True Italian Taste
Can there be a country whose food and way of life are more intrinsically linked than Italy? Where people take such pride in their food history and heritage?
We’re becoming increasingly interested in the food we eat – where it comes from, and how it’s made – and for fans of Italian food, we’re lucky to have so much choice here, but is it really Italian? How do we know it’s not an imitation?
In 1992, the European Union created a system to guarantee authenticity and traceability, and protect valuable European food names to preserve their tradition and character. Fourteen years later, it opened up to include products from all countries.
What this means is that only products made in Italy, and that meet the most stringent quality criteria can be classified as DOP – short for Denominazione di Origine Protetta (or in English, PDO – Protected Designation of Origin) where everything must be produced and processed in the area, and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), which is less strict – the product may be processed in the specific region, but the ingredients might come from a different area.
It’s a win-win, benefiting us in being able to identify the real thing and know where it comes from, and also benefiting the farmers and producers by supporting local businesses and sustainable rural development.
So how do we know which products are the real McCoy? Genuine DOP certified products will have a red and yellow label, which includes a serial number, and many restaurants will proudly write DOP next to the ingredient on their menu. PGI foods will show a blue and yellow label.
Italy has 299 registered products, more than any other country, starting in 1996 with cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, and Asiago, and meats like Prosciutto Toscana.
What are we likely to find in our stores? Here are a few of our favourites to look out for:
San Marzano Tomatoes of Agro Nocerino Sarnese DOP
Coming only from between Salerno and Naples in Campania, southwest Italy, San Marzano tomatoes have just about reached cult status, and the only tomatoes allowed for making authentic Neapolitan pizza.
Prosciutto di San Daniele DOP
One of the most prestigious prosciutto varieties, Prosciutto di San Daniele DOP is made from only super high quality pork legs and sea salt in the little village of San Daniele in Friuli, the most north-eastern corner of Italy.
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP
Water buffalos were originally valued for their strength and to pull the farmer’s plough, but their milk has been used since the 12th Century to make this white, soft cheese from Campania.
Taking its name from a small town in Lombardy, near Milan in the north of Italy, Gorgonzola Dolce DOP is a soft and buttery blue cheese, aged for a minimum of 50 days, while Gorgonzola Piccante DOP ages longer to give a stronger flavour and a more firm and crumbly texture.