Italian food stereotypes, no grazie!

It’s only when I left  Italy – where I was born and lived for 23 years – that I really realized how the world see us.

As in most countries in the world, population and culture are different in different regions, and I truly believe the place where you grow up shapes you and the person you are going to be. However, I believe that if you are Italian (born and grew up in Italy), there is a part of you that you will always share, not just with the Italian population, but with your country – meaning the geographical region, with that sun, that sea, that smell, that food.

My husband told me more than once that he cannot wait to go to Italy to understand how a tomato tastes like. Because I can tell you right now, here in Canada I have never had the privilege to eat fruits and veggies with the same flavour. After all, we are not in Italy, and things – good or bad – cannot be the same.

In North America, for example, it’s so easy to see the word “Italian” associated to any food, and I get so upset sometimes because to me it just looks like a trend, nothing more.
I have to say I do not believe Italian food is the best in the world, and I’m glad I’m now able to learn and try so many different styles of cooking. But it really hurts when people pretend to know what Italian is, when the reality is they sell food we don’t even have in Italy!

So I hope to help all of you, at least to understand a little better. You can enjoy your food even if it’s not Italian, so why calling Italian something that is not?

If you are opening a restaurant and you want to give it an Italian name, please have good sense and open a dictionary to check the spelling. Same thing for your menu.
While I totally understand pronunciation mistakes – hey, English is not my first language either, and I do make a lot of mistakes  – I find very sad spelling mistakes in a business name or in a restaurant menu that calls itself “Italian”, even worse if “authentic Italian”.

There is no such a thing as “LINGUINI” (linguine) “SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE” or “BOLOGNA PASTA” (spaghetti/pasta alla bolognese), “GNOCCHI PASTA” (gnocchi), “FETTUCINE” (fettuccine), “SALAMI” which is salame, and “PANINI” which is panino.

While pizza – beside the classics margherita, quattro stagioni, quattro formaggi, bianca, marinara, prosciutto, calzone – can have different names often given by the owner or the chief (pizzaiolo), names for pasta dishes are very important. So, if you decide to have you menu in Italian, please check the spelling! A missing “C” or “I” instead of “E” can make a big difference and change the meaning of the word!

Also: you can put in your pizza anything you like, even “pepperoni” or pineapple, but if somebody is selling you something like that in an Italian restaurant….well, be aware we do not have anything like it in Italy.

We do not have:
- Alfredo sauce in Italy!!!! That is NOT Italian!
- Pollo parmigiana, or even worst “parmegiana”
- Pesto is a sauce for pasta, and it’s not suppose to go anywhere else. So if you read the word “pesto” with “pollo” or “pizza”…well, enjoy, but you are not having Italian food.
- By the way, we do not put chicken in the pizza.
- “Quattro stagioni” is a kind of pizza, and not pasta
- It’s not “spaghetti sauce” but “tomato sauce”
- We do not have “pasta primavera”

And please, PLEASE, that is not mozzarella!!!!!

Just for fun I wrote the word “Italian” in a grocery website, and I got more than a hundred items. I’m just going to mention the most common:
- Italian spices or Seasoning… not Italian,
- Italian wedding soup….what???
- Italian dressing… I had to read this (Water, soybean oil, white vinegar, sugar, salt, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated onion, concentrated lemon juice, spices, xanthan gum, dehydrated red bell pepper, flavour, calcium disodium edta, oleorsin of paprika, soya lecithin, citric acid..) NO!
- Noodles Italian Soup… ok, another thing: the words “noodles” and “Italian” should never be in the same sentence!
- Crustini…did you mean crostini?

Here we are my friends, ready to sit around the table and share a wonderful meal. It doesn’t matter which country it’s from, as long as we enjoy it. I guess it’s like when you are looking for love, you may like blonds better, and then you marry a brunette!
And as you would never call you wife with another name (do not do that!) let’s call Italian only what is pertaining to or characteristic of Italy or its people or culture.

Italian food stereotype, no grazie!©

If you enjoyed this post you may want to read:
Tired to fake Italian
Trendy coffee with an Italian accent
Here your espresso Sir! (Made in Italy)
Cappuccino, sweet pleasure for breakfast only
and Italy for dimmies

Trendy coffee with an Italian accent

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194 responses to “Italian food stereotypes, no grazie!”

  1. Sandra says :

    Hear hear. I love Italian (real Italian) food and have visited Italy many times. I also try to cook it myself. It is fresh and tastes wonderful, without all of the heavy cloying sauces that the Americans (where I live now) and the English (where I lived until fifteen years ago) like to add.

    I enjoyed your article

    • fashion clothes says :

      I agree with you !

    • calogeromira says :

      But we Italians like to add sauces as well.

    • Emily says :

      I’m half Italian, born and raised in the US. I have to say that every time I go to a restaurant, I hesitate to order spaghetti. Because I’ve become convinced that I’m going to get spaghetti covered in ketchup! And why does everyone think that marinara sauce is plain tomato sauce? Forgive me if I am incorrect, but, I thought marinara sauce required sardines? Marine = marinara? Yes?

      I even hesitate to order pasta in “Italian” restaurants. Isn’t that sad?

      I had my first taste of gelato when I was fourteen in Firenze. OH my god. Ice cream pales in comparison to this godly nectar of milk and fruit and goodness!

      • stefafra says :

        Pizza marinara in Italy is pizza with tomato sauce, and that’s it, no cheese, no fish, just tomato sauce, oil and may be a bit of garlic or oregano. Often mistaken by me when I was a child for pizza with anchovies, with great disappointment: I was doing the same reasoning as you, “marinara, mare, fish” and got a very boring pizza instead.
        Never heard of “pasta marinara” in Italy but I suspect that the one you are mentioning comes from the “naked pizza” version.

  2. carlo sitzia says :

    I definitely agree with you !
    Italian food is only ITALIAN food. No linguini or something else….Keep on real things
    Carlo

  3. Thais says :

    Great text! I’m brazilian and in Brazil we had also a lot of Italian migration around the 1900s, so Italian food is also very appreciated here. But, as in North America, there are also awful errors on interpreting this “Italian”. For instance, in Brasil the “parmegiana” spelling instead of parmigiana is the usual one.

    I don’t think is wrong for the recipes to evolve and change names throw time, but then it should be called “Brazillian-Italian” and not Italian!

  4. Norah says :

    Love your post! I have to admit, I had no idea that Alfredo was not Italian! And where did Italian Wedding Soup (which I love) come from?? I’m kinda upset at this revelation…

  5. The Gates of Lodore says :

    Haha! This post made me laugh. At first, I was going to reply “well, thats just the American way of misinterpreting foreign cultures”, but then I read you were in Canada. Perhaps if I actually had “Italian” food I would like it. But, I am so traumatized by the spaghetti with a jar of bland “spaghetti sauce” my mom served me as a kid – that I hesitate to go near anything with “Italian” in the name!

  6. urbannight says :

    That was such a wonderfull article. I’ve seen a number of Italian cooking shows and they would have such wonderful dishes with NO pasta! Yet if you go to any Italian eatery in the U.S. it is ALL pasta! I wish the restaurants would say which region they are representing because it makes a huge difference in the sauce. Since I don’t like tomato sauce to start with I’m very particular. I would stick with the pesto and oil based sauces but 90% of the Americanized Italian places have nothing but Alfredo or Marinara with or without meat. I happen to love chicken and pesto pizza. But I’ve never claimed I was making Italian pizza when I make it. I like to top mine with the chicken and mushrooms and spinach.

