Insider’s Guide To Abruzzo Food And Wine


Although it holds many allures, Abruzzo has traditionally been one of the less touristed regions of Italy. This may be a blessing because it remains one of the greenest, most authentic, and still unspoiled regions of the country—one with unique appeals for food and wine lovers.

Genny Nevoso is the Executive Director of the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce West (IACCW), a non-profit organization based in Los Angeles that promotes trade between the U.S. and Italy. Under her leadership, one of the Chamber’s most ambitious projects has been to work hand-in-hand with the Italian government to spread the word about “True Italian Taste,” the unique, regional food and wine products that have made Italian cuisine a favorite around the world.

Born and bred in Tortoreto Lido, Abruzzo (and having lived in the States for 18 years), Nevoso recently had the pleasure of showcasing the specialty foods and wine of her birth region to a U.S. audience. asked Genny to share her insights about Abruzzese gastronomy based on her intimate experience and professional expertise.

What are some of the not-to-be-missed regional specialty foods/dishes associated with Abruzzo?

Genny Nevoso: Abruzzo’s cuisine mirrors the varied landscapes of the region: from the coastal fish-based dishes to the heartier fare of the mountain towns. The traditional recipes tell the story of resilient people who have managed to protect nature while leveraging its bountiful gifts for survival.

Some specialty foods are Navelli Saffron PDO, Pecorino d’Abruzzo cheese, Campotosto Mortadella, Farindola Pecorino cheese, Pork Sausages preserved in oil, Ventricina to name a few.

Spaghetti alla chitarra is possibly the region’s best-known pasta. It is traditionally handmade using a tool resembling a string instrument, commonly known as a carratur in the local dialect.

In the Teramo province, this pasta is usually served with a tomato sauce topped with miniature meatballs. As a child this was the ever-present celebratory dish my family loved and still make to this day!

Of course, a trip to Abruzzo is not complete without a taste of timballo, brodetto di pesce, tacchino alla Canzanese, pallotte cace e ove and above all mutton skewers known as arrosticini, a recipe which taps into the region’s deeply rooted sheep farming tradition.

During the transumanza, shepherds used to lead their flocks all the way to neighboring regions such as Puglia. Their flocks were their security, providing them with meat, milk, and wool.

Growing up in a family-run restaurant in the beach town of Tortoreto Lido, regional cuisine was always served with great pride. I still daydream about the intoxicating aroma flowing up from a grill full of arrosticini!

What types of wines are produced in Abruzzo?

GN: Abruzzo’s main appellations are Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, which, alone, represents approximately 80% of the region’s wine, followed by Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Pecorino and Cerasuolo, Abruzzo’s rosé.

Additionally, there are small productions of indigenous white grape varietals such as Cococciola, Passerina and Montonico within the Abruzzo DOC area, and the sparkling Villamagna, a relatively new DOC.

Although Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is easily found in the States, wines by small producers are probably best tasted at the source.

The Chamber recently produced a series of events to educate buyers and consumers about the “rebirth of the Pecorino grape.” Is it a new variety?

GN: Actually, I only learned about this grape varietal recently, myself, thanks to a partnership with the Consorzio di Tutela dei Vini d’Abruzzo and its manager, Davide Acerra.

Pecorino is a white grape of ancient origin, indigenous to the Middle Adriatic in foothill areas. The grape dates back to the 2nd century B.C. when it was brought to southern Italy during the Greek migrations.

It is a very sugary grape, resulting in wines with a high alcohol content, good structure and marked acidity.

However, due to its precocious ripening and its scarce production, it all but disappeared in the 1950s, overtaken by grapes like Trebbiano. Then, it was rediscovered in the ‘80s and ‘90s and is now produced throughout Abruzzo.

For food or wine lovers planning to visit Abruzzo, what are the major not-to-be-missed cities and towns?

GN: Here are some of my favorites:

Santo Stefano di Sessanio

Best known for Sextantio, the stylish albergo diffuso—a scattered hotel with rooms located in individual homes within the village—Santo Stefano di Sessanio ranks as one of Italy’s most beautiful Medieval hamlets. It is located within the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park, about an hour and a half drive from Rome. Local lentils are one of 18 Slow Food Presidia in the region.

