Four Examples Of Why Southern Italian Cuisine Is So Special

Posted on: 22 July 2015

Italian food is more diverse than many would expect. Spaghetti, other types of pasta, and pizza are just the tip of the iceberg. Each region has its specialities. These dishes have origins linked to their respective locations and histories, all of which differ since Italy only became a united nation in 1861.

Southern Italy, in particular, with its proximity to Northern Africa and waterways has an eclectic cuisine. Any diner at an Italian restaurant should inquire as to what Southern dishes might be on the menu. To help those who want to experience this region's offerings, here are some examples of what to expect.

Sicilian Stew

The Island of Sicily is located off the coast of the mainland, less than 100 miles from Africa. Consequently, Sicilian cuisine received heavy African influences. In fact, for almost 100 years, Arabs from Africa controlled Sicily.

One popular dish that demonstrates the mixture of African, Arab and Sicilian culture is the couscous stew. Cooked for five hours in big pots, the stew consists of grains, bay leaves, peppers and fish or lamb. Some couscous cooks use shrimp or octopus, rather than fish.

Sardinian Sea Food

Sardinia, another island in the region, receives well-earned attention for its seafood. One succulent dish is the Sardinian seafood salad. Served chilled, this salad keeps locals cool on hot summer nights.  Fittingly, the main ingredient is usually sardines, which take their name from the island. Cooks fry the fish along with tomatoes. Octopus, tuna and lobster can serve as replacements.


After a meal, or as a snack, Italians love to chow down on sweets. The Southern region is home to the canoli. These tubelike, dough pasties come filled with sugar confectionaries and ricotta cheese prepared from sheep's milk.


Wine goes with virtually every Italian meal. Everyone loves to drink grappa juice, which actually has its origins in the North. Meanwhile, Southern Italy is home to the negroamaro, grown in Apulia. This black and bitter variation goes well with spicy Italian sauces.

Enjoy This Wonderful Cuisine

Not every Italian restaurant in the United States will have all the dishes or wines mentioned here. Nevertheless, it is worth asking the cook or wait staff if they can prepare something from the South that might not even be on the menu. In some cases, a chef from the region will be honored to find a guest with an appreciation for Southern culture. Give Italian dishes with Southern roots a try at your local Italian restaurant (such as Ynot Italian).