(CNN)One reason Sicilians tend to identify with Sicily first and Italy (a distant) second?
CNN’s Anthony Bourdain heads to Rome Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on “Parts Unknown.”
The same goes for Veneto in the north or Puglia in the south.
Italy is a young country — it only celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2011.
Despite the successful export of the “Italian restaurant,” the idea of a unified Italian cuisine is something many Italians reject.
Instead there are regional dishes, sometimes with tastes as different as you’d find between countries.
Umbria: Tagliatelle with truffles
In Umbria, it feels as if everything good to eat comes from the woods.
Game such as cinghiale (wild boar) works its way into every course — except dessert, of course.
Then there’s the fungus.
The black truffle grows just below ground level in deciduous forests all over the region.
Still more prized is the tartufo bianco (white truffle) that appears around Gubbio in late autumn.
The town’s Taverna del Lupo (Via Ansidei 6, Gubbio; +39 075 9274368) handles it skilfully.
The dish itself could hardly be simpler.
Simply toss fresh, handmade pasta strands with a little butter and some grated Parmigiano to taste, and as much truffle as you’re allowed.
Valle d’Aosta: Polenta with beef stewed in wine
A metaphorical million miles from a light, Mediterranean diet, food from the Valle d’Aosta region is a mountainous mix of cheese, butter and hearty stews.
The staple carb is the cornmeal porridge polenta, traditionally cooked in an iron cauldron.
Paired with beef stewed in wine, a carbonada, it meets the calorific demands of a day on the ski slopes or mountain trails.
Veneto: Rice and pea risotto
Nothing betrays the cucina povera (peasant cooking) roots of Venetian cuisine quite like the city’s most famous dish.
Risi e bisi, rice and peas (“bisi” is “peas” in Venetian dialect), is more soup-like than most northern Italian risotto dishes.
The peas and rice float in a vegetable broth made from a simple base of onion and pancetta — the fatty, cured-pork cut.
Venice never had a king, but this dish was certainly fit for the doge — a kind of chief magistrate.
It was traditionally served at the annual Doge’s banquet, held on April 25, the saint’s day of the city’s patron, St. Mark.
Still hungry? The “Slow Food Dictionary of Italian Regional Cooking” (Slow Food Editore) spends 570 pages chewing lovingly over the nuances of — and arguments about — Italian regional cooking.
What’s the most delicious regional Italian dish you’ve tried? Share your culinary knowledge in the comments field below.