Italian Stereotypes – True or False

Posted by on Jun 30, 2015 in Culture | 1 comment

 

Every culture is associated with stereotypes, and while they can have some truth to them, many of them are exaggerated or generalized. This is being written by someone who is constantly stereotyped as a guido (thanks a lot Jersey Shore). So let me clear up some of these Italian stereotypes for you:
18416433_m

  1. Italians only eat pasta

Pasta is sacred. You cannot take pasta away from an Italian meal otherwise it won’t be complete. We do not *only* eat pasta, but it is a staple for us, it is often eaten on a daily basis, sometimes more than once a day. Usually an Italian dinner would consist of some apetizers, a pasta dish (or rice), a meat dish, and maybe some dessert, coffee, or limocello.

 

couple-enjoying-a-romantic-dinner

 

  1. Italians are very romantic

This is very dependant on the person, however I will say that romance is more prominent in Italy than it is in the U.S. This is not to say that all Italian men are romantic, I know that for a fact. For example, an Italian man would not let a girl go home without being escorted. Chivalry is definitely still alive and well in Italy.

 

Italians drinking coffee

 

  1. Italians drink a lot of coffee

This is true. We drink copious amounts of coffee. But erase the image of a bunch of Italians sitting around a Starbucks sipping on a venti caramel macchiato. Italian coffee is just an espresso, but we wouldnt call it an espresso, its just called a coffee. We dont lounge around and sip on our coffee, we rush into a bar, order it, talk about the latest gossip or news for a minute, throw it back like a shot of of vodka (or grappa) and head right back out to resume our day.

 

995522_10153091578904899_1182727027232853893_n

 

  1. Italians talk with their hands

100% true. There was actually a social experient done where an Italian asked another Italian “where the closest bank is” with their words, but with their hands they gestured “what time is it” and every Italian responded to the question asked by the hand gestures. Body language is a very important element of the way we speak. The way we move our hands, the way we hold our heads, move our shoulders and our facial expressions are good percentage of our communicaion skills.

I’ve had many of my American friends tell me that they can read my mind just by looking at my face, and that is because, although I calm my hands down when speaking English, I can’t control the Italian facial gestures that I was raised with.

 

gf1

 

  1. All Italians are involved with Mafia

The Mafia is real, we arent proud of it, but especially in the south of Italy, including the islands of Sicily, it does exist. Not every Italian is a Mafioso, and we will be offended if you assume that we are. Many Itlaians may know someone who knows someone in the Mafia, but my advice to you is to not bring it up, and not joke about it.

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 7.23.39 PM

 

  1. Italians are always mad

A lot of foreigners think we are fighting when we talk that way but it’s just the way we are, we are loud people, and we are expressive, emotional people. Many of our CDV guests would overhear some of us talking and become worried that we are fighting, but like my mom says, if we were really fighting, you would see blood. (just kidding, sort of)

 

mens-bracelets-italian-fashion

 

  1. Italians are very fashionable

Italians do generally have an excellent sense of style. Though casual wear is the norm in everyday life, you may notice some impeccably dressed people in the bigger cities. It is unheard of to exit the house in basketball shorts and a tank top, or gym clothes, and if you do, you will get an endless amount of stares from people that are flabbergasted that you would dress yourself like that, or that your mother would allow you to be seen like that. Italians very much believe in creating a good impression and dressing well. Yes, there are fashion victims in every city, but that is true for everywhere.

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 7.32.05 PM

 

  1. Italians have no problem with PDA

It is not uncommon to see lovers passionately kissing in a piazza or in a park. Young couples can be spotted getting quite physical in public and it is not taboo at all. We are all just so full of love, who can blame us, this is a romantic country.

 

Italian-family

 

  1. Italians all have big families

This is not necesarily true, unfortunately, Italians actually have a negative population growth rate, meaning that our population is in decline. The high cost of living in Italy causes couples to hesitate in having children. The typical Italian family is usually one or two children, the family unit in Italy is much smaller than it is percieved to be.

 

MamasBoy2_0

 

  1. Italians live with their families until theyre 40

Perhaps 40 is a little much, but this is true for most Italians who simply cannot afford to buy their own place and must depend on Mamma and Papa late into their late 20’s and often early 30’s. For most Italians, it is not uncommon to live at home until they marry.

