Food in Friuli-Venezia Giulia reflects its cultural eclecticism, with the legacy of the Austro-Hungarian era always present. The food tends to be hearty and uncomplicated, from thick soups to warming stews, such as the ubiquitous goulash. This is the home of prosciutto, the best of which comes from San Daniele, and you will be offered plates of affettati or home-cured meats as part of a meal or to accompany a glass of wine. Pasta and gnocchi come with a Friulian twist, sweet and salty flavours combined; try cialzons, a pasta filled with spinach, chocolate, raisins and nutmeg. Jota is the local soup, a bean and sauerkraut combination with the possible addition of pork or sausage, good on a cold day. Friuli’s signature dish is frico, a type of potato cake; potato and Montasio cheese grated together, fried until golden brown and served up with polenta. Another speciality is brovada, made from wine-fermented turnips and served with sausage. Desserts tend towards cakes and pastries, usually filled with nuts, dried fruit and alcohol – look out for presnitz, strukliji and gubana. The Austrian influence makes itself felt in the form of strudel, filled with fruit or ricotta cheese.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is Italy’s third most important quality wine region, after Piedmont and Tuscany, and has long been acclaimed for its fragrant, elegant whites. The two premium regions are the Collio and the Colli Orientali del Friuli, hilly zones sharing a border with Slovenia. Tocai or Sauvignon Vert is the most widely planted grape variety and the white wine you will generally be offered; pale in colour it is usually drunk young and makes a perfect aperitif. In 2007 Tocai underwent a name change, due to a long-running legal battle with Hungary, and is now simply called Friulano. Although the region is better known for its whites, the reputation of its red varietals and blends is catching up fast. Top reds include Cabernet Franc, Refosco or Terrano as it called around Trieste, and best of all, the obscure Schioppettino. Last but not least is the cult dessert wine Picolit, produced in very small quantities and commanding high prices.