  7. avidwhistler says :

    Dang…I need to go to Italy. ;)

  8. Eleonora says :

    I am Italian and live abroad as well. Thanks for posting such an accurate article. Every time I check out menus of Italian restaurants or I eat in an Italian restaurant, I am always shocked by the incredible amount of spelling mistakes and the “originality” of the names they use to describe the food they offer. I completely agree with you! You can enjoy a pizza with pineapples, chicken or even meatballs… but you can’t say that you are eating real Italian food!!

  9. Sunflowerdiva says :

    I really enjoyed reading this post. It must be frustrating to see all these careless mistakes, and all the stero-typing. Congrats on getting freshly pressed!

      • gtmilk says :

        This is useful and I’ll most definatley spot the mistakes next time I go to a restaurant. I’m asian so understand how a country adopts and changes dishes to their own palattes a bit of this and a bit of that and walah this is what you guys eat at home and this is authentic. Not.

  10. ragazzambulante says :

    TANTE GRAZIE!!! I laughed at this, because it’s so true! I am guilty of the same stereotypes before I lived there (despite my nonna being born there, she just never taught us). When I actually moved there and tried to talk to one of my teachers about “fettuccine alfredo” she looked at me funny and asked “fettuccine freddo??” It was apparent I had made a terrible mistake, one I have not dared to make since!

  11. sarahnsh says :

    Pasta is definitely a major food group in my diet, and I think people assume sometimes anything pasta related can be called Italian. I’d love to go to Italy one day and try out all of the food there, and see the difference between what we call Italian here and true Italian food.

  12. Viviane says :

    I am not Italian but Italian food is among the best IMHO. I am as allergic to names and sauces mix ups but I am afraid you are mistaken about the Alfredo sauce, it originated in Rome and is named after the chef who created it. This is the link if you like to read more about it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fettuccine_alfredo

    Keep it up!

  13. davide says :

    okay, so you’re the expert. let me ask you this:
    in your opinion, pizza: thin or thick ?
    (i do not mean thick because the outer crust is stuffed with cheddar, i mean thick as in the yeast to flour proportion and the rising time after the rolling-out phase make the whole thing rise uniformly)
    also, foreigners (non-italians, obviously) need fake italian food because the real thing might KILL them.
    but globally, very pertinent post. foreigners might also be a bit surprised by regional differences in italian food (which all sadly seems to come with a black shirt, these days)

    • Maria says :

      I think original italian pizza is thin. But I’m not an expert. ;-)

      • elenasc says :

        Ciao Davide, I’m not an expert, just Italian! Mmmmh, let’s see: thin or thick pizza? Personally I like it thin, but there is not rule about it. It all depend which part of Italy you are from! Which one do you like?

        • davide says :

          i was brought up on thick. but i suspect it is due to contamination by the local torta recipe. i would have though that as since the dough is the actual nourishement, it sould be thick? but then there are no clues as pizza being a poor man’s dish originally.
          also, un-italian pizza enthusiasts:
          usual tomato sauce topping base, followed by thinly sliced (smoked) salmon, fresh onion in rings and capers. mozzarella an option. usual cooking time

      • urbannight says :

        A program on the history of pizza I saw earlier this year indicated that Italians got the idea for pizza from the Greek bakers who would have that flat puffy bread with tomatos on top sitting next to their ovens. It was their meal that they were letting cook as they worked. I can’t spell it to save my live life and not even closely enough for the browser to make a good guess. But that doesn’t mean the Italians first made it puffed up like that as well. They could have started making it with the thinner crust right from the start. The program never really addressed that question.

  14. Maria says :

    Haha!! I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I come across the same things in the U.S. The sauce overflowing the plates, for example, is a common one. I was shocked to see this after having been to Italy and discovered how different the food really is there.

    My sister lived in Italy (Volterra and Pordenone) and is married to an italian “amateur” chef. They now live in Argentina (country that is supposed to have strong Italian roots) and they tell me the “italian” cuisine gets stomped upon just as much down there.

    The funniest experience I had was here in Florida, in an “italian” restaurant, I asked if they made sandwiches with prosciutto cotto. The “italian” grandpa was so sure that prosciutto only existed in “crudo” form, salt cured. Realizing how clueless he was, I didn’t insist. I lost a lot of respect for this little restaurant after that. And guess what… they have the Italian Wedding Soup in their menu. Haha!

    And yeah, it’s sad to see people and food claiming to be italian and actually just misrepresenting so badly.

    On the other hand, it’s good to see some real italian cooks on TV. Like Lidia’s Italy. If these restaurants watched even one of her shows, they’d be better off.

    =)

    Thanks for a great post. I am craving a cappuccino now…

  15. Nicole says :

    I like reading a blog and learning something.

    Its also funny to know that restaurants don´t do thier research or at least hire one Italian to catch these mistakes.

    Thanks for posting.

  16. wellcraftedtoo says :

    Thanks for all the helpful info; you’ve left me hungry for something ‘Italian’!

    Spent a wonderful time in Italy last spring (see, http://pamelanmartin.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/la-dolce-vita-italian-sojourn/ and loved learning about–and enjoying–real Italian food!

    I can understand your frustration with misspellings of Italian foods, and misrepresentations of what is true Italian (especially in restaurants and on labels).

    But do try to understand that for most everyday admirers of Italy and its culture, it can be challenging to master all the minute differences in spelling and word usage that correct Italian demands. This is true of all languages…

    As someone who has spent most of her life in a cosmopolitan city, I am very used to hearing English spoken (and written) ‘incorrectly’ on a daily basis (and not only by foreign speakers!). But I know its not intentional, and I appreciate all the hard work–and moxie–that goes into using a foreign language.

    One of things I really loved about my time in Italy was the openness I experienced from the Italians I met to both my earnest, but unschooled, attempts to use the language, as well as to learn about the culture. So refreshing compared to some other experiences in foreign places…!

  17. katethegrate says :

    Grazie mille per questo! Di dove sei in Italia? Ho studiato per un semestre a Milano. Pensi che ci sono molte differenze tra il sud ed il nord d’Italia? Non vedo l’ora di tornare in Italia. Non vedo l’ora di mangiare il vero cibo italiano! Non esiste negli Stati Uniti.

  18. gringation says :

    I feel so used and ashamed… I had no idea! Thanks for enlightening me :)

    I’m an American living in Mexico, and it’s hard to convince some people here that I eat something other than hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza.

    Then again, Mexicans don’t eat tacos in a “U” shape either, or ground beef!

  19. Luna says :

    Great article!! I’m Italian and I’m living in Toronto… so true!! When I watched “Eat Pray Love” recently, I almost cried seeing Italian food, I didn’t realize how much I miss it!
    However, I must tell you that I recently ate pizza in Italy, once with pesto and once with pears on it (they were not bad, btw)…. so I guess we’re kinda adapting to the international standard :-(!

  20. Slamdunk says :

    Thanks for the educational post–there is a lot of misinformation out there.

  21. newauthoronamazon says :

    Hi,
    I totally agree with your sentiments but let me share a secret withyou. It is the same feeling with everybody. Something about ‘who’ you are and ‘what’ you know is not the same when somebody else tries to become an authority on.
    I love italian food to a fault and I do make a lot of
    stuff which I know is not 100% italian but I love it just the same. Maybe just maybe I was an italian in my last life. Who knows…the thought is ripe with anticipation !

