Last updated on January 9th, 2024
It’s hard to believe any tourist would get tired of the classic Italian dishes like carbonara, risotto ai funghi, lasagna or cotoletta alla Milanese. But it does happen, especially if you are an avid Italian traveler.
If this is you, then Friuli-Venezia Giulia might solve your culinary dilemma. The region is bursting with fascinating history as it has been feuded over for centuries and, thus, is a true melting pot of culinary masterpieces. But some of the food is a mystery, so let us walk you through it.
From our first-hand experience, knowledge, and research, we bring you the ultimate food guide to Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
This food guide also includes:
- a local cheese and cured meat guide
- a comprehensive list of the most traditional dishes and how to pronounce them
- a list of the important flavors and ingredients that you will see time and again
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Food from Friuli-Venezia Giulia vs Italian Food
Friuli Venezia Giulia (often referred to as Friuli) is a melting pot of cultures as it has been fought over by Romans, Slavs, Venetians and Austrians for centuries, each of which has influenced not only the culture and language but also the cuisine.
Friuli Venezia Giulia’s geography is also crucial to understand its food. The region is divided into four provinces. The larger of the four (Pordenone and Udine) are what we know as Friuli, while the smaller of the four (Gorizia and Trieste) make up Venezia Giulia. The Carnic and Julian Alps stand between a river plain in the middle. And we can’t forget about the Adriatic coast, providing plenty of local fish and seafood.
Because of the ‘mountain meets sea’ geography and its Autristian and Slovic neighbors, we see rich cuisine playing with flavors from Germanic and Austrian origins and the Mediterranean diet.
The cold sea fronts and towering Alps make for a cooler climate and thus, dishes tend to be hearty and filling, meant to keep you full and warm for extended periods. Meals are robust, full of flavor, and often enhanced by horseradish with plenty of meat, cheese and cured meats.
Unlike central and southern Italy, polenta is the star carbohydrate rather than rice or pasta. And like most of Italy, vegetables play a role in the food but in lesser quantities as the growing season is not quite as long as in warmer Italian climates of the south.
Local Cheese of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Because of the colder climate, locals relied heavily on cheese that could be preserved and eaten year-round when other foods might have been scarce. Today, the tradition lives on, and the region continues to make and enjoy cheese daily.
- Formadi Frant (pronounced for-mah-dee frahnt): this is semi-hard cheese made in Carnia from oddly or defective cheese shapes that are chopped up and mixed with milk and cream before being packed into wooden molds and left to mature.
- Montasio (pronounced mohn-tah-see-oh): this unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese can either be soft or semi-hard depending on how long it has been aged (Fresco has been aged 2-3 months, Mezzano for 4+ months, Stagionato for 10+ months and Stravecchio for 18+ months). This cheese is often served with fresh fruit as an appetizer or enjoyed after meals instead of dessert.
- Carnia Altobut (pronounced car-nee-ah ahl-toh-boot): This hard, raw milk cheese is produced from the Bruna Alpina cattle that free-range in the Alps. It’s sweet when served young but as it ages, it becomes more complex and intricate to the palate, often described as fruity or herbaceous.
- Cuincir: this is described as a spicy, sour ricotta cheese that is typically made with herbs such as wild fennel. It’s used in cooking but also enjoyed with bread.
- Malga (pronounced mahl-gah): originally produced in malghe or alpine huts, this raw mixed milk cheese is made with 90% cow’s milk and 10% goat’s milk. It comes in a cylindrical form and is light yellow on the inside. The flavor is grassy and sometimes slightly bitter. Try it with chestnut honey and/or rye bread.
- Jamar (pronounced yah-mar): made from raw cow’s milk, it’s left to age for four months in humid karst caves. The result is a semi-hard, crumbly cheese with flavors similar to blue cheese: rich, nutty and earthy. Pair it with local honey to cut the intense aroma.
Learn More: Study up on all types of Italian formaggio with our Complete Guide to Italian Cheese!
Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s Cured Meats
As with cheese, locals made a lot of cured meats to ensure they would have something to eat when temperatures dropped, and food was harder to find and grow. Today, these cured meats are everywhere, still made in the same fashion as they were hundreds of years ago.
- Salumi d’Oca (pronounced sah-loo-mee doh-kah): a goose salami dating back to the 15th century made from a mixture of beef, pork and goose.
- Speck di Sauris (pronounced speak dee sohw-rees): this is a smoked ham made in the Carnian alps flavored with garlic, salt and pepper and cured with beechwood smoke, making it both smokey and spicy!
- Muset (pronounced moo-set): a sausage made from pork offal seasoned with black pepper, coriander, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.
