Americans love to eat “Italian,” but the fettuccine and pepperoni pizza consumed in the US bears little resemblance to the dishes served in Italy.
Authentic Italian cuisine is typically lighter and more delicate than America’s sauce-loaded variety. Over saturation of flavor is a rarity in Italy and you’ll have a chance to find that out for yourself during a Globus vacation.
We’re diving in to some of the most common Italian foods which have been adopted in the US, to show how the authentic flavors will both surprise and delight your palette.
Forget greasy by the slice pizza or Chicago deep dish; in Italy, it’s all about Neapolitan, a popular pizza style that originated in Naples. Ingredients are simple and fresh: olive oil, basil, mozzarella cheese, and raw tomatoes.
Cooked at very high temperatures for less than two minutes, Neapolitan pizza has a relatively thin crust, which is doughier than some American cracker-crust varieties. Americans are often surprised by how small these pizzas are; ten to twelve-inch pizzas are standard, and typically, each restaurant visitor can finish an entire pizza.
Neapolitan is by no means the only type of pizza found in Italy. Regional variations exist throughout the country, just as they do in the United States. Sicilian pizza is very popular in Messina, Catania, and Palermo. Each of these regions prepares Sicilian pizza differently, but in general, this variety is thicker, doughier, cheesier, and more rectangular than Neapolitan pizza.
The vast majority of Italians eat pasta from boxes
Contrary to popular stereotypes, the vast majority of Italians eat pasta from boxes (pasta secca) instead of fresh noodles made with a rolling pin. Many restaurants also feature pasta secca. However, homemade pasta is also abundant at Italian restaurants.
Italian pasta noodles are very similar to those found in America; the main difference in pasta dishes involve sauces and fresh herbs. Meat tends to be minimal in Italian pasta; instead, locals prefer fresh vegetables such as sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke, and zucchini.
There’s no better way to end a delicious mozzarella pizza or pasta Bolognese meal than with a small bowl of gelato. This tasty dessert is often compared to ice cream, but outside of the dairy ingredients, it has little in common with America’s frozen treat.
Gelato is thicker and richer in flavor than American ice cream. This increased density is a result of gelato’s minimal incorporation of air while churning. Additionally, gelato has less fat and is served at a warmer temperature than ice cream.
Gelato is thicker and richer in flavor than American ice cream.
Although tomato-based pasta sauces are common in Italy, many locals prefer to slather their noodles in pesto. Comprised of basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and sheep milk cheese, the standard Genovese version of pesto has a much different texture than its American counterpart. This difference is largely due to the Italian emphasis on chopping by hand.
Several regional variations exist, including Provence’s pistou (made only with basil, garlic, and olive oil), Callabria’s pesto alla calabrese (which includes black pepper and is typically far spicier than Genovesepesto), and Sicilian red pesto (which adds tomatoes and replaces pine nuts with almonds).
The culinary differences between America and Italy extend beyond mealtime to include espresso. Italian and American espresso lovers are deeply suspicious of each others take on caffeination, but one version is not necessarily superior to the other — they’re just different.
In Italy, espresso contains only seven grams of ground coffee in a single serving. Crema — an amber foam that results from hot water meeting finely-ground coffee — is a popular indicator of freshness in Italy, although many Americans regard it as overly bitter. Some Americans enjoy the Italian version of espresso, but many prefer to scope out the third-wave shops that are becoming increasingly prevalent in large Italian cities.
Whether your idea of a dream Italian meal involves pizza, pasta, or a sweet bowl of gelato, you may want to adjust your expectations before you arrive. Authentic Italian cuisine is delicious, but very different than the Americanized version of Italian food.
Get ready to experience fresh food prepared with great attention to detail, and most importantly, love for the fine art of cooking.