Lazio Food & Wine
Lazio cuisine is perhaps the most savory among Italian regional cuisines. The cuisine of Lazio is heavily influenced by its pastoral tradition. Lamb is ever present and is featured in such dishes as abbacchio al forno, or abbacchio scottodito, fried strips of lamb (literally "scorched fingers").
The Jewish presence in its famous ghetto, enriches the cuisine of Lazio. One might taste dishes such as carciofi alla giudea (lightly fired artichokes), baccala (deep-fried salted cod), and fiori di zucca (zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies).
Pasta dishes such as fettucine alla Romana (prosciutto, chicken giblets, and tomatoes) and gnocchi alla romana (gnocchi baked with cheese and butter), are remarkably hearty and rich. Bucatini all'amatriciana, made with pancetta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and hot pepper and spaghetti alla carbonara, made with pancetta, egg, pecorino, and black pepper, are two of the most famous dishes associated with Lazio. If you like it on the lighter side, there is penne all'arrabbiata, literally "angry" penne, made with garlic, tomatoes, and hot pepper, or pasta cacio e pepe, with black pepper and pecorino cheese. There is also egg drop soup known as stracciatella.
Sample pork dishes such as the delicious maialino (roasted suckling pig) and saltimbocca (literally means "jump in mouth"), thinly sliced veal with sage prosciutto. The most important of cheeses in Lazio is pecorino Romano, a sheep-milk cheese that is aged gradually.
As for vegetables, the artichoke holds the place that lamb holds among meats. Called "romanesco", it is without the spiny choke, round, and reaches gastronomic heights when prepared "alla giudia" (Jewish style) according to an old recipe made famous by the restaurants in the Jewish ghetto. Lazio's own species of rucola (arugula) and the wild ruchetta make splendid salads, as do puntarelle, spear-like endive dressed with raw garlic and anchovies.
Lazio has been a famous wine area since Roman times. The region has plenty of cultivable land for wine because the Apennines occupy only its eastern part; most of the region is hilly and about one-fifth is plains.
Lazio has traditionally been a white wine region; well over 80 percent of its wines and over 95 percent of its DOC wines are white. Malvasia and Trebbiano Toscano dominate this white wine production. With its dry, warm weather, combined with the volcanic terrain throughout much of the region, producers are now making interesting new red wines. At this point, Lazio ranks sixth among Italian regions in wine product with an annual output of about 35 million cases, 17 percent of which is DOC wine.
The zones fall into four general wine areas: The Castelli Romani and Colli Albani hills, south of Roma, Northern Lazio, the South Coast, and the hill of southeast Lazio. The most important wine area in Lazio is the Castelli Romani and Colli Albani districts, two sets of hills southeast of Roma. These districts have nine DOC zones, producing 80 percent of Lazio's DOC wine, almost all white. Frascati, one of Italy's most popular white wines is made from vineyards around the hill town of Frascati and three other Castelli Romani communities. Usually dry (labeled secco or asciutto), it can also be made fairly sweet (amabile) or sweet (canellino). It's also made in novella and spumante versions.
Montefiascone, an ancient hilltop town near Lake Bolsena, was one of the most important centers for the Etruscan civilization. It is more famous for its strange sounding wine, Est! Est! Est! Translated roughly from the Latin it means "Here it is! Here it is! Here it is!". The story goes that a foreign nobleman called Johannes Defuk was traveling in Italy with his manservant, Martino. It was Mar's job to ride one day ahead looking out for the best wines. When he found a "locale" of quality he would write "Est!" on the door as an indicator for his master. On reaching Montefiascone, Martino was so impressed with one vendor he wrote "Est!" three times to mark the wine as "God given". Johannes Defuk agreed and legend states he stayed there for the rest of his life until he had drunk himself to death.