A trip to Italy undoubtedly includes sampling the traditional local cuisine. But tourists should be aware that Italian cuisine is seasonal and regional. Each season brings its own harvest, which is used to make delicious dishes. The regions themselves are very different from each other and offer all kinds of tasty wonders.
But just so you don't leave your Italian waiter completely bemused, it's important to know that many of the dishes which have been labeled as Italian over the years, in reality are not. Most of them aren't even listen in restaurant menus. Here they are:
No waiter in Italy will have any idea what you're talking about. But regardless, the origin of fettuccine is Italian. They first appeared on the menu of Alfredo Di Lelio's restaurant. He would make them for his wife when she was going through a difficult pregnancy.
The original dish consisted of plain fettuccine with butter, which was the local equivalent of chicken soup. In the past they were served to people who weren't feeling well and their stomach could only handle this type of food. In Italy today, the dish is called "pasta al burro" and lack American additions such as cream, mushrooms and so on.
Light and healthy, you can order an original Caesar Salad in the US. Its creator was Caesar Cardini, an American of Italian origin, who lived in Mexico. His creation wasn't actually planned, he simply made it with the ingredients he had on hand. You might find a Caesar Salad on a menu in Italy but it definitely won't be what you expect. Instead, pick Caprese Salad. You won't be left disappointed.
If you order a pasta with Marinara Sauce and expect a red sauce, then the seafood you find in your plate is certainly going to bewilder you. Marinara means "from the sea". The red sauce is considered its equivalent again thanks to the Americans. It's not a case of the wrong recipe, it's simply a mistake in translation.
Another disappointment born out of a translation error. If you order a latte in Italy you're going to get a cup of cold milk. In Italian, latte means just that - milk. Order a cappuccino instead - there's practically no bad cappuccino in the country. But don't make the mistake of ordering one in the morning. For locals, this is a violation of old traditions and gives away the fact that you're not Italian.
Since scampi is Italian for shrimp, if you order the dish this way you'll only cause outbursts of laughter. In Italian restaurants, shrimp are served with olive oil, garlic and lemon. The American version we're used to has nothing in common.
This is an entirely American recipe. Italians prepare bruschetta, which are baked after being rubbed with garlic and sprinkled with olive oil. Garlic bread is a French baguette, cut in half and smeared with butter and garlic. The difference is huge.
If visiting Italy, leave everything you know about cooking and specialties back home. The wisest thing to do is let yourself be led by the menu and house specialties. They are guaranteed to be seasonal and regional and you'll be left satisfied.