    I too have a recipe blog at http://rodas-recipes.blogspot.com. Do hop over when you have the time.

    Now I’m scared to meet you face to face for I cannot
    imagine what your comment will be to my so-called italian
    cooking. Tell me do you carry a rolling pin in your purse
    when you step out. Just kidding…hahaha

    Roda

    • elenasc says :

      I’ll check your recipes and, don’t worry, I do not eat people!!!
      Thanks for your comment, and the answer to you question is: «Not always, only when I go to “Italian” restaurant»!!!!

  22. She.Is.Just.A.Rat says :

    North Americanized ethnic foods are created typically as substandards of the original for good reason…the products required to make the originals are just not available or on par. As imitation is a form of flattery, perhaps that’s the intention of the creation. But I do agree with you…there are so many pretentious restauranteurs that create these abominations of the original recipe or idea and try to pass them off as authentic…a crime! Authentic ethnic food is the best, and I wish I was able to experience more of it here in Canada. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Olivia says :

    Wow.. I loved your post. I do prepare pasta at home (completely: my experiment); I am an Indian.
    I have really never favored “chicken” in pizza- now I can boast about the fact..
    That’s right about sauces- I am glad at least my dictionary is up-to-date (or place) as far as the common things are concerned.
    For the rest, i am going to pull up the restaurants on my visit.. God Bless them.. :D

  24. The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife says :

    I would love to travel to Italy and find out for myself!

  25. Bianca says :

    Funny! My favorite is when everything containing spinach is automatically “Tuscan”. Tuscan Spinach Dip? No, they don’t have that in Tuscany, they actually don’t really do dips in general! And the spelling errors drive me crazy too…the tip off is when you sneak a peak in the kitchen and it’s full of Mexicans.

    As for the pizza…from what I’ve learned here in Italy, pizza “vorace” has a thicker dough and they call it neopolitan-style, the true original pizza from Napoli…but everywhere else the dough is thin. I prefer thin.

    Chicken on pizza cracks me up too, but that’s American pizza, an adaptation, a fusion. Like California Pizza Kitchen (at least they don’t pretend to be Italian!)

    You know when they say that it’s a compliment if someone copies you, even if it’s done badly? I think you should be proud that North Americans love Italy so much, whether they’ve been there or not, in the end they respect you (and maybe their heritage). They might not do it right, and a lot of times they exploit it as a concept, which I don’t agree with, but in the end they are just trying and I think awareness is being raised through gourmet blogs and publications on what really is Italian.

    I also have a funny/sad story – we were in New Jersey and stopped at a random Italian restaurant. The owner was going around talking to everyone and when he got to our table my husband, who is Italian, asked him where he was from. In English he replied that he was from Calabria. My husband is half-Calabrian so he asked which town. Finally the owner admitted reluctantly that he was from “just over the sea” in Albania!! So A LOT of the Italian mangling comes from non-Italians exploiting the culture. Which is really bad and everyone’s being duped basically!

    Ciao Ciao!

  26. Angela says :

    Hey! I had that meal today-the spaghetti with meat balls (first picture)!! I agree most people who open up Italian restaurants don’t know anything about authentic Italian cuisine. I used to live in Toronto-now I live in Europe-and everyone who lives in Toronto complains that you cannot taste any of the fruit that they have there, because of the chemicals that they put in them. They get their fruit and vegetables from the U.S. There used to be farms outside of Toronto where my family would go pick tomatoes, but now they have built ugly houses. :(

  27. hippie cahier says :

    Thanks for setting the record straight. This is very interesting! I have heard the same type of complaints about Chinese food and other geographical cuisines, and I just the other day saw an article touting pesto as “the new condiment for everything.” That writer should see your piece. I’m hungry now.

  28. Laura Fry says :

    Sono americana, ma ho abitato a Bologna per 6 mesi per studiare al’universita di Bologna. La pasta di Bologna non esiste negli Stati Uniti. Mi manca i ristoranti di Bologna! I’ve started making my own pasta from scratch, following a Bolognese cookbook I purchased there( which does not even mention risotto, pizza, meatballs, garlic bread, or many other “Italian” foods that we see in North America). While I like the food at many “Italian” restaurants in America, I don’t really associate what they serve with the actual food in Italy. And I’m trying not to forget the Italian language, because I would like to go back some day! Grazie tanto, buon articolo.

    • calogeromira says :

      Bologna è famosa x la sua cucina. Bologna is very known for its food tradition.

    • stefafra says :

      Risotto is an italian dish!
      Only it is most definitely not from Bologna, that’s why it is missing in your book, it is from slightly more North, where rice is grown (round rice, the Japanese kind, not long grain).
      Italian food does not exist as a whole, it is composed by many regional dishes, that sometimes overlap and change subtly in a matter of few miles.
      But I guess that this is true for almost everywhere in the world.

  29. notesfromrumbleycottage says :

    What a great post. So much gets twisted in the world of food in our melting pot country. Did you know corned beef and cabbage is not a traditional Irish dish? Totally an American creation. Thanks for what you had to say today and please share an authentic recipe.

  30. Circe says :

    thanks for the laugh, it might be be Italian, but it’s a delicious hybrid

  31. greengeekgirl says :

    Great post! I am getting ready to explore your blog more–but for all of us who want to explore real Italian food, where do you suggest that we start?

  32. pursuitofhealthfulness says :

    I’m sure I’ve been guilty of faux pas multiple time… Although I’m sure I’ll commit these blunders again, this was still an eye-opener!

  33. gothichydran126 says :

    Funny post! Speaking of bad food stereotypes, ever heard of Spaghetti Napolitan from Japan? Check out the ingredients as well…:D

  34. Melanie Killingsworth says :

    Ha! This is awesome.

    I am 2nd/3rd generation Italian (my grandma was born here to newly immigrated parents, and my grandpa came over from Italy when he was young). I have yet to visit Italy, but my mom and grandma taught me how to cook traditional dishes, and I must do all right because my friends never complain.

    Just Tuesday night my roommate made chicken alfredo (asking me to make noodles because he ‘can’t do pasta like I can,’ but that’s beside the point), and when I complimented the meal, he acted surprised. Didn’t I and my family make it better?

    I had to explain I had never had alfredo sauce until I went to college, and even then I never really cared for it. He was quite amazed.

  35. dvolod says :

    Yeah I definitely agree with these stereotypes its the same here in America, you can hardly find an imported “Italian” mozarella around here, only in expensive grociery stores. Most Italian restaurants here are pretty much the same like Olive Garden. Its funny if think about it but here were so used to these Americanized versions of International foods that we really belive it is authentic when in reality its not. I love to travel a lot and try delicacies from all over the world, so that I can enhance my experience when traveling, but sometimes I can’t help but notice the mass globalization of American fast fod joints in other countries. Its simply just sad. While I am here in the States I try to find real Italian recipes and cook myself using imported products, but unfortunately you end up paying more for them, then simply visiting the so called Italian restaurant. Thanks for sharing the insightful thoughts on the subject, and please share any authenic Italian recipes. Grazie!!!

    http://dvolod.wordpress.com

  36. Ursula says :

    Relax, Elena. Mistakes happen. Not all Germans live on Sauerkraut. Not all Swedes live in Ikea clad homes.

