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"Red sauce" Italian restaurants - what does it mean

Brit on a Trip Apr 27, 2007 03:07 PM

I often see this description of Italian restaurants on the boards I've been searching. It's usually being used in a derogatory way (for instance I was warned against NYC's Little Italy as the restaurants are all "red sauce".)

But can you explain to this Brit what it refers to; what it means and how a "red sauce" place is different from other types.

It's not a term we have the UK. For us an Italian is an Italian is an Italian (although we might distinuish between northern and southern cuisine).


  1. ipsedixit Jul 17, 2011 03:30 PM

    Bucca di Peppo.


    1. e
      escondido123 Jul 16, 2011 08:58 AM

      When I lived in Rhode Island, red sauce meaned standard tomato sauce based Italian-

      Like many have said, red sauce restaurants I have gone to (mainly in Rhode Island) generally serve Italian-American dishes based on a thick, often sweet, tomato sauce. Eggplant parm, lasagna, ziti and meat balls would be standards on the menu. My main problem with them is that the sauce is usually so heavy with tomato paste (so much cheaper than tomatoes) that it overwhelms all the other flavors. That said, the prices are usually low and the portions huge.

      1. RealMenJulienne Jul 15, 2011 06:18 AM

        When I hear the term "red sauce" I think of Sabatino's in Chicago. In fact Sabatino's is the image that jumps into my head when I think of the word, "restaurant". It's a super old-school place that looks like it's been there for a hundred freaking years. You could imagine Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart downing pitchers of martinis at the bar and hassling the waitresses. There is a dimly lit piano lounge, and violin players strolling around the dining room. Olive oil and house red and white are on the table when you sit down if I remember correctly. The menu has all the Italian American classics like veal saltimbocca, chicken parm, lasagna with ricotta and chicken vesuvio, and the portions are larger than any reasonable person should consume at one sitting. Spaghetti with red sauce comes as a free appetizer and is perfectly cooked. You can easily get out of there for less than $15 - $20 including tax and tip.

        It's basically one of my favorite places in the entire world.

        7 Replies
        1. re: RealMenJulienne
          Duppie Jul 15, 2011 08:40 AM

          For me it would be Luna's in Manhattan's Little Italy, closed now but the lines would be out the door on weekends back in the 80's. You had to pass the kitchen to get to your seat and could peep in at the gaggle of Rubenesque Italian women with head scarfs stirring vats of gravy, folding Ravioli,and deboning Baccala.
          The dining room was small and tables, tight, covered with the obligatory table cloth,candle in a bottle and little dishes with dried pepper flakes and grated parmesan,Frank,Tony and Lou on the radio set high on a shelf sharing space with a small "Mary in a half shell"and a dusty bottle of Sambuca that rarely left it's perch.
          Menu, what menu?specials on the board and if you have to ask...it's sold out.None of the chipped plates,cloudy with age glasses and dinged tableware matched.Hope that Rocco didn't have some pretty young thing in his section when Tony Bennett came on or you'll be waiting for your order until he's finished serenading her.
          You get the picture... But the food was hearty,heavy and so good, my favorites was the clams oreganata,sausage with peppers,baked ziti and if you get there early enough on a Friday,Baccala with tomatoes,and black olives over spaghetti.
          It would be difficult to replicate the skill,pride and honesty of that red sauce joint today and I miss it terribly.

          1. re: Duppie
            thegforceny Jul 17, 2011 03:53 PM

            AND...not well regarded by Manhattan Chowhounds.. Go figure.


            1. re: thegforceny
              thew Jul 17, 2011 04:00 PM

              i loved luna when i was a college kid in the late 70's early 80's

              1. re: thew
                Duppie Jul 17, 2011 04:32 PM

                Yes, a good place for a cheap 2'nd date where you could impress the young lady especially if she didn't get downtown often because they would always remember your name and bust your chops like you ate there every day.

