The preconceived notion that Italian food consists of about fifteen dishes found at the Italian food joints in the US is false. In fact, Italian food has a wide variety and varies greatly across the country. The different regional cuisines found in Italy take cues from surrounding nations and spice it up with a lit of bit of local creativity to provide the inimitable Italian cuisine. A great example of the fore-said is the cuisine from the region of Fruili-Venezia Giulia.
The region has a common border with the formerly Soviet nation of Yugoslavia, and has a lot of customs and traditions (including culinary) in common. The Italian food from this region has a strong Austrian, Hungarian, Croatian, and Slovenian influence. The beer halls in this region show the most apparent influence. Dishes such as Goulash and Viennese sausage are available here, goulash which originally was a Hungarian dish, acquired the distinct Italian taste from this area and can be found in restaurants in and outside of Italy. The dish is very popular in this area, and constitutes a thick beef stew and vegetables available locally such as red peppers and onions. It is thick and the seasoning is done with paprika, and is usually served along with pasta. Another popular dish at the local beer halls is the Bohemian hare.
Pork is the commonly used meat here. It is essential for tourists visiting this region to try the San Daniele del Friuli hams. The hams are the staple food of the locals. The entire region is well known for its sausages and bacon. In fact the local dish named jota which is unique to this area is a dish made with bacon and beans. The pork that is available here is spicy and usually comes off as a shock to the foreigners and tourists not accustomed to this fiery brand of Italian cooking. The pork is usually cooked on a open hearth. It is a part of many dishes.
A lot of other foods are specific to this area. Italian food has a sweeter side to it, an example of it being strudel. A lot of desserts here are based on flour and strudel is the most common. Another common dish that is found in this region is polenta. It constitutes boiled cornmeal and forms a part of the staple diet of this region, and can be served along with most types of Italian cuisine, including cheese and meat dishes. It is very similar to the American grit.
Another Italian staple food that deserves a mention from this region is cheese. The Montasio cheese which is famous the world over comes from this area. If you like Italian cuisine with lot of cheese in it, instead of mozzarella, then this is definitely the area for you. The last dish that requires mention is the brovada. This dish is very unique to this region, and can simply be put as turnips preserved in marc. It is certainly not a dish that most people associate with Italian cuisine, but it definitely is a dish that is very unique to Italy, due to which it forms an very important part of Italian cuisine. The next time you decide to visit a Italian restaurant, try to experiment with the different regional cuisines on offer. Branching out is the key words here.