My four-and-a-half-year-old son, William, and I were walking down the street in Manhattan recently, eating gelato from a shop called Grom, a new Piedmontese import, when he looked up at me with awe and said, “Everyone everywhere should be able to taste this incredible ice cream.” And then he stopped a stranger to extol the virtues of his chocolate dessert. This issue on Italy and Italian food, I guess, is our version of William’s “Hey, you’ve got to try this.”

For a long time, all that Americans knew about Italian food was the Americanized red-sauce version. How much we’ve learned since then—and how much more we still have to discover! In “12 Italian Classics You Need to Try Now,” we cover lesser-known regional recipes, from Sicily’s pistachio pesto to Emilia-Romagna’s addictive flat-bread sandwiches. In his Tasting Room column, Ray Isle brings us up-to-date on the best Italian wines under $20. Also be sure to check out Ray’s “Italian Grapes From A to Z”—an indispensable primer.

Though the food scene in Italy sometimes appears blissfully timeless, there are trends. In an interview with Anya von Bremzen, Marco Bolasco, one of the men behind the influential Gambero Rosso guides, shares his opinions about up-and-coming chefs. Author Nancy Harmon Jenkins tells us about a movement in trattoria cooking: a new breed of chefs creating a cuisine that’s bolder, more personal and more worldly. And writer Frank DiGiacomo profiles rocker Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, who will soon begin exporting organic olive oil and honey from their Tuscan estate to America.

I don’t know if this issue will inspire you to stop strangers on the street to share your Italian discoveries, William-style, but I hope it lures you into the kitchen or persuades you to buy a plane ticket to explore this cuisine at its source.

Where I’m Coming From

Notes From My Recent Expeditions:

Theo Randall at the InterContinental
I devoured the smoked eel with beets but would have happily eaten anything on Randall’s brilliant Italian menu.
Details 1 Hamilton Pl.; 011-44-20-7318-8747.

new york city
Keith McNally’s latest is better known for the scene than the food, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Manila clams with a spray of fregola. Details 211 Waverly Pl.; 212-627-7575.

Osteria al Doge
New York City
The pizza Margherita is perfect at my go-to lunch spot, across the street from F&W. Details 142 W. 44th St.; 212-944-3643.

I’d love to know about your favorite Italian restaurant anywhere in the world.