              2. re: thegforceny
                Duppie Jul 17, 2011 04:27 PM

                Even back in the day we knew Luna's was by no means the best, but it was good,honest,and comfortable, and as far as I could remember never claimed to be anything other than the neighborhood's red sauce joint .

                1. re: Duppie
                  menton1 Jul 17, 2011 05:06 PM

                  Sure, back in the 70s Luna's was a treat but back then nobody knew any better, and food tastes were a lot less sophisticated than now. Not to mention that Little Italy is shrunk down now to about 2 blocks...(Even Arthur Ave in the Bx is much bigger!)

            2. re: RealMenJulienne
              tzurriz Jul 16, 2011 04:47 PM

              How do I not know about this place? and I live in the Chicago area! It's going on my list for our next place to try!!!

            3. menton1 Jul 14, 2011 04:14 PM

              "Italian-American" red sauce can be OK, and it certainly has a following, it's the most popular style of cuisine in America!

              However, these restaurants should stop trying to pretend they are authentic!! It's a different food, and has nothing to do with food in Italy-- stop writing menu entrees in Italian with made-up Italian-dish names, stop with the Italian fountains on the menu and the photos of the Tower of Pisa! This is a DIFFERENT, non-authentic cuisine that Americans love!! RED SAUCE!!!

              10 Replies
              1. re: menton1
                thew Jul 14, 2011 05:18 PM

                it is a completely authentic cuisine. just like all italian food it is a regional cuisine. it is southern italian food adapted to the ingredients available to, and relatively wealthier habits of,(such as a higher proportion of meat) of italian immigrants to america.

                1. re: thew
                  menton1 Jul 14, 2011 09:51 PM

                  There is no such thing in Italy as "southern" Italian food!(or "Northern") Food in Italy is regional, it is very different in each of the 20 regions. And Chicken Francese, Veal Parm, and Fried Calamari won't be found in any of them...

                  1. re: menton1
                    thew Jul 15, 2011 04:53 AM

                    yes yes. (bullshit that no one fries calamari anywhere in souther italy, but that's hardly the point)

                    the point is that most of the immigrants at the time were sicilian and from other parts of the south of italy - when they came to america they adapted their various cuisines, to american ingredients and eating habits. and those 20 different cuisines all added to this new authentic cuisine - italian american cuisine.

                    1. re: thew
                      menton1 Jul 15, 2011 05:59 AM

                      In the NY Metro more than 75% of these Italian-American restos are run by non-Italians. But they try to make the menu entrees read in Italian, they put photos of Italy on these menus, it's just..... ridiculous! So apparently the restaurants that you say have this new cuisine's authenticity on their own are obviously trying to prove otherwise...

                      1. re: menton1
                        thew Jul 15, 2011 06:44 AM

                        you win. it isnt an actual cuisine. only food as prepared by ancient nonnas is small villages is authenic.

                        as i've said a million times before on CH - i'll take tasty over authentic any day of the week

                      2. re: thew
                        bob96 Jul 16, 2011 02:37 PM

                        As a Brooklyn Italian who grew up when just about every sauce was red (and thanks God for it), the only fuss ever made about red sauce was/is made by other Italians--those trying to "brand" their new restaurant's style (not being "red sauce") and, in earlier generations, by first waves of Italian American restaurateurs--they actively went beyond their old regional styles to create a pan-Southern cuisine that appealed to "Americans" and did whatever they had to make it successful. That meant cheap, tasty, standardized quasi-Neapolitan pastas based on tomatoes. By the way, calamari fritti are very common throughout Italy, usually mixed with shrimp and sometimes zucchini.

                        1. re: bob96
                          menton1 Jul 16, 2011 04:33 PM

                          Nah. Fried calamari is a rarity on a menu in Italy. Zucchini? Perhaps you mean zucchini flowers, which are seen often. BTW bob96, could you please explain what you mean by "Southern cuisine" ?