- Pitina (pronounced pee-tee-nah): made in the province of Pordenone, this cured meat is made from lean sheep, goat and deer meat mixed with pork belly and shoulder fat. The meat is flavored with salt or rock salt, garlic, red wine, black pepper, and aromatic herbs before being smoked and aged. The flavor is smoky.
- Prosciutto di San Daniele (proh-shoot-toh dee sahn dahn-yell-leh): This is a sweet, dark prosciutto produced in Udine. What makes this prosciutto different is how it is left to mature: the hams are stacked one on top of the other and left to age for at least 13 months. Typically it’s served as an appetizer with bread, melon and sweet figs.
- Prosciutto di Sauris (proh-shoot-toh dee sohw-rees): this prosciutto is made from the Large White, Landrace and Duroc pig breeds and cured with both smoke (flavored with herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme and/or juniper) and salt. The flavor is sweet, less salty than other prosciutto with just the right amount of smokeyness.
- Porcaloca (pronounced pork-ah-loh-cah): a cured meat made from whole deboned goose filled with salted pork and baked before being lightly smoked. It’s similar to prosciutto cotto or cooked ham. It should be served in thin slices with dark bread.
Don’t Miss: Ein Prosit Festival, the annual food festival dedicated to the region’s local food and wine specialties in October. This is a great way to directly try all the local specialties from the farmers and producers. You can book guided tastings and view cooking demonstrations.
Learn More: You may want to read Is Prosciutto Raw?
(Pronounced zoof in Italian)
This is a pumpkin porridge, warm and filling, typically served for breakfast in Friuli, ideal for colder temperatures. It is made by mixing mashed pumpkin with flour and cornflour, water and milk and slowly cooking it until creamy and lump-free. Sage and salt are added for flavor before being served with a small ladle of cold milk. Some people like to add a bit of butter or sugar for extra sweetness and flavor.
Trota Affumicata di San Daniele
(Pronounced troh-tah ahf-foo-mee-cah-tah dee sahn dahn-yell-leh in Italian)
This is a very particular smoked trout that can either be served hot or cold, typically as an appetizer.
(Pronounced cheh-vahp-chee-chee in Italian)
This is a local street food best described as a cross between a sausage and a kebab made with minced beef and lamb meat seasoned with garlic, onion, paprika, white wine and olive oil before being grilled. It comes from the Balkans and is served with a sauce called ajvar, a very traditional Balkan flavor.
(Pronounced kee-feh-lee-nee in Italian)
Also known as chifeletti, these are little potato fritters from Trieste that are so good that they are now enjoyed throughout the entire region. Boiled potatoes are mashed with flour, eggs, butter and salt (or sugar for sweet versions) and formed into crescent shapes before being fried. If they are sweet, they are sprinkled with powdered sugar and/or cinnamon. If they are savory, they are finished with salt. This is a must-try!
Toc’ in braide
(Pronoucned tohch-een-bride in Italian)
This is a very traditional appetizer made from a polenta that is covered in a cheesy layer of Grana Padano, Montasio and/or Ricotta and milk. The dish is finished with another layer of creamy polenta before serving piping hot.
(Pronounced free-coh in Italian)
This delicious dish dates back to the 15th century as a way to use up the leftovers from the cheese-making process. There are two ways to make this: frico friabile is Montasio cheese deep fried in olive oil until crisp or there is frico morbido, a much more famous pancake-like treat made from a mixture of Montasio cheese, potatoes and onions and then baked or fried until crisp on both sides. This is another must-try on your travels in Friuli-Venezia Giulia! Some versions include pancetta, mushrooms or tomatoes in the mixture.
We Recommend: Trattoria Ai Cacciatori (Cavasso Nuovo) has beautiful puffy and delicious frico.
(Pronounced pah-pah-rot in Italian)
This is the perfect soup for cold days in Friuli made from polenta, spinach, butter, flour, garlic, nutmeg, and various seasonings. Sometimes it is made with sausage or lard to make it even more filling, especially in the winter.
Gnocchi di Prugne
(Pronounced nyawk-kee dee proon-yeh in Italian)
Also found in Romania, Slovakia, Czechia, Hungary, Croatia and Germany, this primo is made from small potato dumplings that are filled with plums and tossed in a breadcrumb sauce made with butter, sugar and cinnamon. This is a sweet dish so if you are not into that, be forewarned!
(Pronounced kee-ahr-sohns in Italian)
This is perhaps the most iconic primo from Friuli-Venezia Giulia made from thin sheets of potato pasta stuffed with various fillings made from things like herbs, ricotta, raisins, potatoes, cocoa powder and cinnamon. Every family has their own recipe or twist to this sweet and salty classic.
