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Italian Food: It's More Than Just Pasta

Going out for dinner at a nice Italian restaurant is something that most people enjoy. There's not much better than a plate of pasta, crisp green salad, chewy bread, and a nice glass of wine. But Italy has more to offer than just spaghetti and lasagna. In fact, some regions of Italy rarely eat pasta.

Friuli Venezia Giulia is one such region. Located in northern Italy, Friuli Venezia Giulia shares a border with Austria to the north and Slovenia to the west. Its southern border ends at the Adriatic Sea. Rather than speaking Italian, residents either speak a distinct language known as Frulano or Slovenian.

Instead of pasta, you will find foods with a Slavic influence, like hearty soups and dumplings. Here are some regional dishes that you may see the next time you visit an authentic Italian restaurant.


These pillowy soft dumplings can be made from potatoes, butternut squash, or even plums. They are typically dressed with a meat gravy, similar to goulash, or a smoked ricotta cheese and butter sauce, which is common on pumpkin gnocchi. Closer to the Adriatic, they will have a shellfish sauce or seafood ragout. Plum or prune gnocchi is sauced with a butter and cinnamon sugar glaze.


Polenta is made from cooked cornmeal. It has a taste and texture similar to American grits. Stewed meats, wild game, and cheese are common additions to this stick-to-your-ribs meal. Polenta can also be chilled until it solidifies and then sliced and fried.


The people of Friuli Venezia Giulia enjoy their soup. Boreto alla graisana is made from a fish called turbot, which is a flat fish similar to the delicate flounder. The soup is seasoned with garlic and olive oil and served with vinegar. Turtle soup is also popular. Fasûj e uardi is a filling stew of barley, beans, and pork seasoned with fresh herbs. Jota shows its definitive Austrian roots with sauerkraut, potatoes, beans, and sausages.  


Granzevola alla triestina is made from local crabs harvested from the Adriatic Sea. They are simply prepared with a gratinato of bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, and lemon. Other popular frutti di mare, or seafood, in this region includes sardines, eel, scallops, shrimp, squid, and salt cod.


Many different meats and sausages are eaten in this region. Venison, lamb, rabbit, and goat kid are common. They are frequently cooked in wine and served with mushrooms, sauerkraut, garlic, onions, and horseradish.

Peruse the menu a little closer the next time you head to your local Italian restaurant, such as Tony & Joe's Pizzeria. You may just find you're interested in something else besides spaghetti.