14 Simple Italian Food and Wine Pairings

a seafood feast from a local trattoria in Calabria, including sardine, swordfish, cod, octopus, etc.

When it comes to Italian food and wine pairings we’re big believers in two things:

  1. Don’t listen to critics, but rather find your own combinations of wine and food (based on pleasant things happening in your mouth).
  2. If possible, and this is a big “if”, try to map the ingredients of a given area to the wine of the same region (the logic is simple: both products came from the same place thus they’re meant to be consumed together).  I qualify this statement because one of the nice things about living in the 21st century is that one has great access to variety of wines and, thus, shouldn’t limit him or herself to pairing regional wine with regional food (this would get boring fairly quickly).

With the above said, here are 15 simple Italian food and wine pairings (the wines aren’t necessarily Italian, but they are all readily available in both Italy and the United States):

1. Syrah is ideal for any spicy dish emanating from regions like Calabria and Sicilia, including red pepper flake laden tomato sauce, roasted capretto with chiles, etc.

2. Cabernet Sauvignon goes well with bistecca alla Fiorentina (or Porterhouse) bistecchine di maiale alla griglia (pork chops), or spiedini di coniglio (rabbit with sausage)

3. Zinfandel
, 4. Nero d’Avola and 5. Monastrell pair nicely with rustic dishes such as polenta and sausage, chicken cacciatore, and roasted rack of lamb (Agnello)

6. Pinot Noir
 and 7. Dolcetto are marvelous with a wild mushroom risotto, roasted herbed chicken, hearty pizzas, and stuffed squid/calamari (Chianti works here as well).

8. Pinot Grigio
 is ideal for lighter and delicate fish such as flounder, branzino, cod, and monkfish.

9. Prosecco
 and 10. Champagne pair well with any salty antipasto such as cured meats, rice balls or arancini, sun dried tomatoes on bruschetta, etc

11. Chardonnay
 is a good match for salmon with Italian herbs, grilled swordfish with caramelized onions.  In general, any less delicate (and fatty) fish is a good pairing for chardonnay (including tuna, sardines, mackerel, etc.)

12. Merlot
 got a bad image because of the film Sideways put it pairs well with pizza with any topping, as well as veal chops, bracciole, and even roasted rabbit.

13. Chianti
 is ideal for tomato sauces and even herb based sauces like garlic and parsley and pesto.

14. Sauvignon Blanc goes well with a fresh tomato salad, arugula, canned tuna or sardines, and simple cheeses.

If you’re looking for more specific Italian wine and Italian food pairing, see Food and Wine’s nice cheat-sheet.


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