 

 

mommas-boy

 

BONUS

  1. Italians men are all Mamma’s boys

In Italian culture, the mother is the glue that sticks the family together. Italians dont feel that their relationship with their mothers is unusual because parents are simply more respected. There is no feeling of teenagers being embarassed by ones parents in Italy, the mother and father are honored.

 

Read More

Basic Guide to Pronouncing Foods in Italian

Posted by on Jun 11, 2015 in How To, language, Uncategorized | 0 comments

 

 

Learning a new language is terrifying. All the pronunciation rules you know and love in English are entirely irrelevant in this new language, its like being in primary school all over again.

Right now Sam and I are preparing for a trip to Israel, so naturally we are trying to learn some key words – I’m talking super basic stuff here, okay (hello, goodbye, food, water, bathroom, coffee) basics. Granted Hebrew might be a little extra hard because of the different characters, but I AM TERRIBLE AT IT. My only saving grace was a short phonetic guide sounding out each syllable so I might have a chance and getting close to saying the word correctly.

This is the second phonetic guide I am posting for you, highlighting every Italian persons favorite thing…FOOD! I also threw in some basic phrases for you at the end. My last post highlighted Greetings, Directions, Shopping, and Numbers.  Before that, I wrote out a basic guide to Italian pronunciation . I promise this will be the last blog post that feels like a classroom, I just wish that there were more resources for me right now to learn Hebrew, so I figured maybe somebody wants this for Italian.
Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 6.09.32 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 6.09.51 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read More

Helpful Italian Words and Phrases

Posted by on Jun 3, 2015 in language, Tips, Travel Tips, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I know that when you are learning a new language, it can be harder than just having the words in front of you, its also about how in heavens name you’re supposed to be able to pronounce them!

There are a lot of guides, but when you are in the store, or in the taxi and its your time to shine, you totally freeze and forget everything you studied. Been there, done that.

For me, it is useful to have an syllable by syllable guide to how each foreign word would be spelled if it were written in English.

For example: many people probably know how to pronounce the word “Uno” in Italian, but, if it were a super phonetic English word, it might look like “oo-no”.

A more complicated word would be “men”.  In Italian it is spelled “uomini” but that is a little intimidating to look at for a beginner. A super phonetic English spelling might be “woah-me-knee”. If you say these three English sounds out loud “woah”- “me” -“knee” you will have correctly pronounced the Italian word for men.

The very last thing I want to do is confuse anyone, I just want to give you a tool I find useful when I am desperately trying to learn a new language. If the super phonetic guide confuses you more, I promise I won’t be offended. At least you still have the English – Italian translations.

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 6.28.19 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 3.09.58 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 6.30.33 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 6.32.03 PM

 

Read More

Speak Italian like a Local

Posted by on May 26, 2015 in language, Tips, Travel Tips | 1 comment

Before traveling any place that speaks a different language, you should definitely take the time to learn some key words and phrases to help fit in and know what is going on. Although finding some english speakers isn’t too hard in big cities, once you get off the beaten path you will likely wish you studied a little bit, I know we did…

Last year, my fiancé and I went to France, we didn’t prepare for the language barrier at all, thinking that between speaking English and Italian, we were going to be mostly ok, plus, he did study french in high school. The very first day we sat down at a restaurant outside of touristy Paris and realized we couldn’t read anything on the menu. I went for a really safe dish – Caesar Salad, and he went for something that looked like it read “Andouille Sausage”. The waiter tried to warn us about something, but we couldn’t understand him.

Once our dishes came out we thought we were in the clear, but as soon as he cut his fork into the “sausage” a nauseating smell filled the air. What in the world had he ordered? I happily ate my safe and boring salad as he took a few bites and whispered “I don’t know what this is, but I can’t eat this”. Google to the rescue! after a quick search I learned that he had in fact ordered a colon sausage – which explains the smell,  and that it is a delicacy in Paris. All of this could have been avoided if we had studied a little bit of French before traveling there.

Now, I still can’t teach you French, but I can teach you what I know. There’s no way I can fit it all into one blog post, so I will start with pronunciation and grammar. Although Italian it is very phonetic, pronunciation can get a little tricky; here are some tips to sounding like a local!

