Situated in the northern region of Italy, Bergamo has been widely acclaimed as a city with a rare beauty. It is famous for its rich culture, artistic treasures, and medieval architecture. Although it isn't the most popular travel destination, since Milan is just so close to it, Bergamo has so much to offer tourists and first-time travelers, especially when it comes to its cuisines.
Trying the best street food in Bergamo is one way to get acquainted with the city’s local specialties. Head to Citta Mercato, and you’ll find a dozen street food stalls and food trucks to satisfy your cravings. The vegetarian restaurants in Bergamo won’t disappoint you either, even if you’re a dedicated meat eater. During your stay, you’ll get to indulge in traditional Italian cuisine and feast on local dishes and staples of the region.
No matter your taste and budget, you don’t have to stress about where and what to eat in Bergamo. There are desserts such as Stracciatella gelato and Polenta e Osei, and savory delights, like Casoncelli Bergamaschi, to enjoy. Whether you find yourself at a small corner joint or fine dining in one of the best restaurants, an Italian pizza is always to die for! It just can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world.
Get ready for a food tour in this magnificent city in Northern Italy. Drop your bags off at a luggage storage facility in Bergamo, and let’s discover the unique local dishes you must try.
Bergamo Food: Polenta
If there’s one plate to represent Bergamo, then it would probably be Polenta. It’s a popular cornmeal porridge dish that is said to come from farmers in Northern Italy. It was once considered a peasant dish, essential to peasant and working-class families, as it’s simple to make yet highly satisfying.
It was made with cornmeal, legumes, and beans and traditionally poured on a large wooden board to cool down and harden. Then it was cut into portions using a string. Through the years, the dish has been passed down over generations and has become a staple dish of the city to the present day.
It’s up to you how you want to prepare and eat polenta. You can make your own twist on it and pair it with cheese, meat, and vegetables, but don’t forget its main ingredients: cornmeal, water, and salt.
If you want to make a different version of this dish, an elaborate polenta spin-off you can try is called polenta Taragna. It’s a typical dish of the Bergamo valleys made with buckwheat flour or corn flour and yellow cornmeal. Then it is enriched with cheese and butter you can mix before serving.
Bergamo Food: Strangolapreti
Whether it's your first time in Bergamo or not, there is one thing you should never miss out on – a taste of the Strangolapreti. It seems intimidating at first glance, but you’ll likely find it tasty and filling once you try it. It’s a local cuisine that many tourists enjoy once they get over its unusual look.
The name strangolapreti comes from the words "strangola" and "prete" which mean choke and priest, respectively, thus also called "priest chokers." The name might sound unusual, but the story behind its name can be dated back to the Council of Trent. It refers to the clergymen who would eat too much of this dish to the point of choking.
Strangolapreti is a type of gnocchi or dumpling made with stale bread instead of the usual potatoes. It’s a tasty and smart way not to waste leftover bread. Stragolapteti dough is usually solid and hearty and is made with bread, cheese, eggs, and spinach. You can serve it as a side dish or let it float in a hot bowl of homemade chicken broth.
Bergamo Food: Casoncelli Bergamaschi
If you're up for a holiday in Bergamo, there is only one thing you must do, and that is to eat local food, especially its tasty pasta dishes. The city has so much to offer tourists, and there are plenty of options, from food stalls to the best restaurants. But if you're having a hard time deciding what to eat in Bergamo, nothing will go wrong with Casoncelli Bergamaschi.
Like most traditional Italian food, Casoncelli Alla Bergamasca is born as an attempt to make new recipes out of leftover food. This dish is basically fresh-filled pasta, shaped in a very particular way. If you want to try it out, it would not be hard on you since this cuisine can be found on almost all restaurant menus and even served at a wine bar.
Casoncelli Bermagaschi is typical of Lombardy’s culinary tradition, so you can find a version of this dish in various parts of the region. However, Bergamo’s version of this stuffed pasta has beef or pork filling. Then it is served with butter sauce, sage, and pancetta.
Bergamo Food: Stracciatella Gelato
Bergamo is not only famous for its numerous savory treats and pasta dishes. It also offers locals and tourists an overload of sweetness with its very own dessert, the stracciatella gelato. This sweet refreshment has a long story of how it was made and remains the most sought dessert even after so many years.
Did you know that it was in Bergamo where the famous stracciatella-flavored ice cream was born? In 1961, stracciatella was first made in Bergamo, at the Ristorante La Marianna. This dessert was inspired by the stracciatella soup, with broth and egg as the main ingredients.
Through the years, different varieties and twists have been made, but of course, nothing will beat the original. Enrico Panattoni, the owner of La Marianna, invented stracciatella ice cream after combining fiordillate flavor with dark chocolate flakes, giving birth to a delicious legend many know now as stracciatella ice cream or gelato. Stracciatella is a variety of gelato that has become well-known all over the world. So, when in Bergamo, make sure to try this out.
