15 July 2009

Italian-American vs la cucina italiana

Cuisine; is it Italian or Italian-American?

When we lived in New Mexico and would visit family and friends in other states they would many times recommend a Mexican restaurant, which we would always decline. Mexican cuisine is not the same as New Mexican; which is a blend of Spanish, Mexican and Native American flavors. Tex-Mex is a whole different bowl of beans…pun intended.

Now that we have returned from Italy some people have suggested “Italian” restaurants and I have written before how “Italian” food in America does not resemble what you find in Italia. We were visiting Valerie’s cousin recently and one of our discussions was this dilemma. Celia has been in the restaurant business and she had a different approach to the cuisine…”Italian” in America is a whole different type of cuisine, Italian-American, which is not to be contrasted with the cuisine you find in Italy. Italian-American dishes may have some of the same names and ingredients as la cucina italiana but it isn’t the same.

I found this approach to the differences in cuisine to be less frustrating than being regularly disappointed that “Italian” in America is nothing like la cucina italiana. We can enjoy Italian-American as a different but enjoyable contrast. Just don’t ask me to cut my pasta!

7 comments:

claybuster said...

I find that the Italian food we eat in America goes back to those who immigrated from Southern Italy in the early 1900's. I am not saying over the last 100 years it has not changed. The dishes my nonna (from Calabria) cooked can be found in many family owned Italian American restaurants.

Jane said...

What we find is that in many of the older restaurants there is the heavy Napoli, old country emphasis. But now we find many restaurants with a Rome,Milan--northern influence along with Tuscan. What also we find, being in California, is the temptation to put a nouvelle touch to what is done. Fortunately we have a couple that are excellent and rival what we find here. Now...pizza is a whole 'nother story

Louise at Abbastanza Buono said...

While I agree with your cousin I still find it difficult to eat in Italian-American restaurants. (And don't get me started on Olive Garden commercials!) Luckily, in Seattle we now have some quite authentic trattorie and pizzerie. Unfortunately we now live 1.5 hours outside the city. I've only been home 3 1/2 weeks and already I anticipate the delicious food we will eat during our fall sojourn in Italy. Louise

Bryan said...

Having spent a lot of time in southern Italy I find little in the US that resembles that cuisine. Southern Italian has a lot of seafood by the coast, lamb in the mountains and more spice.

There are some eateries in the US that serve genuine la cucina italiana but they are few and usually expensive (get what you pay for?!). In NM we were fortunate that there was a local pizza chain with brick ovens and some eatery options between Santa Fe and ABQ.

Mary Hitt in Pittsburgh said...

You are so right! But the next time you guys are in Pittsburgh, try La Cucina Flegrea in Squirrel Hill. It is DEFINITELY an Italian restaurant. The owner is from the Naples area, and we've visited with her and her parents in Italy when out vacations have overlaqpped. Whenever we go there, we find many native Italians dining there -- generally a good sign.

Domenic said...

Bryan,
Listen to Mary. I am native to the Pittsburgh area (first gen Ital-Amer), Flegrea's is not to be missed. And, if your in around the Moon Area/Airport...don't miss Mario's. The recipes are genuine and authentic also! I only ate homemade food while growing-up with my two Nonna's and mum. These places mimic my styles better than most and are truly un cucina squisto. btw...I have been a big fan of your(s) travels (jealous);-) and also a CAFE' snob

Bryan said...

Mary and Domenic - Both of my parents are from the Pitt area and my dad recalls growing up in a neighborhood full of kids from all over Europe. I have heard of Squirrel Hill and if we get back to Pitt we will definitely check out Flegrea's.