 

Pronunciation:

Each vowel is pronounced clearly:

A as in father

E as in bent or ray

I as in police

O as in no

U as in noon

 

 

It’s not that easy. Diphthongs include:

Ai as in ripe

Ei as in play

Ia as in yarn

Oi as in boy

Uo as in war

 

 

Consonants generally sound similar to English, but of course, there are exceptions:

Ce or Ci as in church

Ge or Gi as in joy

Ch or Gh as in cat

Gli as in scallion

Gn as in canyon

Sce or Sci as in fish

Sca, Sco or Scu as in scout

 

 

Grammar:

All nouns in Italian are either masculine or feminine. There are, of course, exceptions, but in most cases, nouns ending in –o are masculine and those ending in –a are feminine.

 

When they are masculine, the articles il/lo (the) and un/uno (a) precede them. When they are feminine, la/ l’ (the) or una / un’ (a) precede them.

 

This is just a quick cheat sheet to pronouncing words, I will post words and phrases that you should be familiar with as well as their phonetic pronunciation next week! Stay tuned!

Read More

How to Survive a Long Flight : Entertainment

Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Flying, How To, Travel Tips | 1 comment

Sometimes you get lucky and your flight will offer unlimited free movies of your choice on your in – seat entertainment, and sometimes your plane has nothing but the back of someone’s seat for you to look at. There are a few things you can do to help the boredom of hours in the same seat.

 

  1. Charge Up – Make sure all your devices are totally charged up before your flight, although some airplanes have a place to plug in a charger, most don’t, getting on the plane and realizing your iPod is dead is a real bummer.
  2. Bring a Book – International departing flights don’t allow electronics before reaching cruising altitude yet, so keep that in mind, its not a long amount of time to wait, but a book sure helps it go by. Otherwise loading up a kindle with a new book and getting lost in a story helps the time go by.
  3. Make a Playlist – I like to set up a playlist of relaxing music and sounds to have on repeat while I try to sleep. But I also download all kinds of music to listen to on the plane, what better time to give that new album a good listen to than this long flight?
  4. Queue up Shows / Movies – For when you are awake, having your favorite show or movie to watch is really great. Some flights have in – seat entertainment, but you have to pay for most of the movies on domestic flights. I like queuing it all up on my iPad and binge watching my favorite shows. That way I can watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S. or the entire Harry Potter Series the whole flight over.
  5. Download games on your device – Nowadays tablets and smart phones can hold so much entertainment, that you can play games the whole flight over if you wanted. I make sure I browse the most popular games in the app store before a long flight and download the interesting ones. Games like Candy Crush, Angry Birds, or Solitaire can really keep you busy.
  6. Talk to Your Neighbor – Now I’m going old fashioned on you guys. If sleeping, or giving all your attention to an electronic device doesn’t work, you can always try striking up a conversation with the person next to you. Nowadays we are all very consumed by electronics, and we don’t even consider talking to people that are right in front of us. How many times have you sat next to a person in a plane for 5 hours and never even learned their name?
Read More

How to Survive a Long Flight : Health

Posted by on Apr 30, 2015 in Cooking, Culinary, Culture, Flying, Food, How To, language, Lazio, Tips, Tours, Travel Tips, Tuscany, Umbria | 1 comment

Planes are incubators for sicknesses. And what really stinks is saving up your money, traveling across the world and getting to your destination just to spend the whole time sick in a hotel room.

 

Here are my favorite tips to give your body a fighting chance on that long flight:

 

  1. Water Bottle – believe it or not, one of the biggest obstacles for your body on flights is dehydration. Flight attendants come around offering drinks several times, but not nearly enough for what your body needs. The worst thing you can do to your body is drink alcohol on long flights. Pack an empty refillable water bottle with you to fill up after security. That way you always have water on hand in flight. Drink up!
  2. Moisturizer – Your skin gets extra dehydrated in flight too! You can buy 3oz moisturizer to comply with TSA regulations at most drug stores in the travel section. Apply moisturizer to your face, hands, arms and feet several times to keep your skin hydrated.
  3. Lip Balm – Can you tell I love staying hydrated? Your poor lips get so dehydrated on these flights, they need some chap stick or they’ll start to crack.
  4. Sanitizing Wipes / Hand Sanitizer – This one is super important because those planes are crawling with germs. They don’t clean the planes well between flights either; I’ve opened my tray table up and found smeared food from the last flight! Using sanitizing wipes to disinfect your space is vital! I like to go cleaning crazy and wipe down my seat and the seats near me (you’re welcome neighbors), my tray table, my arm rests, the seat in front of me, and the screen (if I have one).
  5. Vitamin C – Being in a closed space with over 200 people for hours on end calls for serious Vitamin C. I like bringing Emergen-C (a Fizzy dissolvable powder high in Vitamin C) with me and taking it two or three times during the flight, you don’t want to get to your destination and be sick during your vacation.
  6. Stretching / Walking –The combination of less oxygen from the higher altitude, dehydration, and sitting for long periods of time decreases circulation, tenses muscles, and can even cause blood clots. If you remain seated for more than four hours, your chance of a blood clot doubles. Get up and walk around a little bit, stretch your muscles, especially your legs, get your blood flowing. Your body will thank you.
Read More

