Like many other cuisines it's about local and quality ingredients. I have no ambition to master Italian cooking but since it's the source of Europe cooking, I need to understand. What Italian food is all about?! Pasta, tomato, olive oil, wine, ham, polenta, risotto... it's a combination of peasant and roman cooking with the touch of Mediterranean cooking and little Spanish influence. My perspective might change, but at least for now, that is!