The Best Italian Food Gifts
The wide variety of cheeses, truffles, chocolates, pasta, baked goods, vinegars, oils—and other authentic, regional food products “Made in Italy”—are beloved across the globe. Even their attractive packaging reflects Italian style and design and often comes in seasonal red and green colors.
At any time of year—but especially during the holiday season—a gift of fine foods is an expression of affection that is always appreciated, and one that will be remembered by friends, family, or business colleagues.
Forbes.com searched for some of the best Italian food gifts available online that offer special panache for food enthusiasts and home chefs:
Sant Ambroeus Milanese Coffee and Sweets
The Sant Ambroeus brand dates back to 1936 when two pastry chefs opened a cafe in Milan steps from the famous opera house, La Scala. It soon turned into a popular meeting place for visitors and locals. In 1982, the brand, made its way across the Atlantic, opening its first U.S. store on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue. Since that time, the hospitality group grew to create restaurants, coffee bars, and a gelateria in New York City, Southampton, and Palm Beach.
The Ultimate Italian Gift Box reflects the soul of Milanese culture, featuring Sant Ambroeus’ seasonal Panettone, olive oil, chocolates, cookies and more. The holiday box also includes the recently published Sant Ambroeus: The Coffee Bar Cookbook with 75 unique recipes, including coffee drinks; breads; light fare such as tramezzini and panini, cookies, cakes and pastries; and the famed gelati and sorbetti, to transport gift recipients to Milan.
Priced at $250
Venchi Chocolates from Piemonte
This venerable gourmet chocolate company dates back more than 140 years with roots in Turin (Piemonte), one of Italy’s chocolate capitals. A 20-year-old chocolate lover, Silviano Venchi, spent his savings to purchase two bronze cauldrons; from that humble beginning, the company grew into a global powerhouse with outlets in 70 countries, creating more than 350 chocolate recipes and 90 gelato flavors. All these delectable chocolates are made with high-quality, natural ingredients; many feature hazelnuts and pistachios from the region that will appeal to anyone with a sweet tooth.
Venchi always has attractive packaging but for the 2021 holiday season, it is offering two attractive chocolate-filled Advent Calendars. Gift recipients are able to indulge in a selection of delectable milk and dark chocolates as they count down the days until Christmas. The regular Advent Calendar is pre-filled; the artful Prestige Advent Calendar features four drawers whose contents can be customized at a Venchi boutique. Online, the calendar is pre-filled with Venchi’s best-sellers including Cremino and Chocoviar.
Both calendars are available for sale on Amazon, at Venchi’s own website, and at its three chocolate boutiques in New York City. The regular Advent Calendar is priced at $23.90. The Prestige Advent Calendar starts at $99 (prices vary, depending upon the chocolates selected).
Balsamic Vinegar from Modena
For many centuries, balsamic vinegar has been produced for home consumption in the attics of families living in the province of Modena, in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region. So precious are these vinegars that barrels for making this “black gold” are often passed from generation to generation as wedding gifts.
Balsamic vinegar from Modena is definitely a culinary splurge but even when used sparingly, it enhances the flavor of almost any dish. (You can even drizzle it over ice cream.)
However, consumers often don’t realize that not all balsamic vinegar is the same. Two vinegar products overseen by a consortium of balsamic producers are recognized by the European Union for their exceptional quality, adherence to traditional production methods and defined geographic origins: the Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) and the top-of-the-line Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).
In Modena, small producers like the Acetaia Gambigliani Zoccoli, offer factory and vineyard visits, tastings and classes to convey their passion for this unique product, which is also available online, shipped directly from the producer.
Priced at $115
AOP Agriform Cheeses from Northern Italy
AOP Agriform is a dairy cooperative that promotes the finest Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) cheeses to U.S. consumers “from the heart of Europe.” The production of these PDO products conforms to very specific rules established by the European Union to assure their quality and authenticity: Like other PDO products, they are always produced in a defined geographic area using specific ingredients and techniques passed down from one generation to another.
This selection of Agriform formaggi from northeastern Italy curated by Eataly are crowd-pleasers as aperitivi, in holiday dishes, or after-dinner, especially for the holidays. The cheese bundle includes DOP Montasio (from provinces in the Venezia Giulia and Veneto region); DOP Piave Stravecchio(also from Veneto); two different kinds of Parmigiano Reggiano (from Emilia Romagna), DOP Parmigiano Reggiano Brown Cow and Parmigiano Reggiano DOP 18 Month; Grana Padano (produced in five regions from Piedmont to Veneto and down part of Emilia Romagna), and Asiago Fresco Black Wax (produced in the mountain pastures of the Asiago Plateau and the Trentino region).
Priced at $93.90
Fabrizia Lemon Spirits and Baked Goods from Sicily
The Fabrizia Lemon Baking Company is a family-owned business that incorporates its award-winning Fabrizia Limoncello into each and every one of its baked goods.
All of the lemons used (about a half million of them) are sourced directly from Sicily to make the spirits and baked goods. These zesty Sicilian lemons are the sole ingredient providing the fresh lemon flavor and color to Fabrizia’s products, which include swoon-worthy cookies, biscotti, lemon loaves, blondies, cake jars and whoopie pies.
The Holiday Cheer Box includes 5 Limoncello Cookies, 6 Limoncello Biscotti, 5 Limoncello Truffles, 5 limoncello Hard Candies Made, and 2 Lemon Napkins. It comes nestled in yellow tissue paper packaged in a Deluxe Blue Fabrizia Lemon Baking Company Box.