                          1. re: menton1
                            bob96 Jul 16, 2011 10:28 PM

                            I don't know what I was eating those times in places like Scilla, Genoa, and Rome, but it sure looked and tasted like calamari fritti (coi gamberetti e zucchini) to me, and the menus said so. But maybe you can tell me. By "Southern cuisine" (pan-Southern) I meant a kind of generic Neapolitan-based menu that took hold in most cities during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, as interpreted by immigrant chefs and restaurant owners from all over Italy. There were some dishes from elsewhere in the Italian South (the occasional Sicilian touch, say), and even the north (cotoletta a la milanese), but the predominant flavors, ingredients, and techniques were those of Naples--constantly adjusted and tweaked to what Americans liked and wanted

                      3. re: menton1
                        tommy Jul 17, 2011 12:42 PM

                        I get a chuckle when I see a place bill itself as "Northern Italian", and the menu reads pretty much exactly the same as the place down the street which proudly proclaims that it serves "Southern Italian."

                        These phrases are meaningless and have little culinary basis. The terms "red sauce italian" and "Italian-American" pretty much describe what it is without having to incorporate the cuisines of Italy as a frame of reference for absurd claims of the type of food they're serving.

                        1. re: tommy
                          escondido123 Jul 17, 2011 12:53 PM

                          But usually the Northern Italian place throws in a risotto.

                  2. BiscuitBoy Jul 12, 2011 06:30 AM

                    wow, so strange how old threads get revived. I find the term "red sauce joint" a little insulting and a bit bigoted. Similar connotations aren't perpetuated or tolerated at jewish delis or chinese takeout places, so why should italians bear the brunt?

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: BiscuitBoy
                      Bob W Jul 12, 2011 06:39 AM

                      Oh, I think Chinese takeout places also get labeled. Maybe there's no equivalent ubiquitous term like red sauce, but the word gets out regarding whether a place serves authentic Chinese dishes or not, and it has nothing to do with whether the food is actually any good.

                      As for Jewish delis, they are such a miniscule part of the dining scene nowadays I think they are more a curiosity than anything. People just don't eat deli much any more.

                      1. re: Bob W
                        mucho gordo Jul 14, 2011 06:11 PM

                        Really?? I wasn't aware of that but, I can see where that might be true. Deli meats are too expensive to have on a regular basis.

                      2. re: BiscuitBoy
                        Duppie Jul 12, 2011 07:13 AM

                        I don't.I still enjoy a good honest spaghetti and meatballs,baked ziti and shrimp scampi sitting at a checked tablecloth table lit by a candle in a straw clad wine bottle. cliche perhaps and even a bit hokey but not bigoted in the least.

                        1. re: Duppie
                          BiscuitBoy Jul 12, 2011 08:29 AM

                          I love the food and the atmosphere too, it's the phrase that bothers me...or maybe the jerky snoots who toss it around, and think they're experts on my heritage, culture and traditions. Then again we italians are big of heart and character, and dismiss struns (assholes, stronzi) like that. If not bigoted, then hugely insensitive. We don't refer to old school german cuisine as "beer drenched goose-stepping joints" now do we?

                          1. re: BiscuitBoy
                            Duppie Jul 12, 2011 08:59 AM

                            Back up there BB.. There's a big difference between using a tag to describe a sauce or topping intrinsic to a cuisine or restaurant type and actually spelling out a racial or political stereotype as outrageous as it may be.
                            I humbly believe you're being rather oversensitive about the term, just for reference, here on the East coast your typical red sauce joint has just as much chance of being owned and operated by Greeks,Latinos and Arabs as a Italian American.

                            1. re: Duppie
                              BiscuitBoy Jul 12, 2011 10:08 AM

                              arabs? halal sausage and peppers?!!

                              1. re: BiscuitBoy
                                Duppie Jul 12, 2011 10:45 AM

                                There have been stranger combinations....

                            2. re: BiscuitBoy
                              Ruth Lafler Jul 17, 2011 01:14 PM

                              "Red sauce" is two neutral words that are neutral together. "Drenched" is not a neutral term, and "goose-stepping" is completely pejorative and moreover, completely unrelated to food.

