Three Italian dishes that are not Italian

Many Italian dishes served in America are not eaten in Italy. After years of cultural mixing between Italian immigrants and Americans, the cuisine that is known as ‘Italian’ in America is in fact more accurately described as ‘Italo-American.’ Whether it is the result of marketing ploys or evolutions in a dish, the following classic Italian dishes are in fact almost unheard of in Italy.

Fettuccine alfredo
The thick, cream and cheese pasta sauce is completely unknown in Italian kitchens. The problem here was that a popular Rome restaurant began serving pasta tossed in butter and cheese which American tourists brought back to the States and developed into a much thicker version. That restaurant, Il Vero Alfredo, is still standing today, but ask anyone outside of that one restaurant in Rome and they will insist that Fettuccine Alfredo has nothing to do with Italian cuisine.

Spaghetti and meatballs
The tradition of serving spaghetti with meatballs in a tomato-based sauce is another culinary practice that is unheard of in Italy. While there are certain dishes that call for polpette (the Italian word for meatballs) the Italian variety is much smaller and is never served with spaghetti.

Chicken parmigiana
The closest thing you will get in Italy to what we call chicken parmesan is a Cotoletta alla Milanese. This method of cooking chicken or veal involves coating the meat in bread crumbs and then pan frying it until golden brown. But this dish is never topped with red sauce and cheese, rather, it is most often sprayed with a bit of lemon juice before eating.

These three classic Italo-American dishes are unique in their absence from Italian kitchens. Italy has a very diverse regional food culture that varies greatly according to geographic location. Therefore, it is very difficult to come up with any food at all that is universally Italian.

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