    Take it as a compliment that so many try to emulate Italian cuisine even if they get it horribly wrong at times.

    And, oh yes, once I’ll retire I shall move to Italy and grow my own tomati.

    U

    U

  37. Donald Borsch Jr. says :

    Elena,

    Molto vero!

    I had the privilege of journeying to Italia imperare come cucinare. I kinda had to learn the language on the go, so scusi si I get things wrong, grammatically! Alora, I was in Treiso, en Piemonte, vicino di Alba. It was absolutely fantastic! The people were so warm and accommodating!

    Anyhoos, having learned how to cook in traditional Italian styles, it was so depressing to return home to i Stati Uniti, and realize that our concepts of Italian cuisine were so,….off-base.

    Throwing garlic into a soup does not make it Italian. Putting mozzarella onto a piece of bread and “baking” it is not bruschetta. I could go on and on, of course. You have probably seen the same things.

    I am happy to see someone expose this culinary horror to the masses. Your blog has hit it dead-on.

    Now if I can just find a farmer with pigs that I can eat raw, like I did in Treiso. I miss that quite a bit.

    Il piacere e mio, bella! Molto grazie for allowing me to opine so openly!

    Donald in Bethel, CT

  38. saemann says :

    Fantastic post! It really made me laugh. I must admit that when I lived in the States, I used to enjoy fake Italian food all the time. This sort of thing happens a lot all over the Americas. Someone will invent something new and give it a traditional sounding name or something so that people will be more open to trying it. It’s like Häagen-Dazs. The people who created the company gave it a Scandinavian looking name because they wanted people to think it was Danish ice cream!

  39. italianagurl says :

    My pet peeve? My favorite Sicilian dessert, “Cannoli,” used in the singular. As in, “Can I have a cannoli?” I hate that.
    It’s a CANNOLO!!
    Great post!

  40. Jean Poutine says :

    You forgot “expresso”

  41. bagnidilucca says :

    My pet peeve is osso buco spelled with 2 cs – osso bucco. The incorrect spelling is everywhere in Australia and butchers and restaurant people refuse to believe me when I try to correct their spelling. Incorrect pronunciation of bruschetta drives me nuts as well. Great post!
    Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  42. santasown says :

    And this whole time, when I went to eat at restuarants and at my friend’s house who was Italian!! I thought I was having authentic Italian food. I feel like Ive been conned! I need to go and tell my friend that he has never given me real italian food and that he is living a lie. He won’t be happy about this.

  43. marisworld says :

    Congratulations! You’re Freshly pressed – I was yesterday and I was totally overwhelmed with the massive response.
    Why did I stop by? I am a Brit who married an Italian and lived in Folgaria, TN, Northern Italy for 18 years, had two kids and learnt very well what IS Italian and what ISN’T.
    Thanks for putting it into words – lovely post

  44. carldagostino says :

    We use no onion. Garlic only. Onion overpowers taste of food while garlic enhances it. Onion gives sauce greasy taste. We make meatballs half bread because in the old country you were poor and had to stretch the meat. All meat is like those Swedish bar-b-que golf balls. Also the men are allowed to sit at the table in undershirt. Perhaps that is New York or New Jersey Italian and not Italian Italian. Pepperoni should be outlawed. It is heart attack killer stuff. Regards. PS You see I have official Italian name too!

  45. coloradobecs says :

    This post was very fun to read! I have been recently embarking on an attempt to eat more “local” foods and it is so very fun to see what is “local” in other parts of the country, and especially the world.
    Your comments on true italian food makes me wonder about my own precision of language. I always claim that italian food is my favorite food, but now i wonder if I am eating true italian, or Americanized Italian. Also, in my part of the US, the southwest, people are always accusing us of butchering true Mexican food, and we have even created “Tex Mex” which is true American Mexican. Just interesting to think of the world we live in, and the food that molds culture and even relationships.

  46. C. A. Padilla says :

    Um . . . O.K. You whining about Italian food stereotypes. Then you ask that we all (non Italians) spell the food names correctly. Well, you didn’t bother to double check your blog post for poor grammar, punctuation, and mispelled words. You can’t expect something from a whole continent of people that you yourself don’t follow through on. Get over it . . .

    • elenasc says :

      C.A. Padilla, you are totally right! I do not double check my posts for poor grammar, punctuation, and mispelled words and I make lots of mistakes!!! Actually, as I wrote in my About page, I’m just learning English, and I’m proud of that!
      I have never said my first language is English, I do not call myself Canadian, or American or anything that I’m not! This is what my post is about!
      Maybe you just had too much Alfredo Fettuccini!

    • odorunara says :

      A blog post is not a professional menu. I might write a post in Japanese and accept comments from native speakers to correct some things, but if I were publishing it professionally, I would have a native check it first.

      Writing in your second language is not easy. I think elenasc did a great job and that it was easier to write than some emails from my colleagues who speak English as a first language.

  47. occasionallyserene says :

    Great post. Being half Italian, I grew up eating many foods that were “Italian” because the Italian half of my family made them. When I visited Italy from the US, I enjoyed the food and it was different by region. I most enjoyed the 2 days spent with cousins – my great grandmother’s nephew in Genova. I ate Nonna’s food for 28 years and she came to America at 16 in 1904. The food prepared by her nephew and family was similar – very similar, but different. Nonna had brought the recipes from her village, Bertone in the Alps, but they had changed over the course of the 8 and half decades that she lived in America. My grandmother and mother further adapted those recipes to suit the needs, tastes and pantry of their family. They cooked with lots of meat and lots of tomato (which is not authentic Italian, the tomato is new world fruit that returned shortly after Cristobol Colombo returned from the new world).

    Anyway, I loved your post it made me think of many meals that I have not thought of for a long time. In the end the essence of the food of Italy has inspired countless cooks and nourished the lives of even more.
    Thank you for writing this!

  48. culinaryspirits says :

    Nice post! I agree that we are all shaped by our born-to culture, and I enjoyed seeing the common errors you highlighted. Tell me, do you ever correct people/restaurateurs when you see their mistakes?

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    Laura
    http://culinaryspirits.wordpress.com
    http://vintageminx.wordpress.com

    • elenasc says :

      No, I do not correct anybody! I truly believe they can cook and spell words how they want… as long as they don’t pretend to be Italian and charge people $50 bill because it’s “authentic food”!
      Thanks for reading!

  49. Antonella says :

    Thank you for your great post! If my english was better I’d have written the same things (may be not so well). But I have to say sometimes italians are guilty for this situation. I mean, sometimes we do not respect our food and too often we sell in Italy and all around the world fake italian specialities (i.e. wine, cheese, etc.).
    I am italian and I have a blog about italian food. Unluckily, there are a lot of italian food bloggers who don’t speak english or speak a bad english (me too). Some of their blogs could be a good first step to learn what italians eat in their home and to know the huge difference between traditional food in Piemonte and Sicily.
    Ciao!

  50. rubybastille says :

    I can understand your frustration – I’ve been to a few European countries and have always been baffled by what is considered “real American food” – but I’d like to know where to get actual Italian food, if everything in North America sucks. :) I was expecting to see a list of actual Italian foods and dishes we should look for, because I’m sure we’d all love to try them!

