The regional kitchens of Italy are brilliantly diverse, and the Calabrian table is finally being appreciated for its unique produce and recipes. Foods typical of Calabria include bergamot, a citrus fruit grown in orchards around Reggio Calabria; sweet red onions from Tropea; caciocavallo, a tangy, salty cow’s milk cheese; hot red peppers; seafood, including swordfish, tuna, octopus and rock lobster brought in from the waters of the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas; and ’nduja, a pepper-spiked pork spread. (’Nduja is now available in the United States, and La Quercia charcuterie company in Norwalk, Iowa, makes a domestic version, which is sold on Amazon and in specialty stores; it’s excellent on pasta and in scrambled eggs.)
Among the many Calabrian dishes to sample during a trip here are these standouts: lagane e cicciari (wide noodles with chickpeas sautéed in olive oil and garlic), maccaruni e casa (a pasta made of durum wheat semolina prepared by wrapping a sheet of pasta around a thin cane to create a hollow tube), stoccafisso (dried salt cod prepared in a variety of ways, including with parsley, wedges of potato and tomato purée) and licurdia (a rich vegetable soup based on Tropea onions).
Recently, Calabria has seen a restaurant renaissance, with talented native-born chefs opening eateries that reinvent traditional foods and recipes for the 21st century.