a brief history of italian cuisine

with human occupation dating back 40,000 years, the italian peninsula has a long, rich human heritage. it has been conquered, invaded, and re-conquered, with each new settlement bringing a whole new set of cultural influence, customs, and, of course, food. at tesori, we love italian food in all its forms, so for this blog, we’re going to give you a (very) brief rundown of the history that italian cuisine and how it arrived where it is today.


prehistoric origins

while modern humans first crossed the alps into italy as early as 40,000 ago, the first truly influential food culture in italy was that of the etruscans, occupying what is now tuscany. etruscans relied heavily on cereals, soups, and meats as dietary staples, an influence we can still see today – italian cuisine heavily features cereal grains, a variety of meats, and dishes like minestrone. we can even thank the etruscans for olive oil, and perhaps the most important part of italian culinary culture: a healthy serving of wine at every meal. for the last, we truly are thankful.

the next major influence on italian food comes from greco-roman dominance. greeks introduced such staples as pickled olives, dried figs, almonds, and walnuts, while romans elevated the importance of bread and formed the basis of the mediterranean diet.

after the fall of the roman empire around the fifth century, italy played host to a whole new set of invaders. northern europeans marched down the boot, bringing with them delicacies like smoked fish and casseroles, spanish conquistadors brought along the tomato, and arabs in southern italy introduced rice, artichokes, a variety of spices, and notably, coffee into the mix – the similarities between italian espresso and arabic coffee should not ignored here.

but the what is probably the most famous italian delicacy didn’t come along until the late 19th century – it wasn’t until 1889 that king umberto and queen margherita visited naples, where the most famous pizza maker of the time created a dish to honor the colors of the italian flag. queen margherita nearly fell in love with it, and thus, the margherita pizza, that flagship of italian dishes, was born.

the legacy continues in downtown chicago


want to see how the food has developed with a taste of some modern italian cuisine? feel free to make a reservation with us using our opentable form or call us at 312.786.9911 with any questions. you can also now keep up with us on social media and don’t forget to check back to this blog for more updates on the wondrous food inspired by italy, and we look forward to seeing you for brunch, dinner, or drinks.

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