  51. aurumgirl says :

    A lot of the food that is called “Italian” here is really Italian American, invented by people who left Italy to emigrate to the United States who felt a lot of discrimination because they didn’t eat the same foods, or speak the same language, as “real” Americans. So they adapted, grew the fruit and vegetables they could, prepared them with foods they could manage to import from Italy (or find substitutes for them where they lived), or simply made the same way they made them at home but using only what was available in the US. That is why cheeses and sausages all seem odd here, where milk had to be pasteurized and homogenized (and cheese is not a “living” food anymore); and beef and pork and meat in general was raised and processed differently from the way people farmed these animals in Italy.

    It’s a slightly different tradition here in Canada, where most of the Italians who came to live here came later in the 20th Century and also never experienced the same strict discrimination about language and culture. Many of us first generation children born here were first taught to speak Italian–and later taught to speak English in school. So when we met our relatives and cousins who lived in the States–we didn’t share the Italian language or the remnants of Italian culture our parents gave us with our American cousins. They were given American sounding names (in some cases, even their Italian last names were anglicized), they never spoke Italian and were never taught the language at home, and they were unfamiliar with the foods our mothers made in our homes here in Canada.

    What you may not know is that many of the immigrants who came to Canada from Italy brought what they could in terms of seeds and traditions (yes, my mother’s tomatoes and other vegetables were all from seeds she saved from her gardens in Italy, and continued to save each year). They too wanted to continue to experience the familiarity of their distant home–but never could, as the soil is different here, the light, the climate, what we’re forced to call “the terroir”. That’s not necessarily bad, but it is different.

    So people who are first generation Italo-Canadians raised to be “comfortable” in both places know and feel your pain. But whenever I see people drinking “lattes” with their desserts after dinner and cringe, I try to imagine what it must be like to emigrate to Canada from places like India, or China, the Philippines, France, or Mexico, among many other cultures in the world where food is loved and celebrated, and traditions and techniques were formed over thousands of years. It must be just as painful for them to see what passes for representations of their own culinary traditions here, where people are far less familiar with those flavours and ingredients than they are with “Italian” foods.

  52. Terry says :

    I am curious, can you describe some authentic Italian salad dressings?

  53. Digital Pet Paintings says :

    Totally agree with you – many so-called Italian dishes in the U.S. are not really true to their cuisine.

  54. The Perfectly Imperfect One says :

    Wow, I had no idea this was an issue. I guess, I kind of knew that not everything we “call” Italian is really in Italy, it’s kind of like French Fries, they were not made in France. Yes North Americans are very ignorant to so many other cultures, and they do just decide to take some type of food and give it their own name. I am glad you opened my eyes to all that we are seeing as Italian but indeed are misled. Nice post, congrats on being freshly pressed!

  55. GrassDitch says :

    This was very true, and very funny. My girlfriend is Italian, and I’m English. This food thing was a very steep learning curve for me. There was a lot of “why are you cooking pasta for that long?” and “did you just order a cappuccino after lunch?” and “really, that means peppers? What’re they on about, then?” This is exactly why we’ve never visited an “Italian” restaurant outside of Italy.

    • elenasc says :

      I know what you mean… my husband is not allowed to cook pasta and…yes, a do ask him the same questions! lol

    • stefafra says :

      I’m Italian, I grew up in Italy and yes, I do order cappuccino after lunch, and even (aaargh!) after dinner.
      I’ve been told many times, and with many a snigger,that it is “stuff for Germans” or “stuff for tourist” but I don’t care, I just like it.
      So go on, be yourself and order what you like when you like it. :-)

  56. Elgart says :

    I am pretty much sure those food are really had low calorie, really healthy!

  57. Summer says :

    Thats very true!! I love your blog btw and this post really comes from your heart!! keep up the good work!!

    LOVE.
    SUMMER.

  58. neckromancer says :

    I agree with you. But be thankful then, that things like “Italian” dressings and seasonings do not contain “REAL” Italian bits. Or do they? :)

  59. odorunara says :

    You hit the nail on the head! I really enjoy Americanized Italian, Mexican, and Chinese foods, but I know they aren’t authentic and I refuse to pretend they are–but I still like them. I once posted a photo of Japanized Chinese spicy tofu dish I made (maabo doufu in Japanese, maapo doufu in Chinese), and my friends of Chinese descent and in China Studies all commented that “that doesn’t look right; that isn’t maapo doufu”–but I was trying to make the dish Japanese-style, not authentic Chinese-style…

    I live in Japan, and a lot of “family restaurants,” both American chains (Cocos, Big Boy) and Japanese chains (Saizeria, Joyfull) claim to have American food, but it’s not “right.” That’s annoying, but what’s worse is that the American English textbooks include foods that we don’t eat in the US! We don’t eat “hamburg steak” (hamburger with no bun–should this be the “Atkins diet”?). We do eat omelets, but they don’t look like Japanese om-rice (omelet wrapped around rice) like the pictures show. Japanese pizza toppings include bacon and potato; corn (and mayonnaise); and others that are neither American nor Italian.

    I also totally understand your frustration with incorrect language. (Panini is plural, after all; I wouldn’t order “one cappuccini,” so why would I order “one panini”? Argh!) Omelet isn’t omuretto in Japanese; rather, it’s omuretsu, which sounds like omelets, the plural.

    At the same time, the Japanese have accidentally corrected some silly American words–French fries is furaido poteto (fried potato), which is much more accurate.

    Language, especially English and Japanese, is constantly evolving and taking in new words from other languages–and new food from other culture. As much as I like the internationalization of food, like you, I find it incredibly frustrating to see adaptions passed off as authentic and all the linguistic errors that come with it.

    Perhaps the most fun is when I have to read Japanized Italian menus at the Trattoria-style restaurants of Tokyo. English is my native language; I’m bilingual (Japanese), so I have to rely on the Japanese descriptions of the Italian names of the pastas. I can’t even imagine what the people who speak neither Japanese nor Italian do in these places…

  60. nativeca66 says :

    Prententious much?. Ich bin Deutsch and English, but some of the best “German” food can be found in the parking lot of Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA, where you can find “bangers” of all variety. I don’t care what anyone calls the cuisine they culinate, and I’m pretty sure that the Romans didn’t whine much when garum went out of fashion.

  61. gianni Lovato says :

    Grazie mille per essere riuscita a scrivere così bene i miei pensieri…vecchi di 40 anni.
    Però se viene a New York, me lo faccia sapere. Martedì Eataly ha aperto il primo negozio negli USA. Per un paio d’ore mi è passata la nostalgia. (ed ho portati a casa un paio di pezzi di “vera” Italia)

    eccole il link con alcune foto:

    http://picasaweb.google.com/giannidimilano/EatalyRS#

    Thanks a lot for succeeding to write my own thoughts of the past 40 years.
    But if you happened to come to New York, let me know. Last Tuesday Eataly opened its first store in the US. For a couple of hours my nostalgia faded. (and I brought home a little piece of the “real” Italy)

  62. cinzia says :

    Bel post che ha spiegato quanto ho cercato di fare da una vita, sia con i discorsi che con i menu.Sono una chef che aveva un ristorante dove si serviva esclusivamente cibo italiano,cucinato come in Italia.

    Un paio di risposte: la “wedding soup” è una storpiatura accaduta chissà quando della “minestra maritata” napoletana (che vede carne,vegetali e pasta tutti insieme,da cui il nome “maritata”).Qualcuno ha tradotto “wedding” invece di “wedded” e la leggenda è nata…..

