When buying Italian products, you gotta look out for red n’ yellow starburst labels with the letters “DOP”.
It’s a small detail that can make *all* the difference between taking home legit Italian foods and, well, copycat watered-down versions.
Italy produces some of the highest amount of packaged foods –– all that yummy cheese! –– but sadly, almost 2 out of 3 Italian-inspired goods on the international market aren’t really from Italy.
If you dig Italian food, read on so you can be in the know about buying only the good Italian stuff.
So –– what does DOP mean, anyway?
DOP stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, AKA protected designation of origin.
Basically, it’s the EU’s trademark on food whose unique features totally depend on the environment where they’re produced.
Think balsamic vinegar from Modena and basil pesto from Genoa –– both are products that were made by locals, using local ingredients.
Literally everything, from the people involved to the packaging are bound to tons of strict regulations to actually receive DOP designation.
And it’s not always easy! For example, olive oil that’s made in its local region that doesn’t use traditional methods might not get DOP certification.
Gotcha. But why does consuming DOP food really matter?
Let’s put it this way: you’re hosting an Italian-themed dinner party. You’ve gone out of your way to look up traditional recipes, head to the store and feeling *so* ready to bring it.
Do you wanna go home with parmigiano reggiano that’s authentically Italian… Or that was manufactured in California?
If it doesn’t have a DOP label –– it’s a different scene.
It’s not to say that that is always the easiest option to buy DOP (in fact, it’s likely that non-DOP foods are probably cheaper) for everyone, but we think it’s interesting to highlight how much work goes into certifying those goods.
Some DOP-labelled-goodies that are great to try:
- DOP balsamic vinegar from Modena (a drizzle in olive oil makes for the perfect salad dressing)
- DOP San Marzano tomatoes (perfect for your pasta dish)
- DOP prosciutto di Parma (Italians eat with melon in summer)
- DOP mozzarella di Bufala (you’ll have zero regrets)
And if you’re in Italy, our guides can show you the best food in Florence, Cinque Terre and Rome when you book a day tour in Italy –– if you’re in the market for remember-forever foodie moments.
Any other Italian food abbreviations I should know about?
If you’re a wine lover, yes!
There’s a few more three-letter labels to keep in mind, if you’re committing to authentic Italian products all the way.
- IGP (indicazione geografica protetta) means protected geographical indication. That means instead of everything needing to be produced in a particular area, just one stage of the production has to happen in the traditional spot at the minimum.
- DOC (denominazione di origine controllata) means controlled designation of origin, which means that the product likely has some characteristics that are related to its natural environment. You’re most likely to notice this label on wines! A couple to keep an eye out for: Chianti, Marsala and Bardolino.
And if a product has been DOC-approved for at least 10 years…
It gets one more letter added on –– to make it DOCG, meaning controlled and guaranteed destination of origin. Wines that have a DOCG label are known for being incredibly reputable and are likely a good pick.
Great DOCG wines to try when you wanna treat yourself:
- Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany
- Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Abruzzo
- Colli Euganei Fiori d’Arancio from Venice
Want to pair DOP foods with good company?
Here are our favorite DOP picks, and how we can help you enjoy them if you’re visiting Italy.
- DOP Basilica di Genova. We adore Genoa, and we’ll take you to the best spots to try Genovese pesto when you hang out with us during a Cinque Terre tour.
- DOP Tuscan olive oil. Seriously, it’s the best in the world. Drizzled on freshly baked bread. Coating cast iron pans, ready for your fiorentina steak. Tuscan olive oil = liquid gold! You can have foodie moments with this gem playing center stage on our Florence tours.
- DOP Pecorino Romano cheese. Mmm. The base of every good cacio e pepe, which is our go-to meal in Rome. We’re rolling out day tours to Rome soon –– email us to let us know if you want us to show you the best of what the Eternal City has to offer!
So –– want our guides to show you the best food in Florence, Cinque Terre or Rome?
You’ll be able to choose from a handful of our curated experiences and experience these cities (and the restaurants) the way you would with a friend.
Italy is infinitely better when you’ve got our tour team showing you the way.
Got questions about our day tours or about our 7-10 night journeys? Leave a comment below!
Photos 2, 5, 11 by Leela Cyd