We Recommend: Hostaria alla Tavernetta (Udine) serves up all sorts of traditional Friulian dishes but the cjarson are particularly good.
(Pronounced blehks in Italian)
Also known as biechi, this is a local triangular or square-shaped pasta historically made with wheat and buckwheat flour but today, it’s made with white flour. This pasta pairs well with many sauces as it is quite versatile but is usually served in a rich butter and Montasio cheese sauce.
(Pronounced ee jee-ree-nee in Italian)
This is a small, twisted pasta made from an egg and flour dough that’s pushed through either a potato ricer, colander or other large sieve and boiled until they float to the top. They are served with local greens or sharp flavors such as prosciutto di San Daniele, rose chicory and/or goat cheese.
(Pronounced stroo-coh-loh in Italian)
This is the region’s take on Austrian strudel, made either sweet or savory from a roll of dough stuffed with various fillings such as ricotta, spinach, peas, veal or beef. Strucolo di pomi is the most popular sweet version stuffed with apples (essentially the same as Austrian apple strudel). It can either be boiled (and tied at the ends) or baked in the oven.
Pappardelle al Ragù Bianco di Anatra
(Pronounced pahp-pahr-dehl-leh ahl rah-goo bee-ahn-coh dee ah-nah-trah in Italian)
Egg pappardelle pasta is paired with a rich duck meat sauce made with onions, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme, white wine, tomatoes and olive oil. Rich and hearty, this is a great pasta dish to try if you have come to Italy to eat primarily pasta and have had your fair share of polenta up north.
We Recommend: Al Campanile (Cividale del Friuli) is one of those cozy family-run joints that will have you coming back every time you visit.
(Pronounced yo-tah in Italian)
This warming soup-like dish from Trieste (served as an appetizer or as a side dish to meats) is very popular among locals and one of the region’s most well-known dishes. Garlic, pancetta, and potatoes are fried in olive oil and then simmered with pre-soaked beans until tender. Sauerkraut is added, pairing beautifully with the beans, creating the perfect contrast between tart and creamy.
(Pronounced cah-peh-sahn-teh grah-tee-nah-teh in Italian)
This is a delicious seafood dish from Trieste made from locally sourced scallops seasoned with butter, parsley, onion and breadcrumbs and baked in their shells until crisp on top. The presentation is beautiful and the scallops are sweet!
Boreto alla Graisana
(Pronounced bohr-eh-toh ahl-lah grai-sah-nah in Italian)
This is a simple fisherman’s fish stew made from leftover fish that could not be sold at the end of the day. Unlike other brodetto that you will find throughout Italy, this version has no tomatoes and is served with white polenta. This is one of my personal favorites.
Brovada e Muset
(Pronounced broh-vah-dah eh moo-seht in Italian)
This is a typical poor man’s food made from brovada, fermented turnips, that have been sliced and macerated in grape pomace and muset, a pork sausage. Brovada is also served with many other meats in this region as it is a good contrast to the bold and rich flavors of meat.
(Pronoucned goo-lahsh tree-eh-stee-noh in Italian)
It’s no surprise that Trieste has its version of the classic Hungarian dish Gulash as it was once part of their empire. This beef stew is slow-cooked with onions, hot paprika, tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano and bay leaves. It is always served with either polenta, gnocchi or potatoes on the side.
Agnello al Rafano
(Pronounced ahn-yell-oh ahl rah-rah-noh in Italian)
This traditional slow-cooked lamb dish is flavored with horseradish, stock, vinegar, onions, thyme, bay leaves, parsley and butter. If made correctly, the meat should be slow-cooked so as to let all the cooking liquid evaporate. To finish the dish, butter, horseradish and parsley are mixed and poured over the hot lamb.
(Pronounced eel bowl-lee-toh in Italian)
Various boiled cuts of beef is a northern Italian tradition but what makes this version different is that all parts of the pig are boiled together (instead of beef) including the head, tongue, ears and sausages and served hot in its broth with sauerkraut, mustard and grated horseradish.
We Recommend: Try Buffet da Pepi (Trieste) for authentic bollito.
(Pronounced coh-teh-kee-noh in Italian)
Although this pork sausage originated in Emilia-Romagna, Friuli has its version flavored with cloves, cinnamon and white wine. You can either get it fresh or pre-cooked. You will most likely be served lentils, beans or mashed potatoes on the side.
Learn More: Read all about the Different Types of Italian Sausage.
(Pronounced Teer-ah-mee-soo in Italian)
The origin of this delicious dessert is hard to pinpoint exactly. Some suggest it was invented in Friuli but the first documentation we have comes from an article written in the Vin Veneto magazine in the 1980’s. Nonetheless, its name means “pick me up, ” which is exactly what this coffee-based dessert does. Ladyfingers are dipped in strong coffee and layered with sweet mascarpone cream. This is one of my all-time favorite Italian desserts, and it’s also so simple to make at home!