    Per quanto riguarda la Alfredo sauce, succede un altro equivoco. La vera storia della salsa Alfredo è così: Alfredo aveva (ed ha ancora) un famosissimo ristorante a Piazza del Popolo a Roma. Tanti anni fa, quando sua moglie ebbe il primo figlio le accadde dopo il parto di cadere in depressione e di perdere l’appetito. Alfredo non sapeva più cosa inventarsi per farla mangiare e un giorno,sapendo che sua moglie gradiva le salse cremose, le preparò degli spaghetti con burro,parmigiano e acqua della pasta che mescolandosi crearono una cremina niente male che la moglie di Alfredo gradì molto. Un cliente statunitense,un giorno, vide quel piatto passare in sala ed ordinò la stessa cosa.Gli piacque moltissimo ma non sapendo come riprodurla consegnò agli USA quella che è una bechamel con parmigiano che viene denominata Alfredo. Qui negli USA c’è un solo ristorante dove viene servita la Alfredo autentica (con burro,parmigiano e acqua di cottura della pasta) e si trova ad Orlando, all’interno del complesso Disney.

    Per quanto mi riguarda, dopo aver chiuso il ristorante mi sono data alla scrittura e gestisco anche un blog dove si possono trovare ricette esclusivamente legate alla tradizione, visto che sono sempre associate a storie delle donne e degli uomini che hanno popolato la mia vita.
    http://www.cinziamaria.wordpress.com

    Ancora un grazie per le perfette precisazioni e …viva sempre l’Italia! quella vera! anche a tavola!…

  63. Sam says :

    Thanks for the article, it was humorous as well as informative. I was pretty surprised to find out that alfredo isn’t really Italian. Even though I’ve never been a big fan of it I just always assumed…

    The spelling errors I’ve seen on plenty menus before, but I never really paid them mind since I don’t know much Italian. I love the flavors in Italian food though, and this article makes me want to go to Italy where I can experience authentic Italian cuisine.

  64. alefashion says :

    Great post! I like it!

  65. mandymcadoo says :

    Ummm… American Italian food is about as authentically Italian as Sweet and Sour pork is authentically Chinese. We all know that it’s a bastardized version of the “real thing”. I think you have more angry energy about this than is anywhere near reasonable. And there are plenty of grammatical and spelling errors of English words in English language menus written by people for whom English is their first language. And, quite frankly, your very own use of the word “stereotype” in this blog is awkward at best. Maybe you could cut some slack to restaurant owners. Just sayin’.

  66. LIZ TAGAMI says :

    So true. In California we have a problem with people writing “de” instead of “di” and making other substitutions. The example of panino has always bothered me. I’m in the olive oil business and some retailers are selling bulk oil in stainless steel containers from Italy called fusti. Of course, one is a fusto and a row of them are fusti, but writers and speakers continue to say “fustis”. Cordiali saluti. Liz

  67. Therapy Monkey says :

    Thank you.
    I am Italian.
    I agree

  68. Fragolina says :

    I like this post alot. I agree with you although i am not Italian, but I love the “Italian food” we know, the market stuff, as you said. Persons concerned in such food matters have to have some curiosity to know more and search more about it . What irritates me the most, the thing you talked about, since i know a little Italian,is the spelling errors we find in restaurants menu; are they that ignorant not to use any dictionary or the net to check some words??!!…. Nice post.

  69. Seuhle says :

    Wow! Thanks for clearing the doubt. I’ve been to an “authentic Italian” restaurant (just one), and wondered if the food there is really authentically Italian. I see now that is is not ;)

  70. Bianca says :

    well said, aurumgirl! I am 3rd gen Italian-American (from Jersey and for the record those people from Jersey Shore are the stereotype of about 1% of our population). I think Italians really should learn more about the people who left Italy and immigrated to North America.

    When I moved to Italy 7 years ago, nobody understood that I considered myself Italian – Sicilian actually – because I have 100% Italian blood in me. They all kept asking me who in my family was “American”, they could not understand the concept. But I’ve always been proud of my heritage.

    My grandma always cooked Sicilian dishes, arancini, ragu with peas, used raisins and pinoli. These are Sicilian trademarks (depending on which city) when you would never think that raisins would be Italian…Oh and has anyone ever had brioche dipped in granita topped with whipped cream for breakfast?? Totally Sicilian but even my Tuscan husband and his family had never heard of it!

    My suggestion would be good to brush up on the history of Italian Immigrants. A lot of the food originated from somewhere-it’s just been messed up a bit. And there are so many regional foods that not even Italians know about all of them (most only know the foods of their small town), which you know Elena- by the way, where in Italy are you from?? Sorry about another long-ish comment!

  71. hollythestrange says :

    What I don’t like about Italian food isn’t how it tastes, but how in restaurants you can’t just have: This pasta with this sauce. You have to have: This pasta, this sauce, this seasoning, this dressing, with this, that and this other thing that you just don’t want.

    I have nothing against most Italian food, just the restaurant menus.

  72. misterkram says :

    As I’m half Sardinian (Assemini), growing up in a small English town during the ’70/80s was a bit of a gastronomical nightmare – it took a while before pasta, olive oil etc was available in supermarkets!

    Going to see family in Sardinia every year helped ease the pain!

    Luckily, I’ve lived in London for the past 12 years so there’s no shortage of Italian & Sardinian food available! Whenever we go to Sardinia, we always take a spare bag to fill with food & drink!

  73. floyvonne says :

    ciao! Spero che ricordi un pò di italiano :)
    è verissimo ciò che dici , all’estero la cucina italiana è stata completamente trasformata,c’è poco o niente di originale.
    Però devo farti un appunto sulla pasta primavera … sono pugliese, e qui la facciamo!
    Farfalle o ruote con cacioricotta fresco,pomodorini,cipolline e basilico. Capperi qualche volta. Ora non so quale “pasta primavera” propinino in terra americana, ma..that’s all :)

    - e mi sta venendo fame ahahah-

    Ciao un abbraccio italiano fortissimo !! difendi la nostra cultura !!!

  74. Bee says :

    Congratulations for being freshly pressed!

    I know what you mean about having your birth cuntry in your soul no matter where you are in the world. And how interesting it can be to see how your country and your people are viewed by other people. I have learnt a lot about myself and much more questioning of standard things about my home country (in a good opening up kind of way) because I’ve lived overseas

  75. chandna says :

    Hello Elena,

    I really enjoyed reading this post. Especially because as an Indian I strive to change the stereotypical perception of Indian food being mostly about curry, not to mention other misconceptions such as the fact that the ubiquitous “curry powder” available here does not exist in any regional Indian cuisine, to the best of my knowledge, or that a lot of what I see on the menus of Indian restaurants has only a passing similarity to real Indian food.

    I am guilty however of adapting Italian cuisine as I guess others do with Indian, and sometimes do use pesto on fish and in sandwiches, both of which are family favorites… but I’ll remember to tell my family next time that this is only Italian-inspired, not Italian !!

  76. Simone says :

    Oh, I agree. ‘REAL’ Italian food is something so very special, and still tastes best in bella Italia. Heading to Sicily/Sardinia soon, I can’t wait. It’s the same with so-called ‘German’ food here in Ireland, by the way, what people think of as German food and what actually IS German… not the same. Graargh!!

