Although the country known as Italy today had not officially formed until 1861, Italian cuisine has evolved through centuries of social and political changes, with roots traced back to the 4th century BC. Influences including neighboring regions, conquerors, high-profile chefs, and political upheavals have contributed to what is known today as one of the premiere cuisines in the world. The discovery of the New World helped shape this cuisine with the introduction of potatoes, tomatoes, and bell pepper, all central parts of the italian cuisine introduced mainly after the 17th century.

Each area has its own specialties, primarily at regional level, but also even at the provincial level. These differences come from the influence of bordering countries, vicinity to the sea or mountains, as well as economic progress. Italian cuisine is also very seasonal with high priority placed on the use of fresh, seasonal produce.

The Italian meal:
In Italy, meals usually have at least 3-4 courses. They are seen as an important time to spend with family and friends, and daily meals can be longer than in other cultures. During holidays, many family feasts will last for hours.
Everyday menus include a primo and a secondo piatto, a contorno and coffee. The primo piatto (first course) usually consists of either pasta, risotto, gnocchi, or polenta. The secondo piatto (second course) is the main dish and typically consists of fish or meat. Contorni (side dishes) may consist of a salad or cooked vegetables.
More festive menus add antipasti (appetizers), dolci (desserts), cheese and fruits.

Regional cuisine of Lazio:
The volcanic soil around Rome gives exceptional flavor to vegetables. Artichokes are so tender they can be prepared as a whole. With very modest ingredients, Romans compose delicious dishes such as the gnocchi, various pasta (fettucine, bucatini, penne, maccheroni) served with sugo (meat sauce), alla carbonara (egg and bacon sauce), or all’amatriciana (pepper and tomatoe sauce).

Regional cuisine of Campania:
Tomatoes are key to the local cuisine, bottled, dried, or concentrated, and can be found on pizzas, in the parmigiana (with eggplants and parmesan cheese), or in the insalata caprese (sliced with mozzarella, basil and olive oil). The mozzarella is authentic here, coming from the milk of water buffalos. Typical pasta are the zite, fusilli, and rigatoni. Meals are often completed with local fruits like melons, grapes, oranges, lemons, and figs.