italian gastronomy  May 2011
    by Nunzio Romano

The 10 most common errors in Italian Tradition which people around the world think are the true Italian style.

While Italian cuisine is one of the most famous in the world, it is also true that it is probably one of the most misunderstood.

There are a multitude of recipes and traditions branded as typically Italian around the world, which are virtually unknown in the “Bel Paese” or only limited to certain areas.

EDIT: the updated list is on our Facebook Fan Page

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These are often the results of culture similarities to the Italian, but in a way very different: an example for all is the Italian-American culture.

Cappuccino (Photo by:

The latter, although it has its roots in the traditions introduced in the United States by Italian immigrants in the first half of the twentieth century, has subsequently become a delicatessen with its own tenets and its special characteristics that led to the spread in America of certain foods considered to be typical of Italian cuisine, but which are actually very far apart.
Here is presented a subjective ranking of these “topical” foods:

1- Cappuccino after a meal
There is no doubt that coffee and cappuccino are the pride of Italy in the world, but if the first is usually consumed at the end of the meal, the second, more substantial, it is usually sipped between meals, especially breakfast, accompanied by a pastry.
Otherwise, outside of Italy, cappuccino is often consumed after meals as coffee.

2- The risotto and pasta as a side dish
As we will see in a post which will be published in the next few days, the organization of courses in the Italian dining is unique and requires the pasta and – most of the time – the risotto to be served by themselves. The presentation of pasta as a side dish to others is widespread in several countries, but in Italy is seen almost as a sacrilege.

3- The “Feast of the Seven Fishes”
Known in the United States as “The Vigil,” this anniversary, celebrated on the eve of Christmas, demands to dine with 7 courses of fish.
Curiously, the “feast of seven fishes”, which in America is considered by many the most important Italian holiday, is actually unknown in Italy, though, especially in the south, there are pretty similar traditions and it is still a widespread custom to eat meat-free dishes in the evening of December 24.

Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad

4- The ketchup on pasta
It is one of the combinations that most shocks Italians; although ketchup may have some similarities to the tomato sauce, to pour over pasta in the “Bel Paese” is considered a real Gourmet crime.

5- Spaghetti Bolognese
It is probably the world’s most popular Italian recipe, only that it is virtually impossible to find a restaurant that serves them in Bologna.
In the home city of the Bolognese sauce, in fact, it is eaten only with fresh made “Tagliatelle all’uovo”.
Although this may seem a minor detail, in real Italian cuisine the pairing of the right kind of pasta with the right sauce is considered almost sacred.

6- The pasta with chicken
Speaking with American friends, one of the most frequent requests is the advice for a typical Italian recipe for pasta with chicken. It’s always rather embarrassing to point out that in Italy there are no recipes for pasta with chicken sauce.

7- The “Caesar salad”
This salad, which bears the name of its supposed creator, Caesar Cardini, a part of the long list of recipes devised by chefs of Italian origin, but in fact is almost unknown in Italy.

8- The red and white chequered tablecloth
For some strange reason, these tablecloths are universally associated with our food and abroad almost all the restaurants that want to play typical Italian use them. Probably tourists who come to visit Italy remain somewhat disappointed when they discover that the chequered tablecloths are almost never used.

9- The “Fettuccine Alfredo”
This is perhaps the most curious in this top ten. The fettuccine Alfredo is both the most famous “Italian” food in the United States and the least known dish in Italy.
These noodles, seasoned with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano, are in fact actually been invented in the “Bel Paese”, specifically by Afredo Di Lelio, the owner of a restaurant in Rome, but in Italy have never been imposed as a traditional dish. Overseas, however, have become increasingly popular and in time became a symbol of the good life in Rome.
For this reason legions of American tourists coming to Italy hoping to enjoy the fettuccine Alfredo at every restaurant on the peninsula remain very disappointed.

10- Spaghetti with meatballs
One of the most famous scenes of the animated film “Lady and the Tramp” is the one where the two dogs are served on a white and red chequered tablecloth a plate of spaghetti topped by large meatballs.
Although it is known in America as an Italian recipe, this is actually a dish of Italian-American tradition.
In fact, if it is true that Southern cuisine have several recipes of pasta with meatball sauces, it is also true that these are always very small, unlike the dish now widespread in the States.

Have a look to our real italian pasta and first courses recipes!

And you? Do you know any other “Italian traditions” that really are not? Write your culinary experiences in the comments!

Choose your favorite destination and discover Italy with the Italian Food Authority: Academia Barilla!

Great Tuscan Food and Wine

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158 “The 10 most common errors in Italian Tradition which people around the world think are the true Italian style.”

  1. Valerio says:

    People outside Italy aren’t carefully during the heating of pasta and they haven’t got the required patience to make a good pasta’s sauce. For example, here in Japan I saw horrible things… really!

  2. Fede says:

    It took me a good 3 years but I finally found out the origin of the Pepperoni Pizza – Pepperoni being a brand name. The company Pepperoni produces those salame-style things used on pizza abroad, hence the confusion.
    Here in the UK chicken pizza is also quite popular, something never ever seen in Italy!

  3. Alan says:

    A few things from the American point of view…

    - Ketchup on pasta is not that common. Some people who like ketchup on everything also like it on their pasta, but it is not a normal thing. Seems that some here think we all do it.

    - When I travel, I always seek out the local food and give it a try. I see so many “rules” listed on here and suggestions of getting ill when people do things like put cheese on their fish dishes (gasp!). Really? Guess what. Other cultures have different preferences for food, and we don’t gasp if you do something different when visiting here.

    - There are many restaurants that specify by region and do a much better job of representing the cuisine. With pasta being a relatively inexpensive dish, it does lend itself to many restaurants throwing it together cheaply and generically calling it “Italian.” I’ve seen the same in my travels with “hamburgers” not quite coming out the same.

    Bottom line, the article was educational, but the responses have appeared somewhat close-minded.

  4. Camilla says:

    Great list of true stories!
    I think you forgot Pizza Hawaii (pizza with pineapple!)!! I have lived in Australia and now I live in The Netherlands, and well, It is very popular in both countries!
    and people are very disappointed when they cannot find it on the menu!

  5. elenaccia says:

    Hello everybody!

    I’ve got something that “cade come il cacio sui maccheroni” – to keep the point!

    You peckish guys, take a look here at my fake-italian-food-dedicated tumblr and frighten with it:
    (but Facebookaholics can also click on

    I just hope it doesn’t make anybody hungry :P

  6. Christie says:

    I completely agree with Alan.

  7. castelli says:

    Lfoster you’re quite right, no cheese should go on pasta with red chili and many Italian actually don’t add grated cheese to served pasta as can often ruin a carefully + well prepared sauce. Ah sauce…I think that one of the biggest misunderstandings is the word ‘ragù (correct way to name ‘bolognese sauce) the meat based sauce”…,,however you can also get fish ragù, vegetable ragù etc…it can be considered a condiment with chopped up ingredients, a rough texture….not salsa which has a creamier more liquid consistency…hope that clears up something!
    I’d rather go for open-mindedness….bringing value to, upholding or appreciating fine, autentic food is one of life’s understandings and an immense pleasure:-)))

  8. Number 11 should be, No Parmigiano cheese on Pasta with clams. These problems are not isolated to just Americans however . That to, is a misconception. I watched some German tourists attempt to sprinkle cheese on fish at a restaurant on Elba once. Thought the waiter was going to have a stroke. Heheheheh Saluti, Barbara
    I will share.
    Sunday at the Giacometti’s

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