  77. ylenate says :

    La ringrazio molto per questo “post”!
    I came across your blog on the wordpress homepage and I have to say that I love it. I have spent a good hour reading the posts – excellent! I am born to Italian parents but have always lived in countries where stereotypical Italian food has been the norm. I remember the Italian community in our little town in South Africa starting an import business to get some real products (Parmigiano, olive oil etc…) The rest was grown or prepared ourselves.

    I have also lived in Australia and everything is shortened and spaghetti all Bolognese is known as “Spag Bol”. And once, my sister’s friend came to eat supper at our house and we were having cappelletti in brodo – he politley told us that he “did not like the water”.

    Your observation that pesto manages to find it’s way on everything is correct as well.

    Grazie ancora!

  78. Jen says :

    After reading your article and some of the comments, I am now even more grateful that I live in northern New Jersey, where we have some truly authentic Italian restaurants (as well as many authentic restaurants of other cuisines).

    I have travelled to Italy several times and you are so right, the food does taste different when you are actually there. I just got back and can’t wait for my next trip!

  79. Erin says :

    I have to agree on the “PANINI” thing. It drives me crazy seeing so many restaurants advertise “PANINIS” – even worse, I hate having to say it when ordering a sandwich. I’ll never forget how I learned the italian word for sandwich – I was in southern France and we went into a cafe for a quick lunch. We soon realized that we were in an Italian cafe when we couldn’t read the menu – it was hard enough translating French all vacation but trying to decifer Italian (which at that point I’d never studied) into French and then into English was quite a task. A “panino” and tiramasu were the most practical things I could figure out, and they were delicious!

    Oh and while pesto may be meant just for pasta, it’s amazing and should go on everything. I make it in large quantities and add it to almost everything I eat.

  80. Em-O-Lee says :

    Why is it that cappuccino tastes so different in Italy? I have noticed that, here in the US, the coffee they call “cappuccino” is always scalding scalding scalding hot and for some reason cinnamon is always sprinkled on top. And a lot of places like to serve it in clear coffee cups.

    The last cappuccino I had, while waiting for the bus to pick us up to go to the airport in Venice . . . it was hot, but not so hot, mind you that a few blows of my breath didn’t cool it down. And what’s more is I was able to finish it in less than two minutes.

    And why do people think Marinara sauce is regular tomato sauce?

  81. kjgarbutt says :

    Fantastic article.
    I’ve just come back from Italy and was surprised to find a lot of ‘authentic’ Italian restaurants selling food that is most certainly NOT authentic Italian.
    The number of restaurnts that are simply catering for tourists and giving them what they think is Italian food is astounding.
    We really had to travel far for real Italian food.

  82. indigoaire says :

    I live in Houston and when I passed Birraporetti’s Restaurant today, I started laughing. Their tag-line is A Great Italian Restaurant… A Heck of an Irish Bar! I thought it was just me, I am not Italian, however I grew up with a lot of 1st and second generation born in the U.S. in the New York area. So I am VERY picky about my Italian food, it drives my friends crazy. Thank you for your post.

  83. sayitinasong says :

    First of all, I don’t think what the secret of Italian tomatoes is, but honestly, they taste best in the world!!! And second, I totally agree with you… So many people and even restaurants are ignorant about food and even worse at spelling!!! Good post!!!

  84. Dawnmarie Bronson says :

    I truly enjoyed this post! As a food enthusiast and future Chef, Mediterranean Cuisine is my absolute favorite! My daughter and I spent 1 month in Italy this summer and my favorite thing to share with people is the misconception of Italian cooking/food. I am enjoying recreating the many meals we loved and educating anyone who cares to know that the more garlic you add does not make it more Italian. =)
    Loved Italy, the cuisine and its people! We will be visiting Sardinia in summer 2012 and am very much looking forward to it.

    Best regards,
    Dawnmarie Bronson

  85. Tina says :

    As an Italian I often feel the same like you both when I’m abroad and also as I’m a translator freqeuntly involved in texts about gastronomy and menus.

    It’s a matter of knowledge: it should be obvious to check the spelling of a foreign word before writing it, especially on a public text but unfortunately most people don’t do it. How is it possible that even in those restaurants all around the world, where there is at least an Italian chef or pizzaiolo or the owner himself, menus are terribly wrong in spelling? What’s more, as Elena wisely highlighted, the bigger problem is that many dishes are absolutely NOT Italian and, as an Italian proverb says, “are just like cawliflower on breakfast”!

    Do you know, Elena? Italy could become once again the N o. 1 in the world about food (and fashion design)too, just by wanting it and being able to protect its stunning gastronomy heritage. But unfortunately we aren’t able to and allow anyone to distort the name of a dish and/or its preparation, so we throw away our own culture…

    P.S.: I don’t know where are you from exactly – I’m from Southern Italy – but suppose that “Italian wedding soup” is the most horrible translation one could make for “Minestra Maritata”!

    • elenasc says :

      “Come i cavoli a merenda”, thanks to remind me that!!!! lol

      • Tina says :

        You’re welcome!

        And how about the “minestra maritata”? Should we really look for a… husband for the soup?

        • elenasc says :

          lol…. maybe we should!

          • Tina says :

            Do you know? After re-thinking about, I must admit that in my experience there has been an exception, i.e. an Italian restaurant managed by an Italian business man with a strong gastronomy culture behind him. Due to the topic of this post, everytime I find myself in an Italian restaurant abroad, am very prejudiced against what I’m going to read on the menu.

            Well, that time I was surprised to admire a perfectly spelled Italian menu even with appropriate accents – what’s more, dishes were all true Italian recipes belonging to the Southern tradition. So, this was (unfortunately only an exception) a happy case of Italian cuisine successfully & properly exported.

            Would you like to know the name and location of that restaurant? It’s “Spaccanapoli” Restaurant and Pizzeria in Abu Dhabi (Arab Emirates).

  86. eurybe08 says :

    Great Post! As a gourmand I personally love to just explore different types of cuisine but I love Italian cuisine the most.

  87. rommel says :

    A friend of mine who was new to new york was static to tell me that he had some italian pizza. I argued that you can only have real italian pizza only if you’re actually IN italy. He describe me that the air-quote italian pizza he had in new york wasn’t oily, had a load of toppings, the cheese wasn’t sticky and long and that the crust is crispy. I can agree that the pizza was good, but I think he got a little irritated and thinking I’m too arrogant when I insisted on telling him that it’s definitely not italian,

  88. Gareth says :

    Great post, I love Italian food. Whilst cuisine fusions are great I really enjoy authentic recipes be it Italian, Franch or Spanish. We are pretty lucky in Sydney to have a few very authentic Italian restaurants. I also try to find traditional recipes myself which I like to share on my blog.
    Gareth

  89. thethoughtherder says :

    Great post. I do think that you’re fighting an uphill battler though, I think that with most cuisines in the world they become open to interpretation when they leave their home nation.

    A couple of further examples to your list (non Italian) tikka masala is found in Indian restaurants all over but was created in the UK, General Tao chicken is believed to have been created in New York in the 70′s.

    I think the term traditional *insert country here* cuisine will become more prominent as more people learn about the food they eat, but overall people can follow the logic of Pollo parmigiana being in an Italian restaurant rather than one that calls itself authentic Canadian.