How To Survive a Long Flight : Sleeping

Posted by on Apr 24, 2015 in Coffee, Cooking, Culinary, Culture, Flying, Food, How To, language, Lazio, Personal, Tips, Tours, Travel Tips, Tuscany, Umbria, Uncategorized, Wine | 4 comments

I started out wanting to make one big post about every tip I have for How To Survive a Long Flight, and then it got so long I realized I needed to break it up into more manageable posts, so I will post this one first because it’s the hardest.

I definitely know the pain of sleeping on long flights first hand; cramped quarters, dry air, achy muscles and sitting upright don’t exactly scream comfort. Unless you’re upgrading to a first class full reclining chair, you’re going to need a little help.

 

Here are my tried and true tips on what to pack in your carry on to get the best sleep possible (in no particular order):

 

  1. Ear plugs / Noise Cancelling Headphones – whether or not you are a light sleeper at home, there are tons of sounds that can interrupt your sleep in a plane (toilets flushing, people snoring, people coughing, people talking, etc) A pair of ear plugs to silence everything or a pair of noise cancelling headphones can take you to your own space. I like to set up a playlist of relaxing sounds to play on repeat on the plane.
  2. Eye Mask – The plane will generally turn the lights off about 45 minutes after they serve dinner to allow sleep time. It is a good idea to utilize this time to do just that. However, there is some light that can disturb your already uncomfortable sleep. An eye mask blocks that out so you can pretend you’re sleeping in a really uncomfortable chair in your own home!
  3. Blanket / Shawl – Most airlines do provide a blanket on international flights, but not on domestic flights. Either way, the blanket is always thin and static-y. I like to bring a big shawl that doubles as a lightweight blanket or scarf on the plane.
  4. Warm socks – Would you ever crawl into bed and go to sleep wearing your shoes at home? No? Exactly! When its time to go to sleep in the plane, take your shoes off, and put on a pair of warm and maybe fuzzy socks, they’ll keep your toes warm and you’ll be way more comfortable.
  5. Inflatable Neck Pillow – What’s great about inflatable pillows is that they deflate and fit better in your carry on. The pillow offered by airlines on international flights is thin and itchy, I use that one for some more lower back support which airplane seats lack, and then use my handy inflatable neck pillow for sleeping upright! There is a method to the madness!
  6. Toothbrush & Toothpaste – You brush before bed, and after you wake up at home, so why would you skip this step when on a plane? Plus, it’s a great way to feel refreshed and normal on such a long flight.
  7. Tea – This isn’t necessary, but I like to bring a tea bag or two with me and ask for hot water before trying to sleep. Chamomile Tea is proven to be quite helpful in relaxing and falling asleep.
  8. Sleep Aid – This is probably the most important one in my opinion. I can’t fall asleep upright, surrounded by strangers, 35,000 feet in the air unless I have a little help. I like to take Advil PM because it relieves the unavoidable discomforts of sitting for 11 hours and also helps me sleep in the plane.

 

Read More

Olive Garden cooking school in Tuscany?

Posted by on Feb 4, 2014 in Cooking, Culinary, Food, Let Me Vent, Things that make me scratch my head, Tuscany | 11 comments

Updated 02/2014

Olive Garden is one of those places that really sets my blood to boil. Every time I hear the word ‘Hospitaliano’ I begin to cringe and twitch. When I hear them say ‘When you’re here, you’re family’, I can’t help but visualize the corporate offices of a chain with nearly 700 cookie-cutter restaurants. I’d just love to show up there one day waving my hands saying ‘Ciao!!! It’s cousin Michael’. I wonder what kind of Hospitaliano I will receive when I help myself (as family would) in their executive lunchroom at the corporate HQ. Better yet, after you leave an Olive Garden, how many people that work there know your name, let alone consider you family? Do we actually buy into this stuff?

