Everything I learned about Italian food is wrong.
My mom makes the most amazing stromboli. I don’t like fettuccine Alfredo. Homemade Italian dressing is one of my favorite salad toppings. Italian wedding soup has gross little meatballs in it. … None of these statements mean anything in Italy, of course, because none of these food items actually exist in Italy!
I knew coming to Italy that my perception of “Italian” food would be challenged, but I didn’t think that so much of what I’ve known to be Italian is false. Recounting typical American-Italian dishes with my Sardinian friends yielded hours of entertainment based on the names of meals falsely labeled as having Italian origins.
Seriously, Italian immigrants, what did you do to Italian food in the U.S.? Though the menus at America’s “Italian” chain restaurants are as much to blame for continuing to perpetuate these myths.
I am happy to report that gnocchi, lasagna, tiramisu, more types of pasta than you can shake a ravioli at, pasta e fagioli, calzone, cannoli, zeppole, gelato, risotto and, of course, pizza are alive and well in this culinary wonderland of a country. And I am even happier to have discovered an amazing array of dishes and desserts that I’ve never even dreamed of: spaghetti alla bottarga, culurgiones, foccacia di recco, farinata, ribollita, suppli, sfogliatella, pappardelle con cinghiale, and more that I could never hope to pronounce or spell.
After having smelled, tasted and cooked all manner of edible items during my six weeks in Italy, I’m officially a proper-Italian-food backer. I do love my mom’s stromboli (Stromboli, incidentally, is a volcano in Italy’s Aeolian islands), but there’s nothing quite like a bowl of freshly made pappardelle pasta with wild boar. You can keep your fettuccine Alfredo.