What to eat and drink in Calabria
Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot, is known for its natural landscape and fertile terrain, mountains and hills encircled by the sea. But besides this, the food of Calabria gets us excited. ‘nduja, Tropea onions and Chili peppers are the main ingredients that come to our mind when talking about Calabrese cuisine. Seafood is also popular and swordfish is a favorite, often served thinly sliced with lemon and oil. Tuna, shrimps, lobsters, sea urchins and squid are also to be found on most menus. The variety of dishes, the delicious cheeses produced here, the olive oil and spices make the food to taste heavenly.
The region owns strong identity, expressed with aromas and colors belonging to the soil and sea, reflected in long-established dishes. The Calabrian cuisine is pastoral-inspired, enhanced with delicate nuances and dazzling contrasts.
Want to know what to eat in Calabria? Here are some of our favorite dishes of the region! Calabrian recipes make large use of vegetables, especially eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, red onions and fava beans. Calabrian cuisine is among Italy’s poorest and simplest regional cuisines, yet its flavors are strong. Here are ten foods you should try on your next trip to Calabria.
10 dishes you need to try on your vacation to Calabria
One of the most beloved food of Calabrian cuisine is ‘Nduja. This dish is a spreadable salami made with pork and lots of chilli peppers (peperoncino) and is ideal served like an appetizer with bread or as an ingredient in sauces for pasta dishes. This spreadable spicy food can be found in red glass jars and used to spread on crispy bruschetta.
Cipolla rossa di Tropea
Another popular ingredient of Calabria’s vibrant dishes is this famous onion (grown in Tropea). This onion is the main ingredient in many foods like salads, pastas, meat and pizza. You will recognize cipolla rossa di Tropea by its bold purple exterior and sweet flavor!
Lagane e cicciari
This simple dish consists of lagane, a wide pasta with chickpeas, garlic and oil. Lagane e cicciari is one of the simplest and most flavorful food of Calabria region.
If you are visiting Calabria and you want to try a traditional Calabrian food, we recommend trying the pitta bread. Pitta is a flatbread with a crunchy crust and a soft inside, stuffed with peppers, tomatoes and herbs, or with sausage and peppers, with broccoli and caciocavallo cheese…. Combine this with different ingredients and enjoy this simple and delicious food.
The most common seafood in Calabria is swordfish or pesce spada. With olive oil, garlic and parsley or cooked in bain-marie with lemon and capers, roasted and seasoned with sauce, whatever you like, this is a must try dish.
Gelato alla crema reggina
Crema reggina is a traditional dessert in Reggio Calabria, usually consumed as gelato. It is rum-based and has a pinkish color. Ice cream or fresh fruit is mainly served for dessert and melons, particularly water melons, are abundant in Calabria and seem to taste juicier and sweeter than anywhere else. Delizioso!
If you are vegan or vegetarian, this is an ideal dish for you. Licurdia is a traditional soup made with simple and fresh ingredients: escarole, Swiss chard, asparagus or carrots, depending on the area where it is prepared. The main ingredient is the red onion of Tropea, giving it flavor and sweetness. The vegetables are cooked with lard and water for a few minutes; once they have melted and turned into a cream, they are placed in a dish over slices of toasted bread, with red peppers and pecorino cheese to top it off.
Lenticchia di Mormanno
Is made with a local variety of lentil from local farmers. The lentil of Mormanno is fine and rich in proteins and comes from a small plant. Today the legume is protected by the Slow Food Presidium.
Good caciocavallo cheese is made throughout Southern Italy, and especially in the area around the village of Ciminà, within the Aspromonte National Park. Try this cheese with bread, fresh vegetables or salads. It is also used to season many dishes.
Another ingredient used in Calabria cuisine is eggplant. Mainly it’s used as a condiment on pastas and meats, or as a contorno (side dish). Don’t miss this spicy eggplant stew with chili, tomatoes, onion and herbs for a healthy kick! The dish is usually vegetarian and the recipe varies from city to city.
What to drink in Calabria?
Probably the most popular liquor of this region is Vecchio Amaro del Capo. Originally created by monks for medicinal purposes, this liquor has a unique blend of flowers, roots, herbs and fruit from this region.
Liquore alla Liquirizia is another well-known liquor made from the root of Calabria’s licorice plant, which grows in abundance in this southern part of Italy and is believed to be the best in the world.
Calabrian wine has not received the recognition it deserves, even though the region of Calabria has a very long history of wine cultivation. Calabria is a region of contrast, from the cool Sila and Aspromonte massifs, to the warmer hills of the coast. There are significant variations in temperature and weather conditions, creating many different microclimates for wine production.
The best known of Calabria’s wines is Cirò. Calabria has many native vine varieties. Among the reds: Gaglioppo, Maglioppo, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Nocera and Greco Nero. Among the whites: Greco Bianco, Montonico, Pecorello and Guernaccia.
Pair this wines with delicious traditional food and enjoy your vacation in Calabria!
Where to eat and drink in Calabria
Grilled swordfish, spicy sausages, stewed tomatoes and aubergine – you need to taste these dishes if you are on a trip in Calabria. This region is distinct for its use of peperoncini chillies (there are more than 150 varieties, on display at a museum in the town of Pizzo) and arancia calabrese, an orange also known as bergamot. One of the most authentic thing in Calabria is the food. In the mostly rural region, pasta and pizza come from wheat that’s harvested locally and topped with ingredients that come from the land or the sea. If you want to try authentic Calabrian dishes prepared with fresh local ingredients, you must check our list with best places to eat and drink.
If you are looking for a modern restaurant with traditional and delicious food, this is the perfect place for you. Big portion of Antipasti, excellent ravioli and tasty beef stew are good choices. All in all, we recommend this lovely restaurant to enjoy Calabrian food with your family or friends.
If you want to try a traditional pizza, try pizzeria Mandalari. The pizza is unique in the dough preparation, as well as in the choice of ingredients. When you taste the thin, chewy crust, the even layer of cheese and the acidic sauce, you will know why this place is in our list.
If you want to try some vegan food, this place makes also vegan pizza and other vegan dishes. This pizzeria is a great example of Italian food culture; it represents a must-go for whoever passes by.
The food is all native to the Calabrian region and is absolutely delicious. It is worth the trip to get there…you will love it! Italian local food at its best and nice atmosphere. If you are staying in Reggio Calabria, you should try this place.
This place is great to have lunch especially on a nice day. If you sit outside, you can admire the sea. Aperitif are very filling and the desserts are a must! It is very visited and offer a wide range of sweets, so make sure you try at least one gelato.
The food here is fresh and delicious, prepared with local ingredients. Antipasti, meats and cheese or vegan food that taste amazing. Don’t forget to pair this delicious food with their red wine and the fennel liquor. A definite must visit if you are in Reggio Calabria!
If you are looking for a romantic spot on the shore of Tyrrhenian Sea, you should. The specialty here includes fresh seafood- including a lot of swordfish. But, if you are not a seafood person, you could try spaghetti with sea urchins or prawn linguine.
Clear water and white sand, the portfolio of ancient art and architecture, fresh and delicious food, this stretch of coastline that straddles both the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas with sweet hilltop towns will tempt you to visit and discover more than that. Catch on this underrated and often misunderstood region – and savour some of the spiciest cuisine in Italy, thanks to the ubiquitous red peperoncino (chilli). The turquoise shore of Tyrrhenian Sea, the hills, the pretty towns of Italy’s toe of Calabria just waiting to be discovered. Find the best accommodation in Calabria region and book your vacation to explore this authentic piece of Italy.