Is it Italian or American-Italian?

Do you know the difference between authentic Italian dishes and American-Italian dishes? Many of the classic Italian dishes we enjoy in the United States aren’t actually from Italy. They were inspired by the food found in the old country but were Americanized by the Italian immigrants. Below is the truth about some of the dishes that come to my mind when I think Italian. Whether these dishes are Italian or American-Italian, it doesn’t really matter they taste so good!

Spaghetti and Meatballs:

In America: Spaghetti noodles served with a marinara sauce (more on this later) that can be meaty or not. Spaghetti is usually served with large meatballs. With movies like “Lady and the Tramp” and most “Italian” restaurants serving this dish it’s easy to see why we might assume it came from Italy!

In Italy: If you order this in Italy they might look at you like you’re speaking a foreign language! There is a sauce with meatballs but it isn’t eaten with spaghetti, and meatballs can be found but they are much smaller than the ones we serve in America. Although you can find this dish in Italy it is more of an American-Italian dish.

Fettuccine Alfredo:

In America: Fettuccine noodles smothered in a creamy, yummy, Alfredo sauce served with chicken, shrimp, broccoli or a combination of those. (It is my favorite “Italian” dish!) This dish is served at all sorts of Italian restaurants in America, even at Pizza Hut.

In Italy: There is no such thing as Alfredo Sauce in Italy. It’s possible that some people in Italy don’t even know what Alfredo sauce is. Sure, there are some places that probably cater to tourists but if you were to go to an authentic Italian restaurant in Italy you wouldn’t be able to get it.

Pepperoni Pizza:

In America: This is a classic. Everybody has heard of and probably eaten a slice of pepperoni pizza. Pizza dough covered with pizza sauce, smothered with cheese and slices of pepperoni, who wouldn't want that?

In Italy: They do have pizza in Italy, only it’s quite a bit different than the pizza we enjoy in America. For example if you order a cheese pizza you’ll get a cheese pizza, but it won’t have any sauce. It’s just various types of cheese on pizza dough. How do I know that? I once went to Italy and ordered cheese pizza. Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty good, but it was not what I was expecting. If you order a pepperoni pizza in Italy you might end up eating a pizza covered in peppers because the word “pepperoni” in Italian sounds almost the same as the word for pepper. Plus they don’t have anything called pepperoni. You can get a wide range of toppings though like potato, anchovies, sausage, broccoli rabe, corn, and other things.

Garlic Bread:

In America: This delicious dish of bread slathered with a garlicky buttery spread and broiled is present a classic side that goes well with any “Italian” dish. You can find it at most Italian restaurants.

In Italy: They have bread, but it’s generally baked plain and served without butter. But they have some tasty bread so the butter isn’t needed! If you want bread with your dishes try asking for bruschetta, which is bread topped with fresh tomatoes and sometimes garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

Chicken or Veal Parmigiana:

In America: You can order Chicken Parmigiana, Veal Parmigiana, or Eggplant Parmigiana. It all tastes delicious!

In Italy: It is made with eggplant, tomato, caciocavallo cheese and basil. Sometimes they may alternate layers of eggplant with ham or beaten eggs, but no chicken or veal ever!

Now that you know the truth about some of the most popular Italian dishes, does it make you not want to eat Italian? It shouldn’t! All of these dishes were inspired from the old country and taste amazing! If you really want authentic Italian food you can find it in America or you could book a trip to Italy…and bring me with you. What is your favorite Italian or American-Italian dish? Leave a comment below!


    Whitney Saupan
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2013
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