I am a food snob. You would become one as well if you lived in Italy for eight years. So you can imagine it was quite the shock when I arrived in the United States from Verona, especially since my first breakfast on American soil consisted of Hostess Powdered Donettes when I asked for biscotti.
Shortly after that, I began to realize that many so-called Italian restaurants in the United States failed miserably at the dishes that I had become accustomed to in Italy. Here are just a few examples of how the United States (in my opinion) has failed when it comes to Italian cuisine.
1. Please, never use any cooking spray
I will never forget when my family and I, having just landed in the United States from Europe, decided to go to an innocent looking pizza place. The outcome: the short order cook sprayed, yes sprayed, our pizza with an aerosol can. The mysterious can only contained cooking spray, however any Italian would be horrified that you would even consider spraying food.
2. No breaking of spaghetti, no excuses
Yes, we’ve all been there. It’s late at night, and all you want are some spaghetti and meatballs. But you are a poor college student and couldn’t afford a larger pasta pot, so you have to settle for the small pot you found in your basement last summer. Please, do not break the spaghetti in half when trying to boil the pasta. It is considered bad luck in the Italian culture to break spaghetti to fit in a pot.
3. Cocktail or pizza…?
If you go to Italy, and simply ask for a “cheese pizza,” any true authentic Italian restaurant might look at you in a funny manner. If you simply want a pizza that has the traditional tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and a couple of basil leaves, ask for a margherita pizza, not a cheese pizza.
And no, I promise that they will not come back with the alcoholic drink. And always ask if they can make you a margherita with burrata, which is pretty much a more heavenly mozzarella. Calling all cheese lovers.
4. Never ever fry bologna
It remains a mystery to me what the United States was attempting to achieve when they came up with the idea of the fried bologna sandwich. First off, frying any sort of meat is not widely accepted in Italian cuisine, and the so-called “bologna” that is provided at your local grocery store in America is not even remotely related to the prime bologna or mortadella cut you can get from the local butcher in Italy.
5. Alfredo… no comment
In Italy, fettuccine Alfredo is simply long pasta with butter, and sometimes parmesan. Just noodles and butter. Not heavy cream, cheese, milk, more cheese, cream cheese sometimes, béchamel, and maybe a little butter. Did I mention you need an additional splash of cream?
6. Coffee should actually have coffee in it
When one asks for a cappuccino in Italy, it is coffee with a dash of milk. Here, a cappuccino is a splash of coffee, and the all of the leftover milk you can find in your fridge. An Italian friend of mine calls the coffee in the United States a biberon, or baby’s bottle, because there is so much milk in comparison to the amount of coffee you get in return, it’s like drinking a baby’s milk bottle.
7. Chicken parmesan, come again?
No. One does not simply slather an already moist chicken breast in canned tomato paste and then throw a pound of Monterey Jack on top of that. In fact, this dish does NOT exist in Italy whatsoever. A lightly grilled chicken breast dressed in shaved Parmigiano Reggiano may be a possibility on the menu instead. Yum.
So next time you decide to cook an elaborate Italian meal at home, mi raccomando, please don’t commit these 7 sins in Italian cuisine. Otherwise, my Italian neighbor’s Nonna will find you.