                              I agree that "red sauce" Italian is a perfectly good short-hand description for Italian-American food. I think the problem many chowhounds have with these restaurants is not that they aren't good, but that are billing themselves as "Italian" or even "authentic Italian." That is why the "red sauce" tag has been developed: to serve the useful function of differentiating between two different cuisines. And yes, "red sauce" Italian, or as we often call it on the West Coast "East Coast" Italian, is a distinct cuisine with its own history and traditions that deserves to be recognized and celebrated as such.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                menton1 Jul 17, 2011 02:55 PM

                                No need to differentiate... There is virtually NO authentic Italian restaurant on this side of the Atlantic...

                                1. re: menton1
                                  escondido123 Jul 17, 2011 03:09 PM

                                  Are you on the East Coast of the United States?

                          2. re: BiscuitBoy
                            LeoLioness Jul 12, 2011 08:10 AM

                            I'm not sure how you see it as "bigoted"?

                            I don't use the term as a pejorative, but I do use it. The same way I would note an Italian restaurant that specializes in Northern or Southern or Sicilian fare, I'd note whether or not a place was more in the Italian-American genre. "Red sauce" is just a shorthand expression for that.

                            I do the same with Chinese food: are we talking Cantonese? Szechuan? A noodle house? Or a place to get "Chinese-American stuff like egg rolls and crab rangoon?

                            1. re: LeoLioness
                              thew Jul 12, 2011 08:52 AM

                              side note - stuff wrapped in dough and fried are common across asia. egg rolls are not chinese american, per se

                              1. re: thew
                                LeoLioness Jul 12, 2011 09:54 AM

                                I stand corrected.

                                1. re: LeoLioness
                                  chefdaddyo Jul 12, 2011 03:00 PM

                                  Misunderstood, VooLou. I was insinuating that the 'red sauce' owners like to add the 'award winning' title knowing fully that there was no such award. Lasagna is my favorite. My suggestion to this type of operator is to maybe spend a few more nickles on buying better tomatoes (and improving the menu item) than making false claims.

                          3. Duppie Jul 11, 2011 04:20 PM

                            I've always took it to denote a casual pizza/pasta joint where there is one master pot of tomato based sauce that is modified to fit any dish on the menu.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Duppie
                              chefdaddyo Jul 12, 2011 05:10 AM

                              FoodDude's got it right! Although sometimes that lasagna is "award winning". I try to avoid places that tout their red sauce. Brown sauce, pink sauce, white sauce. Where am I, in a paint store? Instead of a menu I get handed a color chart? I believe it's simply a pride issue. C'mon chefs and menu writers. Get creative and authentic.

                              1. re: chefdaddyo
                                Big Bad Voodoo Lou Jul 12, 2011 06:37 AM

                                I foolishly replied to a four-year-old post yesterday, but why is famous or award winning lasagna a bad thing? Lasagna is probably my favorite dish (as well as my own specialty), and I've never heard of it being dismissed as something low-end or crappy.

                            2. Bob W Jul 11, 2011 03:49 PM

                              I see this old thread got bumped. This is a red sauce place in RI (located in a VFW hall!) that most chowhounds would kill to have in their neighborhood. Note: The menu pictured on the wall is only part of the entire menu.


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Bob W
                                southernitalian Jul 12, 2011 08:28 AM

                                From the article in your link: "I guess there’s a lot of people that are adamant about not eating veals because of the way farmers treat the fish". ???

                              2. menton1 Jul 11, 2011 03:31 PM

                                Note to the OP: Apparently they also use the same misnomers in the UK as in the US . ""Northern or Southern Italian" cuisine. There is NO such thing! Cuisine in Italy is regional, varies greatly between all 20 regions.

