A guide to food and drink in Calabria
Calabrian cuisine uses local ingredients such as fresh swordfish, mountain herbs or the aromatic bergamot citruses indigenous to the region. The region also specialises in unique handmade pasta dishes, as well as delicious locally smoked and cured meats and cheeses.
Exploring Calabria's Food and Drink
Calabria has been ruled by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantine and French, giving it a rich multicultural heritage that is reflected in its cuisine, from pitta breads to hearty pasta dishes. Add the unique ingredients grown only in the region – such as the sweet, bright-red Tropea onions and peperoncino chili peppers – you get a strikingly original cuisine.
Those with a sweet tooth can tuck into Gelato alla crema reggina, a pink-tinted, rum-tinged ice cream to cool down. Crispy honey-flavoured cookies known as mostaccioli are some of the region’s most-popular sweet treats.
Michelin-starred dining at Dattilo Ristorante, Strongoli
Calabria specialises in agritourism restaurants located on farms and rural estates, and Datillo is the very best. This luxurious restaurant is housed in a 16th-century farmhouse where the talented head chef serves creatively presented, mouthwatering fare using ingredients from the surrounding farm, including homemade olive oil.
Seated in the walled courtyard, guests can indulge in a tasting menu including a variety of prawn, sea bass and lamb dishes. But even those on a tighter budget can dine here, sampling dishes such as pasta with almonds and the local ‘nduja sausage.
Wood-fired pizza at Paladino Girolamo, Scilla
No visit to Italy would be complete without trying the nation’s most popular dish – pizza. Paladino Girolamo uses a wood-fired oven which gives its pizzas their traditional flavour.
This small outdoor restaurant is located just off the beach at Scilla. It’s the perfect way to fill up after a day of sunbathing and swimming, and it’s remarkably easy on the pocket, too.
Traditional meets modern at Ristorante Alice, Tropea
Tucked away from the main tourist drag in a quiet shaded plaza is Ristorante Alice, the town’s most popular restaurant – it’s easy to see why. The restaurant draws upon the theme of Alice in Wonderland in both its decor and food, presenting local ingredients in a modern, eye-catching and an often unexpected style.
Visitors and tourists alike have been wowed by the dishes – highlights include the antipasti boards, the dramatic squid-ink spaghetti, and an inspired take on tartufo, a dome-shaped ice cream dessert said to originate in Tropea.
Sample fresh fish with a sea view at Bleu de Toi, Scilla
Located in Chianalea, the waterside district of the picturesque village of Scilla, Bleu de Toi specialises in fresh seafood dishes. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic dinner, with outdoor dining on a platform built directly over the sea where you can watch the sun set.
Sample the restauƒrant’s specialities of sea-urchin pasta or swordfish rolls simmered in a tomato, caper and olive sauce, accompanied by a glass of local wine. Finish off the meal with a sgroppino, a heady mixture of lemon ice cream, limoncello and Prosecco.
Feel the heat at the annual chilli-pepper festival in Diamante
If you love spicy food then head to the small Calabrian town of Diamante, a place obsessed with locally grown peperoncino chillis. This obsession reaches its height in September at the annual chilli festival. Bright-red strings of dried chillis hang from balconies and form the crowns of zany street performers.
Mostra Mercato Mangiare Mediterraneo is a market full of stalls selling artisanal chilli-based products. Feel the burn as you sample spicy street food from around the world at budget prices.