Bergamo Food: Polenta e Osei
Travelling can be tiring and stressful, even if you are on vacation. In Bergamo, you can relieve stress by trying the different cuisines the city offers. And one of the most renowned specialties of Bergamo's cooking is the polenta e Osei. This delightful sweet is one of the few dishes in the city that is sure to ease your day.
The dish is called polenta e osei, though not necessarily made of polenta. It looks like a mound of polenta with a ‘small bird’ or osei as a topping. It is a specialty dish and a popular dessert that originated in Bergamo, created in 1910 by a baker named Alessio Amadeo with his wife. On the outside, it may look like an actual polenta dish, but what it really hides under it is a sweet treat.
Polenta e osei is made by stacking layers of sponge cake made of maize flour with a chocolate filling, butter, hazelnut cream, and rum. The cake is then covered with yellow marzipan, and the center is daubed with apricot jam. Then they are topped with chocolate shapes representing little birds. They are made from marzipan and covered with a layer of chocolate.
Bergamo Food: Pizza
It’s just hard to take our beloved Italian pizza off this list! Italy is, without a doubt, a pizza-loving country, and pizza is definitely one of the most popular fast food enjoyed in every part of the world. Its origin can be traced back to Naples, Italy, an eight-hour drive from Bergamo. It’s a much-loved, fast, and affordable tasty meal you can find anywhere. But nothing beats a pizza made in the country where it came from.
In Bergamo, it doesn't really matter if it is a small food joint or a five-star restaurant. Your pizza experience here cannot be matched by anything in the world. Pizzas in Bergamo will never disappoint you. You don't have to visit Naples for authentic pizza because this city has a lot of pizza places worth exploring.
Locals in the city would highly recommend tourists to try Da Mimmo in the Citta Alta. This restaurant was established way back in 1953. The place has maintained its traditional and refreshing atmosphere that both the locals and tourists enjoy. Check out the place and try their Margherita pizza. This recipe was awarded a Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which directly translates to Protected Designation of Origin.
Bergamo Food: Risotto alla bergamasca
Are you craving a traditional Italian rice dish? Risotto is a favorite hearty meal made using a short-grained starchy rice variety. Then it is combined with other flavor-boosting ingredients, such as garlic, onions, herbs, meats, spices, cheese, and vegetables.
There are different kinds of risotto, but if you want to try Bergamo’s twist on this dish, sample their risotto alla bergamasca. This version is quick and simple to prepare. Besides the rice, you’ll need butter, carrots, peas, zucchini, onions, extra virgin olive oil, parsley, and dry white wine. To add flavor, it’s best to use chicken or vegetable stock or parmesan cheese.
It's cooked the slow way but is definitely worth the wait. It works well with grilled meats and chicken dishes and can be added with mushrooms to create a tasty mushroom risotto.
Bergamo Food: Foiade
Wondering what to eat in Bergamo but hungry for pasta? Bergamo is not only known for its mouthwatering Casoncelli Bergamaschi, but also for its savory Foiade. It is a favorite traditional Sunday dish of the local culinary tradition and has been prepared on holidays.
This square-rhomboid egg pasta comes from Val Brembana, a valley located in the Bergamo province. It originally came from the scraps of flour sheets used to prepare other pasta dishes but is now a delightful pasta on its own.
Every village around the province uses a unique type of flour and has its own favorite topping and pasta shape. Some home cooks use corn flour, semolina flour, or chestnut flour; it doesn’t really matter as long as you achieve the right texture and consistency. Porcini mushrooms are a common topping, but you can sprinkle it with grated parmesan. It can also be prepared in various ways using different flavors.
Bergamo Food: Osso Buco
Another Italian classic that deserves a spot on your dinner table is Osso Buco, also spelled Ossobuco. It comes from the Lombardy region and is made from cross-cut veal shanks, braised slowly with broth, tomatoes, and white wine. It literally translated ‘hole of bone’ as the succulent marrow provides a rich flavor to the sauce.
Osso Buco is a delicious Italian comfort food perfect for the cool winter months. You can find it in some of the best restaurants in Bergamo, but it can also be cooked at home, though it requires a bit of patience. Since shank is a tough cut of meat, slow cooking is a must to achieve a texture that melts in your mouth. Once ready, you can garnish it with gremolata, which is a green herbaceous sauce oozing with bright flavors. It’s also a great accompaniment to garlic, lemon zest, and parsley.
No matter your taste or preference, you’ll definitely love Bergamo food. But you can’t eat local and not try the city’s wines or pair your favorite local dishes with a glass of local sparkling wines from the booming wine region. The province of Bergamo is surrounded by expansive wineries and vineyards you can visit and tour for tastings and food pairings. It’s an extraordinary destination you should consider if you are a wine lover or want to delve deeper into the area’s culinary tradition.
After your food adventure and you wish to shed off calories from guilty pleasures, invite your friends and tackle the best hikes in Bergamo. Some are easy hikes, while others are a bit challenging, but once you reach your destination, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the historic city and the Italian Alps. You can also meander around Piazza Vecchia, near the Bergamo Train Station, and get some extra steps in!