and bread seasoned with lemon, garlic, and parsley. Another favorite is shrimp, mussels, or squid simmered in fish broth and served with rice to make risotto di Marano. The most popular fish in the region are turbot, but sardines, eels, and salt cod are also prevalent in local fare.
Widely found throughout the region are internationally renowned cured hams of which San Daniele and Sauri prosciutto are the local favorites. Frico is fried Montasio cheese made into a shape similar to that of a potato chip. Both of these treats can be readily found at food booths lining the streets and local eateries.
The sweet treats of Friuli Venezia Giulia are primarily breads, strudels, biscuits, and cookies. A rich, yeast-raised cake called Gubana is rolled up jelly-roll style and cooked in a round baking pan. The cake is cinnamon flavored and the sweet filling is made of dried and candied fruit, chocolate, and an assortment of nuts. Another common dessert that is somewhat similar to gubana in its filling but is more curvy and S shaped is presnitz. Apple strudel is an often requested pastry that is filled with apples, pine nuts, and raisins.
Castagnoli biscuits, sometimes referred to as cookies, are a local favorite made with chestnuts and chestnut flour. Don’t miss chifeleti, biscuits made with potato based dough, and fritulis, a special fried treat made with an assortment of different flavors and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Palatschinken are typically made with apricot jam and chocolate and are similar to pancakes and crepes.
A staple for every Friuli table is Dolce di Spilimbergo, an extremely light pastry filled with delicious almond cream.
Friuli Venezia Giulia is home to more than ten DOC and three DOCG wine designations. Actually, more than sixty percent of the wine produced in the region falls under a DOC designation. The region also has three IGT designations including Alto Livenza, delle Venezie, and Venezia Giulia. The region is a part of the Tre Venezie wine region which ranks amongst Italy’s world class wine regions.
While the region is known primarily for its white wines, more than thirty different grapes are grown in the region. They are used in the production of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Refosco, Terrano, Tocai, Rebula, Merlot, Ribolla gialla, Friulano, Schioppettino, and Verduzzo. While locals and visitors alike enjoy the vast wine offerings, Friulano wine is often preferred because of its taste and local roots.
To dine in Friuli Venezia Giulia is to taste the land, the traditions, and the heart of northeastern Italy.
Join the locals in slowing down time and savoring the mealtime experience with good food, friends, and a fabulous glass of wine.
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