Dina Dina blog

Italian food – The (un)written rules (part 1)

Italian food businesses have to deal on a daily basis with requests from customers that would feel quite uncommon (and believe it, sometimes even offensive) if they were made in their home country.

Yes, there are a few reasons why Mamma would slap you in the face in Italy and one is certainly making food right, at least according to the Italian taste, which is universally considered quite reliable.

The (probably) most important rule is“keep it simple”. I remember, a few years ago, making some Pasta al Ragù (call it Bolognese if you prefer) for a Belgian friend and what he said just made total sense to me: “You know, we add a lot of s*** to that sauce, you just chopped a couple of things, put them together with tomato sauce and made me the best pasta ever”. Now, “chopped a couple of things” might not be exactly what I did, but the idea is exactly there: don’t overdo it, don’t add stuff just because you think it will enhance the flavor, just keep it simple!

Chicken. We love our Pollo, we have at least a couple of ways to make it taste absolutely awesome without too much effort (keep it simple: remember?). Do we want to put chicken everywhere though? Hell no! Chicken on pasta? Not a chance. Chicken on pizza? Stay away. Chicken in a calzone? Please don’t. We just DO NOT do it. I’m not saying that the taste would be bad, we just aren’t used to it and we don’t feel the need to do it. If you find chicken with pasta or pizza on a menu, you might not be in an authentic place… or maybe someone just gave up…

Caffè. If you go to a bar in Italy (bars in Italy are what you’d call cafes, but normally they also sell alcohol) and ask for a coffee there will be no doubt: it will be an espresso. No one would actually order an “espresso”, just a caffè. Some people like it “ristretto” (short), some others like it “lungo” (long), some others like it “corretto” (some strong alcoholic drink added), but it will still be an espresso. The growing demand of different kind of coffees (and the success of chains like Starbucks) actually changed many of the menus in Italy as well. Still, I personally learned what an Americano was only after living abroad. To me an Americano would only be an American male citizen before…

Pepperoni. Please don’t get me started on that. Just because a word sounds Italian that doesn’t mean it is actually Italian. Pepperoni isn’t a thing in Italy, maybe it could be compared to a spicy salami (actually “salame”, as “salami” is plural) but it doesn’t really exist there. Peperoni, with one “p” in the middle, means “bell peppers”.

To be continued…