Because of its diverse geography from alpine to flatlands, the cuisine of Northern Italy differs between the various locales. In general though, in the north, since olives do not grow in the colder climate, butter is favored over olive oil. Walnut oil is also sometimes used instead of olive oil. Risotto and polenta are more popular than pasta. And in the winter time, rich, hearty soups are the norm. Along the coast, fish and seafood such as eels, mussels, and clams make an appearance in local dishes. Northern Italy is also home to numerous lakes making freshwater fish, as well as duck and other wild birds typical ingredients.
Northern Italy is also home to Gorgonzola cheese, although the claim to precisely where the cheese originated is still disputed by several towns. Other unique cheeses produced in the region include Parmigiano-Reggiano, Fontina, and Asiago.
In the regions located near to the borders, tastes have been influenced by Austrian, German, Swiss, and Slovenian cuisine. You'll find sauerkraut in their minestrone, but they call it jota. There's also the local version of Wiener schnitzel, breaded veal scallop, which is called Cotoletta alla Milanese in Italy. Fonduta is a fondue-like cheese dip make with milk and eggs. Strudels are a common dessert, particularly in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.
Other specialties of Northern Italy include focaccia, a flat bread topped with herbs, which originated in the Liguria region. This region is also known for pesto, as well as its traditional vegetarian cuisine. With so many delicious dishes, it's hard to choose a favorite meal!