I’ve Got Your Hospitaliano Right Here

OK, marketing marketing marketing. But now their commercials focus on their ‘Culinary Institute’ in Tuscany? They imply that their chefs all go there to learn how to make true Italian food with the freshest of ingredients. They learn from a local grandmother, then come back to their local Olive Garden and you get the benefit of their new-found talents. Yeah, Right! This is just over the top. Is Olive Garden actually trying to imply now that they serve authentic Italian food? Do they really want us to believe that it is the real thing? Fresh? We are talking about a Boil-a-meal-in-a-bag-then-serve chain here, people. Their recipes are at best ‘Italian Inspired’, but by no means Italian. It would be like having someone serve you a sausage and call it a hot dog.

Their latest commercial talked about how their chefs came back from Italy with their new recipe, ‘Chicken Crostina’ . Ummm… sorry folks, no such thing, and I can most certainly guarantee that the grandmother shown teaching the chefs in the commercial wouldn’t put an Olive Garden Chicken Crostina in her mouth to save her life, let alone teach anyone to make it.

A Dose of Reality

So what is this ‘Cooking Institute’ all about? I did a little research, and I put some two and two together. It appears that someone in corporate found an independent cooking school in Tuscany and made a deal with them. Olive Garden ranks all of their chefs and managers (as any corporation would), and the top 100 win a one-week trip to Italy the following year. It appears that they send 10 of their people at a time. It sounds like a great performance perk, and they are certainly getting a ton of marketing mileage out of it. However, I can pretty much guarantee that they come home and look at the food they make at their local Olive Garden and simply shake their heads, having finally experienced the real thing. In any case, they then go back to their ‘line chef’ system and feed you the same junk they always have. Sigh.

Are You Looking for Something AUTHENTIC?

Some have asked why my opinion is so strong on this subject.  Simply put, I own a cooking school in Italy that actually DOES create a family experience.  We actually DO teach authentic home-style Tuscan cooking, and our vacations are the stuff of dreams.  So since you probably arrived here while searching Google for information about Olive Garden’s cooking school, please do me one little favor:  Have a look at our website and check out what we are all about.  If you are really considering a cooking vacation in Italy, I think what we have will be EXACTLY what you are dreaming of.

Win a Trip to the Culinary Institute?

Hey, it’s a great promotion!  However, if you are hoping to learn the secrets of Chicken-Gnocchi-Alfrefo Soup or Deep Fried Lasagna Bites, it just isn’t going to happen.  I suspect that you will get a more authentic experience, and by the time you come home to Olive Garden, you will be squarely in my camp.

Update 2014:

According to their website, Olive Garden partnered with the Rocca delle Macie Winery to establish the “Culinary Institute of Tuscany”.  As mentioned earlier, this not actually something that Olive Garden runs, nor is it a place they send their “chefs” to learn.  But rather an incentive for Olive Garden employees.  Nothing like what you see in the video:

Read More

Food Marketing Terms That Really Chap My Hide…

Posted by on Apr 26, 2013 in Culinary, Culture, Let Me Vent, Personal, Things that make me scratch my head | 5 comments

Many of my posts here are about the oddities I find living in Italy as an American, but the reverse holds true as well. Having spent so much time in Italy, when I come back to the states, there are things that are normal to Americans, but rub me the wrong way because of my time in Italy. One of these that really gets to me is how we describe food in the states.

Italian culture truly does revolve around food. It is so important, that an Italian company really can’t get away with slick marketing terms that are misleading. That is, if something is marketed as “fresh”, it damn well better have come from the farm 15 minutes ago. But in the states, all of these terms to describe food have become meaningless. So here is my list of terms I find to describe food in the states that make me say “Are you freaking kidding me???”

Fresh
How many times have you been in a restaurant that advertises “The Freshest Ingredients”? Really? Are you treating me like I was born yesterday? I mean, everyone does it, from chain restaurants to fast food establishments. That tomato that you advertised as “Fresh” likely came from a greenhouse on another continent weeks ago. Spare me.

