In New York City and in also my area of Washington DC, there are few real Italian restaurants. My subjective, but experienced, opinion is that 90% of the Italian restaurants in the US are not Italian at all. If “Italian food” conjures up thoughts of Italian American restaurant chains or pizza with a red-purple sauce and lots of garlic powder this is simply not Italian! I personally hate that type of cooking; Italian American food is loaded with too many strange tasting “additives”. One might even call them “addictives” because these strong flavors cultivate consumer taste for heavy style foods, to the detriment of the much more delicate and healthier authentic Italian cooking. As an example of this altered taste are things like Italian dressing – Italian style bread crumbs – Italian seasoning are all things with ‘oversaturated’ flavors that you will never find in Italy. For more, read here how NOT to cook pasta .
In the minds of many in the US, Italian food continues to be associated with the image of a pretty large guy eating spaghetti with meatball sauce – the reality is that in Italy practically no one eats spaghetti with meatball sauce. Italians do have meat sauce recipes that require long and laborious preparation (including marinating the meat for 3-4 days in aged red wine), but they also have an incredible number of variations of pasta dishes cooked with vegetables or seafood. And when I say pasta, this is not equivalent to only spaghetti.
Again there is an amazing range of forms, shapes, sizes of pastas, many of which are unique to specific regions. The variety in the Italian diet, the continued widespread reliance on fresh ingredients cooked on the spot, and the extensive use of vegetables, fruit and olive oil all contribute to the generally healthy state of Italians that on average appear are thinner than Americans, especially in middle and later years. In my opinion, there is a direct relationship between being overweight and heavy consumption of over-processed and fast foods, widespread soda drinking and avoidance of fruits, vegetables and reasonable amounts of wine.
This is not only in the US, but also among younger generations in Italy that love to imitate the American life style. A lot has been written about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Without going deeper into the matter, I would like to tell you that Italian food – that found in Italy – is not only good for you but it really tastes great! Enjoy the adventure of exploring authentic Italian food, not only a delight for the senses but also an expression of the cultural and traditional heritage of the country.
By: Paolo Nascimbeni