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Life In Extra

Discovering "Italian" Food In the US

Rob Carrillo,

A few weeks ago, one of our business intelligence experts, Francesco Merangolo left for the US for a three-month project. 

The time spent in the US was a great learning experience bot professionally and personally. However, one of the most interesting aspects of his time there was the food. His new American hosts were only too happy to introduce the Italian food there to Francesco.

Here are some of the various "Italian" food that found its way to the US:

1. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar on salads become.... Italian dressing???

Italian Dressing

"Italian dressing is a huge lie. It's true that Italians like to taste flavours in our food but Italian dressing is just a big mish mash of tastes." - Francesco

One of the most popular salad dressings and sauces in the US is the "Italian" dressing and sauce. These are usually used for salads or sometimes as a marinade for meats. It's usually made with olive oil and vinegar added with garlic, oregano, basil, peppers and parsley.

2. Maccheroni pasta dishes turn to... Macaroni Salad


"All I can say is NO. Just no." - Francesco on macaroni salad

Macaroni salad, unlike the various savoury Italian maccheroni pasta dishes served hot or warm, macaroni salad is more of a side dish served alongside mains such as barbecue or fried chicken. The white sauce coating a macaroni isn't cream but mayonnaise. Aside from the pasta and mayonnaise, macaroni salads usually incorporate raw onions and celery or some other vegetables and even meat.

3. Fettuccine al Burro morphs into the Fettuccine Alfredo


"In Italy we don't know this alfredo. The taste isn't Italian so definitely it's not Italian." - Francesco

Fettuccine Alfredo is a popular pasta dish in the US that most people think is genuinely Italian. While its true roots are properly Roman, the dish was changed completely. The Alfredo sauce can be found in many supermarkets either in a can or in a jar ready to be put on pasta as a sort of quick meal. While versions vary, the Alfredo sauce normally comprises a lot of cream and most likely thickened with eggs or starch. A far cry from the original fettuccine al burro which was simply fettuccine tossed in butter thickened with Parmesan. 

4. They turn our pizza into focaccia


"Their pizza tastes good. Really yummy. But it isn't pizza. It's focaccia." - Francesco

Among the strange "Italian" concoctions in America, perhaps the pizza is the most familiar of all. While it's not exactly the same since pizza in the US is closer to our focaccia which is known for its thickness, there are still some pizzas in the US that are good in their own way.

Redeeming factor?

Despite all the strange food encountered during his trip, Francesco said, "If we're comparing Italy vs. Colorado regarding food, Italy wins, hands down. But what I really loved in Colorado were the people. The people there in Colorado were the  kindest, even to strangers like me, and they made me feel very welcome."

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