Home Made
How many restaurants offer home-made pie? Home made meatloaf, home made just-about-everything? So, did your chef make this at his house this morning and bring it to work? Why on earth do we respond to this?

Artisan
So I walk into some fast food restaurant and see an “Artisan” sandwich advertised. ARTISAN? To begin with, How on earth does ARTISAN apply to food? Do they have some little old man in the back with a lifetime of experience sculpting the ingredients into a work of art? I mean, fast food assembly line sandwich shops advertise “artisan” food. Please!

Hand-Crafted
Put this up there with artisan. What is “Hand Crafted Roast Beef”, anyway? How do you hand-craft that? And if you do, do chain restaurants really do it? I think not, so why use the term and treat your customers like idiots?

Hand-Cut
Again, like Hand-crafted, and used ad nauseum. So the meat in your sandwich is hand cut. Does that make it better? Really? Do you honestly hand-cut it?

Pan-Fried
I see this on menus all the time, like Pan-Fried Salmon. I have just one question: How else would you fry the salmon? In a pressure cooker? In an oven? In the sink? I don’t get it.

Cooked to Perfection
How many times do you see a description on a menu that tells us the food is cooked to perfection? How else are they supposed to cook it otherwise?

100% Real
This fist struck me on a pizza box from Papa John’s. 100% Real Cheese? Are they telling me that other Pizza uses fake cheese? That may be so, and great that theirs is real… but what is the other pizza made of? How sad is it that we have to wonder if our cheese is actually cheese!

Real Fruit Flavor
I love seeing this on juice drinks. So which it? Real Fruit? Or Real Flavor? Are you telling me that the flavor is that of REAL fruit, but it is fake? Am I supposed to get excited that it doesn’t TASTE like artificial fruit, even though it really is artificial? Or are you trying to pull one over on me, thinking I will believe you are selling me real fruit, when in fact only the flavor is supposed to taste real? Huh??? Argh!!

Natural Cut
Hello Wendy’s! Are you trying to tell me that your “Natural Cut Fries” are naturally cut? Or that the fries are natural, and you cut them?  Perhaps they are natural fries that you cut naturally? Because a quick google search will show anyone that there is very little natural about Wendy’s natural cut fries.

OK, I’m done with my rant… for now.

Read More

Who is Alfredo Sauce, and why do Americans keep asking about him?

Posted by on Mar 24, 2010 in Cooking, Culinary, Culture, Food, Travel Tips | 18 comments

I’ve heard it time and time again.  “I can’t wait to have Fettuccine Alfredo in Italy”.  Ummm, sorry friend… you won’t find it.  It isn’t Italian.  Well, that isn’t entirely true, actually.  You can get it in Italy, but you will never find anything like it it on a menu, and certainly not by that name.  To get you in the right frame of mind, imagine I served you a simple slice of toast with a pat of butter on it, and I told you this was a special dish I call ‘Bread alla Michael’, you would laugh, right?   Fettuccine Alfredo falls into that realm for an Italian.

My Stomach is Unsettled Tonight

When you were growing up, if you had a little stomach ache, maybe your mother gave you some chicken broth.  Perhaps some simple rice, or a little toast?  If your stomach was unsettled, she gave you something light, right?  In the pasta culture of Italy, one of the most common things ‘mamma’ would have given you is a very simple pasta, called ‘pasta in bianco’.  That translates to ‘white pasta’… or more indirectly, ‘without any sauce’.  Of course, mamma would never have just given you pasta without flavor, so she put a little butter and Parmesan cheese on it to get you to eat it.

It is the most basic of pastas.   You will never find it on a menu in Italy, because who in their right mind would go out and pay to have Pasta In Bianco?  It is so simple, so basic, that if you really wanted it any restaurant could give it to you, so to advertise it on a menu would be like Ford advertising that their cars have steering wheels.  Duh!

To go to a restaurant with the purpose of ordering this dish would be like going to a Chinese restaurant with the purpose of ordering plain, steamed, white rice.  It simply is what it is.  And if you DO ask for it in a restaurant in Italy, the waiter may show concern for you, thinking you may not be feeling well.

