10 Top Italian American Food Fallacies

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Cappuccino, thanks to perfectcoffeeatwork.com.au for the photo. Italian do not have this drink after 11 AM and especially after lunch or dinner.

When I asked readers on our Facebook fan page to name a few Italian food fallacies I was expecting a response but I was, frankly, overwhelmed with the feedback to our simple question.  That is to say, while I’ve experienced many of the overt food fallacies found in Italian American cooking (both in professional and home kitchens) there were some items I couldn’t have imagined.

Italy has, of course, a well respected cuisine but it has also, like the cuisine found in China and Mexico,  suffered from native populations moving to new countries, globalization, and a media driven society not concerned with facts or preserving cultural norms.  Italian cuisine cannot live in a bubble so changes in some dishes are inevitable, but it’s my view that protecting the methods and ingredients behind regional Italian food is not only vital to eating well but also preserving Italian culture.

Here are our 10 Top Italian American Food Fallacies in no particular order (please add your own via the comment section and feel free to disagree):

  1. All Italian Food is Southern Italian Food.
  2. Salad Served Before the Meal.
  3. Espresso With Milk (i.e., Caffe Latte, Cappuccino, etc.) Consumed After the Lunch Hour (or after dinner).
  4. Pasta and Meatballs Served Together.
  5. Bread Served As A Starter To A Meal.
  6. Garlic Is Used In All Italian Food.
  7. The Heavy Use Of Cheese.
  8. Pasta Must Be Served With Lots Of Sauce or Condiment
  9. There Is No Italian Cuisine Without Meat.
  10. Italians Consume Large Portions.
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28 Comments

  1. Pronunciation of bruschetta. brew-SKET-tah, or, possibly in a dialect, brew-SHKET-tah. NOT brew-SHET-tah. It’s not French!

  2. Sorry, “There Is No Italian Cuisine Without Meat”. Are you joking?

  3. I read the comment about fish and cheese, are not a good combination but you can find some dishes (pasta dishes I mean) where combined with pecorino (not parmigiano) taste delizioso, but I agree you should be very brave on experience it!
    Thank you from a very proud italian food lover.

  4. Joe, 

    I think it’s because we’re
    in a rush and don’t know how to slow down and just enjoy a meal. We sit down,  served a salad first as its easy to put
    together while the rest of our order, including an appetizer, is in all too
    many instances just being warmed up.  We rush and are being rushed to make
    room for the next dinners……and Vince one of the reasons that I love your site
    is that I am getting reacquainted with the Italian experience. You know from
    many of my posts that I refer to “my mother’s cooking”.  As a third generation I feel that so many of
    my families “old way” are slowly disappearing. Thank you so much for your
    efforts. 

  5. I’m glad the meat thing got labeled a “0” because it is no longer true in any restaurant in Italy I’ve been lately (and I spend half of each year eating in Italy). The second courses are getting obscenely large. In Puglia I was swayed by a traditional sausage description on a menu. I got four of them, each nearly a foot long! After the pasta course! Italians are indeed getting fatter, a phenomenon that seems to have happened in the blink of an eye. Yeah, a lot of it is American industrial junk food exported to make the world unhealth, but let’s face it, Italian restaurants are following the trend of glorious excess as well.

  6. 3) Cappuccino and Cafe Latte are breakfast beverages. During my Med School days at the University of Rome, I’d occasionally get to grab a breakfast at Piazza San Eustaccio, where it was rumored that Cappuccino originated. It would be a simple affair, not like a American “mega”-breakfast. There would be a cornetto (a flake crescent shaped pastry), a bit of honey or fruit jam, and a steaming cup of what is the best beverage on earth- a Cappuccino. Starbucks can’t even touch this. Simple in its elegance, and I still can’t order a Cappuccino after 12 noon.

    • Hi Dr. Gallo,

      Cappuccino and cornetto is my favorite breakfast while in Italy, as well!  On finding good espresso/milk based espresso drinks in the US, you are correct that Starbucks doesn’t do the aforementioned well (in fact, there are very few places that do espresso well in the United States).  

      Thanks for the comment!

  7. Hi James, were you eating at western type restaurants while in Italy?  

    Italians do love their junk food (as you point out) and they are getting fatter (as are most humans on the globe who get their hands on excess calories and stop using their legs and arms for physical activity, unfortunately)

  8. I think the lemon twist was introduced to mask bad espresso – absolutely no need for it.

  9. Naples Napoli Guide

    What a great article that rings so true for me. What I noticed is that, at least in southern Italy, you never serve bread with olive oil as dipping sauce. And then, that olive oil dipping sauce with salt, pepper, garlic & all sorts of weird stuff inside? Yech. 🙂 Saluti!

  10. angel hair nough said- 😉

  11. But… parmagiana di alici! Yum!

  12. Italian pizza is NOT as gigantic as American pizza. Italian pizza is an easy way to use up leftover dough, and it does NOT have seventeen cheeses and fifteen pounds of meat on it, and it’s not the size of a locomotive wheel.

    • The beauty of real Italian pizza is that it allows you to taste the crust, the sauce, the cheese, and the herbs used in its preparation. A ton of cheese can hide a multitude of “sins” of a poor crust, sweet sauce, and too much “topping” on a pizza.

  13. Can you elaborate? What about number 4 would they contest? Meatballs (polpetti or polpettini) are NEVER served with pasta in Italy. Sauce is a “condiment,” not a mask. Good Pasta has a pleasant flavor and should be savored as well!

  14. Pasta and Spaghetti are not a main dish they are a side dish!

  15. Hi! I tried to post a comment earlier but it disappeared so I’m sorry if I’m posting twice. I really liked this article and to add up to the comments I’d mention how Tiramisù is made with Savoiardi (ladyfingers) and not just sponge cake. I appreciated who talked about the pizza….in Italy you can finish your whole pizza but here after 2 slices you’re done, and how to pronounce bruschetta! lol I was also wondering how come it’s so difficult to find “panna” in the US 😀

  16. I am not suggesting there is anything to “prevent” someone from eating what they like–hey, put hot fudge sauce on gnocchi, if you like! I was just commenting on the “norm” that I observed while living in Italy — which I did for nearly five years. I can serve four people with the amount of sauce that many restaurants put on one portion of pasta in the US. I find it rather unpleasant! I like meatballs – I just don’t eat them with pasta. In fact, I like them in a brown/vegetable gravy with mashed potatoes. Yumm!

  17. you forgot Fettuccine Alfredo and Stromboli pizza 😀

  18. let’s not forget the “fettuccine alfredo” and the “panini” cheese & pesto

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