Food. We all need it. We all love it. We all eat it. Growing up, I always said that I loved Italian food. Italian food meaning spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, chicken parmesan, and anything and everything at the Olive Garden. When deciding to study abroad in Italy, I just knew that I would be in food heaven, eating more pasta than I ever dreamed of eating.
It was not until I came to Italy that I realized almost everything I thought I knew about Italian food was a lie! For starters, my all-time favorite food, chicken parmesan, is not Italian… at all. In Italy, they do not mix meats, especially chicken, with their pasta dishes. There are sauces made with meats, such as bolognese, but they do not place large pieces of meat on top. To be honest, my heart broke a little bit knowing that there was no authentic chicken parmesan for me to try in Italy. No meat on their pasta also means another favorite dish does not exist in the world of Italians, spaghetti and meatballs. Yes, you read that correctly. Italians do not put random spheres of meat in their pastas dishes.
Do not even get me started on Olive Garden. Authentic Italian Cuisine? Not quite. If you ever have been to Olive Garden, I am sure your favorite part is when they bring out those delicious breadsticks, but little did you know that those are one of the last things you will see in Italy. Garlic bread does not exist in Italy; however, at the beginning of their meals, they do serve freshly made bread – that, of course, is delicious. Another great thing at Olive Garden is the shrimp alfredo (and all of the cheese that the waitress puts on top of it for you). There are two mistakes with this dish. The first mistake is that alfredo, though invented in Rome, is not a popular dish in Italy, and the second is that Italians would NEVER put cheese on their seafood. It is just not done.
I know that all of this information might be overwhelming, and finding out that America has lied to you about your thought-to-be-favorite cuisine is saddening, but there is a silver lining to this seemingly dark cloud: while in Italy, I had the best lasagna of my life. This adorable little restaurant called Gourmet Café served me the tastiest food that I have had thus far in Rome.
While the lack of the American Italian food may be disappointing, there are so many other great food options to eat in Italy. For instance, there are a variety of pastries to try in the coffee shops. Every place has different sweets that will surely satisfy your sweet tooth, and there is always a nutella option for the chocolate lovers of the world. If you happen to enjoy a good sandwich, Italy is the place. All of the ingredients in their sandwiches are fresh and they have a lot less chemicals than the stuff that we eat in the United States. You can taste the freshness in each and every sandwich. Another great option is the pizza. Again, using fresh ingredients, they manage to create a delectable lunch option. Unlike American pizza, good Italian pizzerias do not serve their pizza in triangular form, but in a rectangle that is folded over to create a pizza sandwich!
I could go on and on about all of the amazing food options that can be found in Italy, but you will just have to give up your idea of what Italian food is, and come and give real Italian food a try.