The Pregnant Wife

So why am I rambling on about stomach aches, anyway?  This is how ‘Alfredo Sauce’ was born.  As the story goes, there was a restaurant owner of a touristy restaurant in Rome back in the 1920’s.  His name was Alfredo, and at the time he had a pregnant wife. She was regularly having pasta in bianco, because she couldn’t keep anything else down.  The story they tell you now is that one day Alfredo rushed into the kitchen to make a special dish that she simply could not resist, and he suddenly invented Fettuccine Alfredo… well, it makes for a good tourist tale, but it is just Pasta in Bianco. It is what any Italian would make on any given day for any pregnant woman suffering from nausea.

One day, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks were at his restaurant and had this dish that the wife had been eating.  That day the pasta happened to be Fettuccine, and of course she was having it ‘In Bianco’.  They loved it,, and gave Alfredo a picture of them to hang on his wall along with a golden spook and fork.

Alfredo gave them the “recipe”.  I put recipe in quotes for a reason. Try to imagine if a visitor asked you for the recipe for buttered toast.  To any Italian, giving the “recipe” for pasta in bianco is just like that.

When they went back to Hollywood, they began to serve it to friends, telling them about Alfredo’s restaurant in Rome.  Alfredo suddenly found Hollywood elite visiting his restaurant, looking for ‘Alfredo’s Fettuccine’, so it made its way to his menu.  Pasta in bianco was now ‘Fettuccine Alfredo’, at least for the steady stream of tourists that frequented his place.  Many actors also contributed photos, of course.  The restaurant became a very popular tourist destination for Americans.

Off To America

After several years, Alfredo sold his place to the person that runs it now.  But he later got involved with another group of entrepreneurs, who opened another Alfredo (including Alfredo’s in New York, Vegas, and Disney).  Fettuccine Alfredo became even more popular in America as a result, to the point that it became a staple in just about every Italian restaurant in the US.  Of course,, as good Americans, we need to make everything bigger and better, so ‘Alfredo’ became a ‘sauce’ for just about everything, almost like a Starbucks ingredient for coffee.  Chicken Alfredo, Shrimp Alfredo, Tomato Pesto Pasta Pine Alfredo….. ugh.  People began to add cheese, pepper, starch, and who knows what… to the point that any white creamy thing that went with pasta became ‘Alfredo Sauce’.  In America.

New-Yorkese Cuisine

That is how much of what we believe to be Italian food came to be. Imported, morphed and combined shadows of what the real Italian thing was.  I call it ‘New Yorkese’.  Buca Di Beppo is not an Italian chain, it is a New Yorkese chain.  Maggiano’s? New Yorkese.  Olive Garden?  No, I won’t even give Olive Garden such a high designation.

You won’t find spaghetti and meatballs in Italy.  You will never find olive oil and herb dipping sauce with your bread.  There will be no Chicken-Pesto pasta, and you won’t see a meat lover’s pizza.  You will also never see Alfredo Sauce.  That is, unless you happen upon the restaurant that exists with the sole purpose of capitalizing on the fact that you are seeking it out.

L’Originale Alfredo

You can go there.  It is in downtown Rome.  They will have beautiful outdoor seating, they will have a people that will serenade you, and you will see the pictures all over the walls.  And yes, you can order a dish of Pasta in Bianco.  ummm, I mean Fettuccine Alfredo.  You will be joined by nothing but other Americans that were looking for the same place, for the same reasons.  You will find no Italians, no other Europeans, nada.  This place is there just for Americans.  If that is what you are after, by all means go and have a wonderful time.  It is truly a pretty place.  But for those that are looking for something authentic, by all means, keep walking.   Since they don’t cater to Italians here, they can get away with low quality ingredients, producing low-quality food.  Why?  Because you are a tourist and you won’t know the difference.  Why not stay home and go to Olive Garden if you want bad Italian food?

Actually, if you find yourself there and suddenly see what I am talking about, there is a great place next door called ReCafè, which makes fantastic pizza.

But if you really, really want it…

Hey, just because it is extremely simple, doesn’t make it bad, right?  Actually, Pasta in bianco is a wonderful light dish, just not something one would pay a premium for.   So when you are in Italy, don’t worry about the fact that it is not on the menu.  If you want it, order Fettuccine In Bianco.  If you want creamy, you can ask for Fettuccine Con Panna.  It will be what you are looking for, but will be much better than what you will get at the Alfredo place.  But if you go into ANY Italian restaurant and ask for ‘Alfredo Sauce’, they will certainly ask you who Alfredo Sauce is.

Read More