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Can the French cook Italian?

After Bunny Oct 10, 2001 04:01 AM

In a word, no. Their pizzas are drowning in cheese (the first recipe probably said 'here is an excellent recipe for using up your surplus cheese') and the risotto is risotto rice cooked separately and mixed with a sauce at the end.

Stick to roasting chickens in pigs bladders!

  1. g
    Greg Oct 20, 2001 03:15 AM

    A few years ago, in Paris, we took a day trip to tour the champagne country in Reims. Reims has a main street with dozens of cafes, all with outdoor seating in warm weather, much like the Champs-Elysses.
    We stopped at one, and shared an order of scallops Provencale, and a small pizza. The scallops were very garlicky, served on a bed of fettucine, and the pizza was delicious. Could have been a pizza Margherita ordered anywhere.
    I don't think being French keeps someone from cooking great Italian food any more than living in Kansas City makes one able to prepare a great steak. One can learn to cook, if one reads, studies, finds a teacher or a mentor, buys good cookbooks.

    1. l
      Lucy Gore Oct 10, 2001 09:48 PM

      I personally don't feel it has to do with the style of cuisine as much as it has to do with the cook, period.

      I have had the best pizza, probablly made with "surplus" cheese ( ever had dry goat's cheese instead of Parmesan on a pizza? It is awesome.) in Paris & Lyon.

      Chef's from all over the continent make risotto differently. The "Italian way" is just as diverse in Italy and in Italian restaurants here. There are many methods, each chef swearing by their own. Let's not even get into polenta, pasta (with olive oil? both are good.), breads (no salt in Italian bread but it is still great.)

      It has to do with who's making your meal, bottom-line.

      1. s
        Suzanne Fass Oct 10, 2001 09:06 PM

        Well, maybe, but certainly not Alain Ducasse! When we ate there for my birthday this year, one of the entrees came the absolute worst "pasta" I've ever had: pasty, doughy, undercooked, and with a bizarre "lemon" sauce that did nothing to improve the dish. My husband said, "The French, they should not attempt pasta."

        1. s
          Suzanne Fass Oct 10, 2001 08:53 PM

          Well, maybe, but certainly not Alain Ducasse! When we ate there for my birthday this year, one of the entrees came the absolute worst "pasta" I've ever had: pasty, doughy, undercooked, and with a bizarre "lemon" sauce that did nothing to improve the dish. My husband said, "The French, they should not attempt pasta."

          1. s
            Scagnetti Oct 10, 2001 06:08 PM

            I think so. I'm Italian, having grown up in an Italian neighborhhod in Brooklyn and in over 50+ years I've consumed more Italian food than a show dog could jump over. The best Italian food I've ever had was a pasta dish called Fruit de Mer in an Italian restaurant in St-Quentin-en-Yvelines, a suburb of Paris.

            1. c
              Cliff Oct 10, 2001 08:47 AM

              I dunno. I had a truly memorable Italian meal in Troyes some years ago. Wood-fired pizza, lasagna. It was great Italian in the heart of France-- though i can't remember if the cooks were French or Italian. Hard to go wrong with the kind of raw materials they have in that area.

              1. p
                Pan Oct 10, 2001 06:11 AM

                If you consider the Provencal people French (which they certainly are, by citizenship), they can cook Italian food very well. I spent two summers in Nice and enjoyed Nicois renditions of spaghetti bolognese et al. very much indeed. Mind you, that was after a previous summer in Italy, including 35 days in Siena.

                1. m
                  magnolia Oct 10, 2001 05:59 AM

                  I hope you are just being deliberately silly...anyone can cook anything if they are taught techniques and can follow a recipe - or even if they can imitate someone...let's say you are American; does this mean you can only cook, I don't know, hamburgers or hotdogs? There are plenty of Italians in French kitchens - so why not the reverse?

