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Poll Shows Difference Between Italian and Italian-American

By on Thursday, February 10th, 2022 at 10:25 am | 2,731 views

Italian Flag vs American Flag: Italian Food Are You Eating It Wrong?

The website YouGov released polling information from Italy and 16 other countries asking locals how acceptable or unacceptable various practices are surrounding Italian food consumption. Perhaps not surprisingly, the poll revealed many differences between Italian food traditions and those that are Italian-American.

Below, we breakdown why Americans do or don’t align with the results of Italians from most acceptable to least.

Lunch Pizza

Not surprisingly, both Italians and Americans were in agreement that pizza is acceptable for lunch. What the poll doesn’t go into is the style of pizza. Italians likely mean Neapolitan pies, smaller in scale and lighter on cheese and meat. Americans though are probably more likely to eat pizza by the slice — New York style pizza. Overall this is a fairly popular idea — and why not? As the Pizza Bagel Bites say: pizza anytime.

Serving Bolognese Sauce and Spaghetti

This is a bit of surprise given all the research suggesting that taglietelle is considered sacrosanct for Bolognese sauce. I would bet that in Bologna, serving spaghetti with Bolognese sauce would not be so popular. The polling information doesn’t go that deep. Less than half of Americans approve, which is surprising considering how many American restaurants serve bolognese with pasta other than taglietelle.

Fork Pizza

New Yorkers might recall that time Boston Red Sox fan Bill de Blasio, who coincidentally was mayor of New York, was caught eating pizza with a fork. Fork pizza has a low approval among Americans, which isn’t that surprising. New York slices — the model of pizza in America — should be eaten with one’s hands. Obviously something like Chicago deep dish casserole is better off with a knife and fork, but most national chains serve pizza fit for the fingers. Moreover, the mark of a good New York slice is a dough that withstands holding, folding, and chewing. Italians though, who are more likely to have Neapolitan pies, overwhelmingly approve of eating pizza with a fork. That’s maybe isn’t surprising either. Even in New York where we fold a pizza onto itself so we can eat it while walking, Neapolitan-style pies like those from Roberta’s and Motorino sometimes benefit from a little fork action.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Surprisingly, a little more than half of Italians approve. The Americanize pasta dish is a classic example of Italian-American cuisine, often maligned by defenders of authentic Italian food. Its possible that the poll failed to distinguish whether the spaghetti was served before or alongside the meatballs. Americans combined the dish into one.

Adding Sauce to Pasta (instead of Pasta to Sauce)

A majority of Americans incorrectly use sauce as a topping over pasta. Pasta should be finished in the pan of sauce allowing it to be absorbed. The most surprising part of this is how neutral Italians are to this practice.

Garlic Bread and Pasta

Garlic bread is overwhelmingly acceptable to serve with pasta according to Americans. We are after all, home to Olive Garden’s unlimited breadsticks. Italians don’t get on board with serving bread and pasta together. Why? Garlic bread is essentially bruschetta, and should be served before the meal or simply as a snack with drinks, better known as apertivo. Its fairly common to get free food with what are essentially happy hour drinks. Garlic bruschetta, at least in a primitive form, goes back as far as ancient Rome. Remember, tomatoes were only introduced to Italy after the Columbian Exchange, but garlic and alliums generally were readily available.

Cheese and Seafood

Italians strongly disapprove of merging seafood with cheese. Americans are have a slight approval rating — and there are a lot more exceptions in Italian-American cuisine. For instance, Shrimp Parmigiana is smothered in cheese. Its a meat-free alternative to the more popular chicken and veal parm (and yes, so is eggplant, but that hardly seems relevant when you can have shrimp parm).

Cream in Carbonara

Italians strongly disapprove of using cream in carbonara sauce. Often this dish is maligned as an American creation, a result of American troops hungry for bacon and eggs (this is not actually the origin though). Not surprisingly Americans are more forgiving of adding cream, in part because so many modern American versions have cream or milk, including popular variations from national restaurants like Olive Garden.

Pineapple and Pizza

Most people will laugh at this combination, and though Americans approve slightly more than Italians, its relatively unpopular across the board. South Pacific countries have a slightly higher approval rating, which isn’t surprising in cuisines that value the mix of salty and sweet foods.

Ketchup and Pasta

The strongest disapproval among Italians is using ketchup on pasta. Americans strongly disapprove too, but its worth noting that ketchup has a long history with Americanizing Italian cuisine. In the Depression, ketchup and butter sauce was a cheap alternative. And for many people of northern European lineage, the strong flavor of garlic was off-putting — but that wasn’t true for ketchup which tends to be sweet. Its also interesting to see how this practice is more acceptable in the countries of Oceana. This is actually do in large part to Americans. Following World War II, American occupying forces in Japan introduced many western dishes. Japanese chef Shigetada Irie created Spaghetti Napolitan to serve American troops. It was sweeter than Americans were used to, but ended up appealing to the Japanese population. With food scarce, ketchup offered easy access, and now Spaghetti Napolitan is a popular yoshoku dish, often available in the nation’s many convenience stores.