Priced at $39.99
A Taste of Truffles from EatTiamo
EatTiamo is a 100% Italian startup, born in La Spezia (Liguria) and based in Italy and New York, that lovingly designs gift boxes of undiscovered, high-quality Italian delicacies. Customers have a choice of purchasing “Italy in a Box” as a monthly subscription or buying them individually for themselves or as gifts for the food lovers in their life.
The Truffle Experience Food Basket offers a taste of Piedmont’s most coveted specialty foods including white and black truffles from Alba. Truffles can elevate the taste of simple pastas, rice or eggs to gastronomic heights. This box features six ingredients to prepare a gourmet Italian risotto for four people. The basket includes: Tartuflanghe truffle bites, breadsticks infused with black truffle aromas (perfect for snacking or with an aperitivo; Cascina San Cassiano Parmigiano Reggiano and truffle spread (to spread warm on bread); Gli Aroni gluten-free white truffle risotto; savory Gli Aroni porcini mushroom risotto; and Bunet dessert by Tartuflanghe, a traditional, ready-to-eat Piedmontese dessert made from milk, cocoa and amaretti; and Deseo classic Italian shortbread cookies.
Priced at $79
Tastes of Sicily from Bona Furtuna
Corleone was once known as the birthplace of Mafia capos (and more recently for its anti-Mafia museum) but just outside this Sicilian town is an almost 750-acre organic farm with lofty goals: Bona Furtuna is committed to biodiversity, sustainable farming and the preservation of heritage foods. Also, as a member of 1% For the Planet, the company contributes 1% of all sales to the preservation and restoration of the environment.
This artisan Corleone Italian gift set from Bona Furtuna arrives in an authentic souvenir gift box decorated by an in-house watercolor artist. The contents include Heritage Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Original Marinara Pasta Sauce, Sicilian Sea Salt and Organic Herb Blend, Sicilian Sea Salt (from Trapani) with Basil, and Mamma Rose’s Herb Blend. The products transport the flavors of Sicily to any food preparation.
Priced at $130
Regional Food Baskets from Eataly
According to its website, “Eataly stands for “Eating Italian’ which encompasses the history and the food culture of Italy, the ease to prepare its dishes, and the many qualities that Italy has to offer.”
If you’re seeking food products from any region of Italy—either ones that you’re passionate about or ones you haven’t had the chance to try—you are likely to find them at Eataly. Since its opening in Turin in 2007, the firm has launched Italian food emporiums in some 35 locations around the world, including U.S. stores in Chicago, Dallas, NYC, Boston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Dallas. The stores are somewhat akin to curated museums of Italian products and the company is an ideal online destination for holiday gifts.
Eataly has curated collections of authentic food and drink products from artisanal Italian producers that showcase the best of various cities and regions. All the baskets are hand-packed with a bow and delivered to gift recipients with a festive card. For example, the “When In Cinque Terre” gift basket overflows with Ligurian favorites such as fresh basil pesto, flavorful fig preserves, and Italian Riviera extra virgin olive oil. It also includes the typical regional pastas, Foglie D’Ulivo and Trofiette, as well as walnut sauce, pitted olives, cookies and tomato passata.
Priced at $119.90
The “When in Milano” gift box features specialties from the fashion capital and design capital of Italy that also is revered as the birthplace of risotto alla Milanese. This gift basket includes the typical local products of Lombardy, from saffron risotto and the traditional holiday panettone cake, to the sweet amaretti cookies and sweet-and-sour fig mostarda. It also includes pasta, pesto, salted almonds and dark chocolate truffles.
Priced at $119.90
Don’t miss taking a look at the full collection of Eataly holiday baskets here:
Tastes of Verona from the Dolceterra Collection
Dolceterra is an online specialty food purveyor that partners with regional producers, traditional workshops, vineyards, and wineries to deliver the finest culinary treasures of Italy to its customers. (The Italian expression dolce terra means “sweet land.”)
As one example, the attractive Arena di Verona gift box with a transparent window embraces the richness of the culinary heritage of Verona and Romagna (the southeast portion of Emilia Romagna). It is filled to the brim with an assortment of prestigious local cheeses, traditional meats, and more. These products include Parmigiano Reggiano Vacche Rosse (aged 24 months), DOP Monte Veronese, DOP Montasio Fresco,Caciottina nostrana La Tondina, Pecorino Re Nero, mostards, sweet onions in oil, salami with wild fennel, artichokes in olive oil and and a sparkling Rose wine.
Priced at $211
Cuiline Cooking Class with a Tuscan Chef
Cuiline sponsors online cooking classes via Zoom that bring renowned regional chefs from Italy (and other destinations around the world) into the home kitchens of people who love food and travel. The company’s three-hour, three-course Gourmet Experiences are designed as immersive culinary and cultural experiences. In small groups or privately, guests prepare several different regional dishes with ample time to ask questions and chat with the chef about techniques and ingredients. The sessions are perfect for a memorable virtual hangout with friends and family who don’t live close by. Guests can also choose to dine together after the class in a virtual private dining room.
As one example, the Tastes of Tuscany menu with Chef Antonella includes preparing Tuscan Panzanella (a sourdough bread salad of basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions); hand rolled Pici Pasta with Ragù Toscano (rustic pasta in a rich and meaty tomato sauce; and a dessert of Tiramisu (a creamy, chocolatey cake laced with brandy and espresso).
The company offers gift certificates for classes as well as the option of including delivery of all the cooking ingredients to a gift recipient’s door. The Tastes of Tuscany classes start at $85 or $235 (for two participants) with a full home-delivered ingredient kit (additional servings are priced at $60 each)
Be sure to check the respective websites for additional details and shipping charges.