Castel del Monte

Another remarkable medieval mountain hamlet is Castel del Monte. Nestled in the center of the Gran Sasso National Park, it offers breathtaking views of the Gran Sasso, Majella and Sirente-Velino massifs as well as the storybook castle of Rocca di Calascio.

This area is brimming full of traditional bites: try the calcioni, the culatello di maiale nero, the Pecorino Canestrato di Castel del Monte (a local cheese made from raw sheep’s milk that’s also a Slow Food Presidio). Arrosticini (here known as “rustell”) taste even more delicious with a view of the heavenly Campo Imperatore plateau known as Abruzzo’s Little Tibet.

Castel di Sangro

For a three Michelin star culinary experience and impeccable hospitality, Chef Niko Romito’s Restaurant Reale is a must-visit. The ever-evolving self-taught chef explores the crossroad between haute cuisine and local products.

Loreto Aprutino

A micro-area known for excellent wines and EVOO. Check out Cantina Ciavolich and Masseria Ciavolich for an immersive hospitality experience.

From Tortoreto Lido to Torano Nuovo

I might be biased as I was born and raised here but I most definitely recommend spending a day chilling in Tortoreto Lido. Enjoy the fine sand golden beaches, the miles-long palm tree flanked bike lanes and the tranquil Adriatic waters.

Within a short drive is Torano Nuovo, a small hilltop town where Agriturismo Emidio Pepe is located. Once the birthplace of the legendary winemaker, it offers an extraordinary, environmentally-friendly escape for food and wine lovers complete with accommodations, wine tastings and a farm-to-fork restaurant.

Costa dei Trabocchi

Heading South along the fabled Adriatic coast, expect to be mesmerized by the gorgeous stretch of coastline between San Salvo and Ortona. It offers an exceptional opportunity to discover the Trabocchi, wooden constructions once used by fishermen.

Soak in the views from the Punta Aderci Nature Reserve and the Punta Penna Lighthouse. Plan to dine at one of the restaurants on the Trabocchi Coast, lulled by the sea while enjoying the cotton candy sky.

Why is Abruzzo still “undiscovered” by most tourists?

As a native who promotes Italy for a living, I have often asked myself this same question. The answer is complex.

Based on April 2022 statistics from the Italian Ministry of Tourism and the Italian Tourist Board, Abruzzo was the tenth most searched Italian region on Google, also ranking third most searched in the hotel and lodging category. So we are optimistic.

But Abruzzo’s global fame and tourism development has been hindered by historical and geographical reasons. International trade and an enriching historical period, such as the Renaissance, for instance, have had a transformative effect on places like Florence.

Those looking to experience Italy through an off-the-beaten path adventure, should look no further. Known as Europe’s “green heart” for its three national parks, Abruzzo is exceptional. It is a lesser known, yet spectacular region where simple traditions in harmony with nature become extraordinary.

From parks and protected areas to the world-class ski resorts and a 130 km coastline dotted with fine sandy beaches, Abruzzo will win you over and compel you to return.

Abruzzo offers a wealth of evocative trekking, cycling and horseback riding itineraries tracking back the lives of historical and religious figures such as pope Celestine V and San Francis. For those fascinated by the coastline, the Costa dei Trabocchi is a must-visit with breathtaking views over the Adriatic and exciting culinary experiences for seafood aficionados.

When is the best time of year to visit? How do I get there?

GN: For me, the best times to visit are between April and June or between September (to catch the grape harvest) or early October.

Abruzzo is easy to reach from international airports like Rome’s Fiumicino or Bologna’s Guglielmo Marconi. A few connections are also offered through the Pescara airport, particularly in the summer.

For those who prefer to take the train, the Adriatic coastline is well connected through the high-speed railway services; the trip from Bologna Centrale to Pescara Central in Abruzzo takes just over three hours.

To get around and explore freely, rent a car and drive (or hire someone who does it for you!). Plan your trip well ahead. The regional tourism site is a great starting point to learn about the region, its hidden treasures and finding itineraries that suit your interests.

Note: This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.


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