Distinctly Italian food with a local characteristic all its own
In central Italy, Abruzzo sits neatly perched between the country’s aristocratic northern regions and the steamy south. It’s a gorgeous middle ground of sweeping mountain vistas, temperate weather, and green abundance—fully half of the region’s territory is protected parkland and nature preserves, more than anywhere else in Europe.
Unlike in many other Italian regions, Abruzzo’s local food traditions were historically sheltered from influence from other cultures, making the food here distinctly Italian but with a local characteristic all its own. In fact, it was in the small Abruzzo town of Villa Santa Maria that the first Italian cooking school was established in the 16th century, giving the town the nickname “The Home of Chefs.” Every October, it hosts the Sagra dei Cuochi, the “festival of chefs,” where tens of thousands of Italian chefs gather to share ideas and, of course, plenty of food!
If you’re planning a trip to Abruzzo, these are the traditional local delicacies that can’t be missed:
Spaghetti alla chitarra:
No visit to Abruzzo would be complete without a taste of its most famous pasta. Traditionally made by pressing pasta dough through a wooden frame strung tightly with wires called a chitarra (literally "guitar"), these squared-off spaghetti are a favorite in the region. You’ll usually find it tossed with a meaty ragù Abruzzese, featuring lamb and pork, or with tiny polpettine (meatballs), as is the tradition in the province of Teramo.
These grilled lamb skewers are a favorite street food across the region. Also known as arrustelle in the local dialect, they are cooked over charcoal on specially built elongated grills that can hold dozens of the tasty skewers at once. Arrosticini was once a staple food for the shepherds who tended their flocks on Abruzzo’s many mountainsides, a way to use up the poorer quality meat that they couldn’t sell. Today, however, they’re a beloved delicacy that uses tender, well-marbled cuts with plenty of fat for a luscious, filling bite.
Confetti di Sulmona:
Often known here as Jordan almonds, these colorful, candy-coated almonds are a specialty of the ancient Abruzzese town of Sulmona. They’ve been crafted here in dozens of dazzling colors since the 15th century, and are traditionally handed out at weddings and other celebrations, or crafted into cheerful
flower-shaped centerpieces. There’s even a museum in Sulmona dedicated to the history of the crunchy treat.
Brodetto alla pescarese:
With miles of coastline on the Adriatic sea, Abruzzo has its share of delectable seafood dishes. One of the most popular is this seafood stew from the city of Pescara, which was historically a small fishing village. Mixed seafood is slow-cooked with tomatoes, local herbs, and a hint of peperoncini for a spicy, soul-satisfying meal.
Photo credit: Abruzzo Tourism Board abruzzoturismo.it
Sise delle monache:
This light, fluffy dessert from the town of Guardiagrele is distinctive for its three peaks of sponge cake on top of a layer of sweet lemon zest-scented custard cream. It’s said to imitate the three tallest peaks of the Majella mountains that tower over the hillside town, and is usually showered with powdered sugar like snow on the mountaintop.