My Italian identity has been pushed to its limit many times during the last 3 years while living abroad and exploded many times after seeing some cut spaghetti or having cappuccino right after lunch.
Chapter 1: If you don’t like espresso, you don’t like coffee.
The quintessential Italian breakfast is a strong espresso and a sweet pastry (ideally Cornetto). Cappuccino or milk with cereal, yogurt or bread with butter and marmalade can be one of the few legal options.
Having tea is already pushing it too far. I personally drink tea only when I am sick.
If you go to an Italian cafe in the morning and ask for a tea, the bar tender will probably give you a searching glance to see if you are infectious.
Mix up some scrambled eggs to start your day or roast some bacon in front of your Italian roomates and you will lose any sort of credibility when it comes to food conversations.
Coffee means espresso.
Café macchiato, with hot or cold milk, with or without foam. It can be short, tall or corretto but nothing else. Other kinds of coffee is not admitted.
Take away coffee is heresy. A break at the café having espresso in a proper cup (absolutely standing up) is a religious experience.
Cappuccino is strictly for breakfast or afternoon break but TOTALLY FORBIDDEN during or after meals. If you order cappuccino after lunch, at least apologize to the barman.
Chapter 2: Pasta is always the main dish.
It happened to me quite often to sit in a restaurant (mainly fake Italian restaurants) and get some bread to be dipped in oil.
Now, if you are THAT hungry you can always order “antipasto” while waiting for the main dish.
Secondly, if I’m ever doing such a thing it’s because I was trying the finest Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil and not simply some olive oil bought from the closest supermarket at the corner.
Pasta is NEVER a side dish. This means you can’t put pasta next to your steak. Eat pasta first and then eventually move on to meat or fish.
AND I am even ashamed to write it down: You should not add oil to pasta water.
Pasta dressing (and oil too) must be added only after you have drained it from its cooking water.
Every shape of pasta is good for some sauce. Long and thin pasta such as spaghetti or linguine marry best with olive-oil-based sauces.
Fettuccine and tagliatelle can stand up to cream sauces and ragu. Rigatoni may feel too large for a simple tomato sauce where penne would work better.
Ketchup is not a sauce. Ketchup over pasta is a gourmet crime. Keep it for your french fries or hot dogs, PLEASE!
Never eat bread and pasta together. Instead use some bread to “fare la scarpetta” and mop up the leftover sauce on your plate.
Another beloved topic is: Chicken/meatballs and pasta.
Chicken does not go with pasta and never mix them in the same dish.
Now. Many people would argue that pasta with chicken is good. Bullshit.
Eat chicken or eat pasta!
SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE. Excuse me?
It is probably the world’s most popular Italian recipe but it is definitely not Italian.
Outsiders would probably refer to tagliatelle with ragù. (Yes, tagliatelle not spaghetti).
Chapter 3: Pizza is for connoisseurs
For me Pizza has to be pure.
It can be thin, thick or crunchy but at some point I have to draw the line.
I simply cannot let a bad thing happen to something as great and totally awesome as pizza.
In order to avoid any sort of misunderstanding, I’ve written down here the pizza toppings you are not allowed to use/eat:
– Pepperoni (what is that?)
– Hot dogs
– Sauerkraut (there is a reason why Germans did not invent pizza. This is it.)
– Pasta (wtf?)
– Mayonnaise (Double wtf).
Chapter 4: Dressing a dish.
Never ever add Parmesan to a fish-based dish. Don’t ask why. You simply can’t. Why order a piece of delicate fresh fish if you are going to mask the flavor with cheese?
If you really like cheese that much then just order cheese and leave the fresh fish for people who can appreciate it.
No funny sauces or condiments on fish either. Just a little olive oil, parsley and maybe a small squeeze of lemon at the most.
Olive oil is the only real Italian dressing. All the rest show up at the grocery store on some shelf as “exotic food”.
Chapter 5: Keep it simple.
Any dish should contain not more than 3-4 ingredients max and they must all be individually visible. We want to see and taste everything we are eating.
If you cover up a dish with too many things you have something to hide and it is not good.
If you are eating chicken you want to taste chicken not barbecue sauce.
There are 2 main rules: eat locally and eat seasonally.
Imported foods are changing the picture here but we wait for the arrival of fall for mushrooms and spring for wild strawberries.
For some unknown reasons the white and red checkered table cloths are associated with Italian restaurants/food. You will be disappointed to find out only restaurants for tourists do it.
Chapter 6: Tradition, tradition, tradition.
You have to respect tradition and what Italian Mamma says. She knows from her mum, who knew from her mum, who knew from her mum.
Experiments are always welcomed but there is no point to spoil something that is already perfect.
You might keep doing it wrong when it comes to the Italian way of eating, but there is nothing better than sitting at a table and eating, chating, laughing and sharing even if you can keep using cream to prepare carbonara.
By our one and only Daria Di Leonardo (we miss you)