  90. Anja says :

    I really love this post and cannot but agree. Especially since we went to Italy this summer and I was able to taste real Italian food in Verona and Mandello del Lario. Gorgeous! Nothing can ever be like it! Some of the German-, English- or Swedish-”Italian” food creations are following the Italian style quite well, but it can and will NEVER be the original. However, like you said, important is that one has good food and simply enjoys it, preferably always in great company.

  91. availableallday.wordpress.com says :

    pineapples on pizza should be illegal…!!!

  92. leftoverlunch says :

    Love your post. Also love Italian food.
    Best meal I ever had: roadside restaurant in Chianti.
    Pici, grape tomatoes sliced in half and sauteed in olive oil with a little crushed garlic and a generous helping of salt….I still search my own country in vain to try and find Pici–it is darned hard to come by…there is a little Italian Market in Halifax–Bishop’s Landing that carries it–I stock up when I go.

  93. Phine says :

    Nice article. An informative one. Well, those restaurants you’ve mentioned are experimenting on things, I guess. Who would notice such differences if we’re not Italians? As long as it’s spaghetti, lasagna and pizza, that’s Italian for us… hahaha How I wish I could try and taste real Italian foods.

  94. Linguina says :

    Ciao Elena,

    Great post and absolutely true! I agree on everything!

    I hope the new DOC badge for restaurants will help in fighting the fake italian places.

  95. stefafra says :

    I’m Italian and lived in The Netherlands, Switzerland and now in the UK, so I’ve seen my share of “creative spellings” of various culinary terms.
    However, many Italians of the older generations, the ones that opened the first restaurants, were barely able to speak and read Italian, they spoke their regional dialect, a bit of “real Italian” and they tried to learn a new language. Many had never cooked at home, it was just one of the many “hard working” careers open to new arrivals.
    So it might be that the spelling mistakes we see today in the menues are actually older version, dialect versions or botched attempts to recreate sounds (or even dishes, sometimes). Then the new owners, Turkish, Iranian, Mexicans, whatever, that followed the original ones could only perpetuate the mistakes, never having learnt, or tasted, Italian.
    And the “Italian abroad cuisine” was born.
    PS:I have a personal evolutionary theory on the “spaghetti with meat balls”,a tasty “pseudoitalian” dish: it all started with “spaghetti al ragú alla bolognese” that went into the universally known “spaghetti bolognese”, the sound “bolognese” has a tempting similarity with “balls” and might have inspired a creative chef to put meat-balls in the sauce in place of meat. Of course it might all be a load of baloney ;-)
    PPS: sorry for mistakes and grammar horrors, I lived too long in Babel.

  96. lindsay says :

    I lived in Italy for 4 months several summers ago and I fell in love with a lot of the food. I lived with Italians. However at least in Genoa I believe they put pesto on pizza.

  97. pooh says :

    “pasta alla bolognese” – sorry, that’s not Italian either. “Spaghetti/pasta al ragu’”, you probably meant.

    • elenasc says :

      Ragù is a meat-based sauce for pasta originating in Bologna, Italy. That’a why is call also “bolognese” or just “ragù” or in local dialect “ragò”! “Pasta alla bolognese” or “pasta al ragù” are both understood in Italy!!!

    • stanito says :

      The fact is that Ragù is not the word you hear when referring to that particular sauce, while is replaced with Bolognese.

  98. katia68 says :

    If it is of any consolation to you, it does happen to all different type of cuisines out of their own countries. The reason is that they feel the need to sound familiar with the culture of the place. I do not eat Italian out, I cook my own, and in Minnesota I enjoy their food.

  99. Ilaria says :

    Hi! lovely post :-)
    I am italian and live in italy, but i’ve had my bad adventures with “italian” food abroad.
    I went a couple of times in England, living with a family for a couple of months and when they tried to be hospitable and offer me some “italian” food, to make me feel at home (which is a very thoughtfull thing, considering that i was 14 and away from home for the first time)… well, I had to find a polite a QUICK way to send them away from their own kitchen, when I saw them trying to cook pasta putting it in COLD water O_O
    At least I had a chance to educate an English family on how you cook pasta :D
    The really frightening thing is that even in Italy, restaurants that have mostly foreign customers are conforming to their expectations… in Rome, I had a plate of “linguine al pesto” where the pesto was made with parsley (instead of basil) and a LOT of cream…

  100. Chris says :

    You know, I could live with the odd spelling error. After all look at the way English is used in Italy – they use words without even knowing what they mean! But calling anything that is covered with tomato or Alfredo sauce, Italian has always bothered me. So congratulations for starting a debate on this issue.

  101. Francesco says :

    Hi, I was surfing through the web to find out few info regarding Americans and Italians connections…. I saw your post…. read it many times…. I can say that… for sure every country have own specialties, and fortunately, I’m traveling a lot for job and visiting many different country and culture and, for sure, outside Italy, I won’t looking for Italian restaurant, but, I wish to taste the country own specialties, and… more or less, every country have very nice product, food culture….
    BUT…..
    I’m gonna to disagree with you… Italy have the BEST CULINARY TRADITION of the world, Italy have the best food product, the most important wine tradition, Italy can teach to the world how to cook and how to eat… it’s not just a “stereotype” … IT IS CULTURE, TRADITION, KNOWLEDGE, FANTASY, DREAM.
    Thanks for your articles, it allow me to understand better why all the VIP coming in Italy for live here our “normal life”.
    Cheers
    Francesco

  102. albertocook says :

    Hi I’m Alberto from Italy
    I agree with you.
    For this i start a blog with real italian dish.
    Bye bye, anzi ciao dall’ Italia.

  103. Stefano says :

    Boy, do I understand you! I travel a lot and I find it so unnerving to be proposed “linguini” or “tortillini”!
    Just for fun my wife published an ebook on real italian recipes with the title “Spaghetti Bolognese? No, thanks!!!”.
    Let’s keep fighting!

  104. stanito says :

    I areally appreciated this post, it’s so sad when people ask me “Oh you’re Italian, do you eat pasta and pizza every day?” it’s just… sad
    I thank you in particular for pointing out the NON Italian Alfredo sauce… Where the hell did that come from?! this topic is actually worth a whole post on its own.

    Please feel free to visit my food section too :)
    http://stanito.com/2013/05/31/rome-real-good-food-part-2/

  105. ceci says :

    This post is quite old actually, but I’m leaving anyway a reply.
    I’m Italian like you (from the central Marche – that is almost unknown even to Italians), but I’ve always been interested in finding and understanding differences between our national culture and the one belonging to our american cousins (northern and southern).
    I perfectly understand your frustration about these culinary and spell mistakes, and about and the economic speculation around the false adjective “italian”, but sometimes I feel close to those who feel peeved by our pickiness about our food. I mean, sometimes we could look too much fussy and snob talking about Pepperoni Pizza or that dreadful Starbucks water-coffee (:P), and I think that we should begin to be less critic and take it easier.
    I found the comment by Aurumgirl really interesting, because I didn’t know there was such a broad difference between those Italians who grew up in Canada and in the States. And I don’t like the inclination that some of us show in kidding those non-italians who try to be kind toward us preparing “fake” or “counterfeit” Italian food: I have been several times in the British isles and I have really appreciated the effort of those families to make me feel confortable at eating, even though the food was not exactly “gourmet”.
    anyway, I’ll give a look to the rest of your blog: it looks relly interesting :)
    ciao ciao

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