Italian Food? What is it? Well, in America, it more or less falls into two categories, dishes that are unadulterated authentic Italian Food from our mother country Italy, or else it’s Italian-American food, which is basically Italian Cuisine of Italy that is made by Italian-Americans in America and under any one particular Italian-American’s way of cooking it. Italian-American Cuisine is made-up of dishes created by Italian-American immigrants either in the home or in Italian restaurants, creating dishes based on the Italian Cuisine of Italy but made in America by Italian immigrants and their offspring. Yes there are some differences, and some who think they are so smart and know it all, might turn their noses up at what is known as Italian-America, the food, the cuisine and how it’s made. Well, these people most likely are food writers and or critics who think they know more than they really do. Now any good food writer worth their salt should know that food and cuisines are always changing. New dishes are created and added and make their way into whatever particular cuisine it may be. Let us not forget that the tomato only made it into Europe in the later part of the 16th Century, and was not even eaten for almost 200 years later as most Europeans including Italians thought that the tomato was a poison vegetable. The tomato which is along with pasta a food most associated with Italian Cuisine did not even gain popularity in Italy and in its cuisine until somewhere around the 1870s with the popularity and invention of the Pizza in Naples in the 1880s. So you see, food and any particular country’s cuisine is always changing, and evolving. This thing we call Italian-American is actually a full-fledged cuisine in it’s own right and the numbers back it up. Italian immigrants to the United States making the food of their homeland, but not having all the Italian ingredients available to them at the turn of the century in and around 1900 used what was available, making the dishes of their home region in Italy; of Sicily, Naples, Abruzzo, and Puglia, they re-created their regional Italian dishes as best they could. Italian immigrants to America who created new dishes includes restaurant owners of Italian restaurants who created some of Italian-America’s most classic dishes, dishes like Chicken Parmigano and Veal Parm as well. Most of the few million Italian immigrants from Italy came from the south, especially from Sicily and Naples and its surrounding areas. Much of this southern Italian Cuisine is based on dishes that use tomatoes in the preparation, thus dishes like Spaghetti Pomodoro (Tomato Sauce), Eggplant Parmigiana, Calamari en Casseruela, Mussels Marinara, and numerous dishes with tomatoes in them. These dishes became very popular and became dishes that not only Italian-Americans know, but all Americans no matter their ethnic backgrounds. The Italian immigrants and restaurateurs created new dishes based on the Italian Cuisine of Italy with dishes like Chicken and Veal Parmigiano, and later Penne al Vodka. Chicken Parmigiano being a boneless chicken cutlet that is coated with breadcrumbs, then fried, then topped with Italian Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella and baked in the oven until the Mozzarella is melted and all is hot. This Chicken Parmigiano is then usually served with Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce on the side and is without question one of the most popular and beloved Italian-American dishes of them all.
There’s a famous dish that millions love, called Fettuccine Alfredo. It’s made with fresh fettuccine pasta that’s dressed with a creamy sauce made with heavy cream and grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese. The real dish from Rome is made with the pasta dressed with just butter and Parmigiano and no heavy cream at all, but somehow the dish was changed over here. The dish has been hugely popular with millions upon millions of dishes being served over the years, so something must be right despite the small numbers of critics against the dish. In the end the masses decide which in this case with millions loving the dish and eating it for many years, this alone is proof of its acceptance as a favorite dish of the Italian-American Cuisine, and the many millions of Americans who love these dishes, whether they are Italian-American or not. And the reason that Fettuccine Alfredo became so hugely popular is quite simple, the dish is dam tasty and people love it, simple as that! Remember cuisines never stay the same, they change and evolve, and sometimes new dishes are created, and this is the case with Italian-America and its food, Italian-American Cuisine. Millions love it, it’s legit, and that’s it. The millions of people (all Americans) who love and eat these Italian-American dishes legitimize it, through loving it, and eating it over and over again, year after year. It’s the general public who decide, not a tiny handful of snobbish critics, who know far less than they delude themselves of beleiving they know. “Not” !!! The people rule, and decide, not food critics. In the end, it’s the general public who decides what will fly. And Italian-Amaerican Cuisine has been fly high for more than a 100 years now. Thank God, the entire nation benefits.
Here are my (Daniel Bellino “Z”) memories of it. Italian-American food, the culture, our people and the homeland Italy, it’s culture and cuisine.
Excerpted from MANGIA ITALIANO
by Daniel Bellino “Z” – Available on AMAZON.com