Make it: Tiramisù is so easy to make at home with our full guide to Authentic Italian Tiramisù Recipe – The Only One You’ll Ever Need (+ Tips)
Esse di Raveo
(Pronounced ehs-seh dee rah-veh-noh in Italian)
This is a very simple and classic cookie, originating in Raveo, made from butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, and baking soda. The dough is shaped into the shape of an S before being baked until crisp.
(Pronounced strook-kee in Italian)
This is a typical sweet served during Christmas and Carnival made from shortcrust pastry that is stuffed with a nut-based filling typically made from things such as walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds and raisins, jams, candied citrus zest and just a touch of grappa or rum.
(Pronounced prehs-neetz in Italian)
This is a beautiful cake from Trieste similar looking to a rolled-up sausage that when sliced, reveals swirls of white dough and a dark, rich filling made from butter, sugar, raisins, cinnamon, and nuts such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and pine nuts. Some recipes stuff the dough and don’t roll it up to create a swirl effect but it is delicious just the same!
(Pronounced goo-bah-nah in Italian)
This leavened cake, traditionally served during the holidays, is filled with dried fruit and nuts, but it’s so good that it’s now eaten all year. Locals suggest soaking the cake in grappa before serving!
Lasagne ai Semi di Papavero
(Pronounced lah-sahn-yeh ahy seh-mee dee pah-pah-veh-roh in Italian)
This sweet pasta dish is made with fresh pasta sheets that are served with a mixture of cooked poppy seeds, butter, and sugar. It should be served warm and devoured before it cools off. There is also a savory version made with poppy seeds, prosciutto crudo, leeks, butter, gorgonzola and cream but the sweeter version truly is one-of-a-kind.
Flavors and Ingredients
- Rosa di Gorizia: a red radicchio variety from the Gorizia and Collio areas that resembles a rose bud. The flavor is bitter but nothing that can’t be improved by some good olive oil or by cooking it in orzetto (a barley soup).
- Aglio di Resia: a local variety of garlic originating in the province of Udine. The bulbs are small, containing six to eight sweet cloves that are covered in a pinkish-red skin.
- Radic di mont: a variety of chicory originating from Carnian that is harvested for only 15 days after the snow has melted. It’s then preserved in oil and enjoyed throughout the year. Locals like to make frittata and salads with them.
- Varhackara: this is a condiment made from chopped lard and cured meat offcuts such as salami, guanciale, pancetta and smoked speck. The mixture is seasoned with nutmeg and herbs before being jarred. It can be served on bread or heated up in a pan to make a sauce for gnocchi, cjarsons or for boiled vegetables.
- Tergeste extra virgin olive oil: this local olive oil from Trieste is made from a mix of Belica or Bianchera olive varieties and the Carbona, Leccino, Leccio del Corno, Frantoio, Maurino and Pendolino varieties. It has a mild fruity aroma and a light to mild sharp, spicy taste.
- Fagiolo di San Quirino: an Italian bean variety originating in San Quirino. The cooked beans are smooth and creamy, best used in soups and pastas.
- Ajvar: a smooth sauce made with charred red peppers, roasted eggplant, garlic, vinegar, and oil that is served with sausages, cold meats or various salami.
- Pestat di Fagagna: a Slow Food Presidium food, this was developed as a way to preserve flavors in pork fat to be used throughout the year. Ground lard is mixed with chopped carrots, onion, celery, sage, garlic, rosemary, parsley, salt, pepper, allspice and cinnamon and stuffed into a natural casing and left to age. It can then be used to flavor many dishes when cooking. Today, only two producers make this ancient ingredient so it may be hard to get your hands on.
- Asparagi bianchi: as the name describes, this white asparagus grows in the flat lands around Udine. They are larger than normal asparagus and grow only from April through May.
- Cren: this is what the locals call horseradish which is incorporated into various dishes and sauces to accompany meat. Very popular in Friuli.
- Prosecco: the best prosecco vineyards are just outside of Venice!
- Grappa: called sgnape by the locals, this ancient liquor has been around since the 6th century. Nonino is the largest producer but be sure to check out small, artisan distilleries while in Friuli if you love grappa (like I do!).
Foodie Experience: Consider touring prosecco wine country, just outside of Venice. Read more about this top tasting experience in Italy Foodie Bucket List – 17 Amazing Italian Culinary Experiences by Region
Bring it Home: Both canned radic di monte and the local grappa make great gifts or souvenirs to bring home with you in your checked suitcase. Read our full guide here for all our top souvenir picks!