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: magnolia
                    After Bunny Oct 10, 2001 07:43 AM

                    I'm talking about dishes from Italy prepared in the French way in French restaurants- not where the staff of the restaurants are from

                    1. re: After Bunny
                      Phil Laurie Oct 10, 2001 02:01 PM

                      Go to Nice where italian and French influences combine to create a specific cuisine. Try their take on Gnochi,pasta,Socca ( a pancake made of chic pea flour ), Daube, countless fish dishes, lemon tart and Gellati all of which display a mingling of influences. It is truly a destination worthy of any Hound.

                      1. re: Phil Laurie
                        Pan Oct 11, 2001 03:40 AM

                        As much as I like Nicois food, I never acquired a taste for socca. But you didn't mention the delicious torte blette and other Nicois sweets... [smiling at the memory]

                        1. re: Pan
                          After Bunny Oct 11, 2001 09:01 AM

                          I was in Nice when I posted the original message. I had just had a pizza which disappointed me in the quantity of cheese it was weighed under. I had seen the well risen balls of dough waiting to be made into pizzas and was hoping for a nice effort. I tried socca and stuffed vegetables as well. The socca is OK but honestly nothing special.

                          I first had pizza in France in Dijon, where it was easily more than 50% of the pizza, it was like it was a cheese dish. Subsequently the only place in France that I have had a pizza where cheese is just one element rather than the prima donna was at Santa Lucia in Paris.

                          1. re: After Bunny
                            Phil Laurie Oct 11, 2001 02:36 PM

                            I agree French Pizza is never the sum of its parts, a it of a sweeping statement perhaps but one that reflects my experience.

                            As to socca, it does depend on frashness, i.e. it must be made seconds before you buy it, many places don't do this. Also pepper and a cold glass of Cotes de Provence Rose are essential.

                            Did you get to Fennochios Ice Cream Stall in the Old City ? I hope you did, its a blast.

                            1. re: Phil Laurie
                              After Bunny Oct 12, 2001 04:52 AM

                              Fennochios is fine but I prefer ice cream a little bit softer. Il Gelato Pardiso in Bregenz (Lake Constance) is the best I have ever had. I recommend it to everyone

                            2. re: After Bunny
                              Lucy Gore Oct 12, 2001 03:15 AM

                              Maybe you should consider not comparing cuisines, for one, and you may be a whole lot less disappointed.

                              When in France, you eat as the locals do. If they enjoy
                              alot of cheese on their pizza, so be it. It doesn't make any sence to compare it to a pizza made any where else, esp. Italy. It's a "French pizza". Even in Nice.

                              When I was in Nice, not long ago, I never even once considered the thought of shifting my desires for an Italian-style pizza over the great foods that they offered there. It's Nice! The socca rocks, the rose's are wonderful, it's a eating extravaganza from the get-go for any food hound.

                              I sincerely hope your next experinece abroad is better!

                              1. re: After Bunny
                                Pan Oct 13, 2001 01:22 AM

                                I don't remember having much pizza during my two summers in Nice, but I had a lot of good pasta, a lot of good soupe de poisson and other nicois and provencal dishes, and there was a good crepe place in Vieux Nice (warning: this was 8-9 years ago). I also had very good Tunisian and Vietnamese food, and excellent things from boulangeries.

                                Before you go back to Nice, you might want to recheck the international board for recommendations people who've been there recently have posted.

                          2. re: After Bunny
                            Brandon Nelson Oct 10, 2001 02:33 PM

                            Different styles...

                            French style risotto is purposely different from the Italian approach. In italian versions the rice is the star, and the aditons are there to showcase the rice. French style risotto uses the rice as a vehicle for other flavors. They are purposefully different.

                            As to your general question, I believe anyone can cook any cuisine. It is simply a matter of study and experience. I'm sure that many French can , and do cook a more Italian styled pizza, risotto, or whatever it is they might be craving.


                            1. re: After Bunny
                              Pan Oct 11, 2001 03:37 AM

                              So if they prepare things in a Nicois way in Nice by Nicois cooks, does that count?

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