                                1. e
                                  Ellen May 4, 2007 11:05 AM

                                  In Philly we're rather proud of all of the (mostly BYO) red gravy (not red sauce) restaurants we have. Like anywhere, some are better than others and it all depends on if you want a really good lasagne, veal parmagiana, or spaghetti and meatballs and don't feel like making it yourself. Nothing wrong with that. The ones I go to make their own pasta, have access to excellent veal, and serve good antipasta and bread. The best serve food using recipes that are closely guarded family secrets and are nothing to be sneered at. We also have plenty of restaurants that serve excellent regional Italian cuisine that is much less tomato based. It just depends on what you're in the mood for.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Ellen
                                    fan4food Aug 7, 2007 04:46 PM

                                    Ellen, what do you recommend for good byo;red gravy restaurants in Philly?

                                    1. re: fan4food
                                      basachs Aug 8, 2007 10:47 AM

                                      Well the one place I would always go to in philly was Villa Di Roma. I never had a dish with a red gravy on it either.

                                      Excellent clams oreganata as an appetizer, chicken neopolitan (chicken in an excellent olive oil and garlic sauce), or chicken livers Romano or Caruso.

                                      They have all the traditional stuff too, but a lot of unique dishes as well.

                                    2. re: Ellen
                                      Striver Aug 8, 2007 06:08 AM

                                      In the Queens neighborhood of my youth, "gravy" was usually reserved for the Sunday meal when the base sauce included braccioli, sausages, meatballs, etc. A straight tomato/basil/olive oil/garlic rendition - with no meat - was "sauce".

                                      And I totally agree: "red sauce" restaurants can be as good or as bad as any other kind of eating establishment - just like pizzerias!

                                      1. re: Striver
                                        lagatta Oct 21, 2008 04:32 PM

                                        I think "gravy" is a translation in some parts of the US of "sugo" as opposed to salsa - that is a sauce made by braising meats in a tomato sauce. A time-honoured way of cooking in some Italian regions where there were a lot of tomatoes (and cheap red wine) and meat was usually tough as it had been on the hoof in mountainous areas - making it tasty but far too tough to eat as a steak.

                                        I have never heard it here in Mtl (despite a lot of strange influences from French and English in Italian terms) - marchéta = marché(market) = mercato), ruella = ruelle (alley or lane) = vicolo, garbage - pronounced in a way that doesn't exist in English, let alone French or Italian = rifiuti... or anywhere in Canada, though perhaps someone has.

                                        I think it has become derogatory not only from a certain form of food snobbery but also because it is associated with dreadful chains (here - "East Side Mario's - a fake NYC Italian resto). But at its best it means an unpretentious family restaurant with good homey food.

                                        Italian emigrant food has evolved just as much elsewhere - I've been to Argentine barbecues where alll the salads and sides were pure Italian, but the meat/veg ratoio would be utterly unfathomable in Italy! Think something similar has happened in Australia...

                                        1. re: lagatta
                                          dolores Oct 22, 2008 07:21 AM

                                          'Gravy' was my family's generic name for red sauce, meat or not. Just as pizza was called a-pizza. Both were delicious in my family.

                                          As to 'red sauce/gravy' places, I find most of them homey and unpretentious and perfectly fine in terms of food and prices and servers.

                                          I wish I could say the same for most of the snooty 'authentic' Italian places I've been to. Fortunately, there are new ones in lower Westchester that are quite good to outstanding.

                                      2. re: Ellen
                                        lawgirl3278 Oct 22, 2008 06:41 AM

                                        I have to agree with Ellen. I don't think the "red sauce" connotation is a bad thing at all. In Philly, a "red gravy" place serves all kinds on non- sauce dishes, like linguine & clams or veal. Sometimes you're in the mood for an excellent eggplant parmigiana or a veal francaise with local crusty bread.

                                        As far as "red gravy" places go in Philly, here's my list:
                                        Villa di Roma (my favorite)
                                        Bomb Bomb Bar & Grille (their known for their ribs, but they make a great chicken parm)

                                      3. Deenso Apr 28, 2007 11:31 AM

                                        You might also hear "red sauce Italian" used in describing a more southern Italian cuisine - one that relies more on tomatoes than northern Italian does. I don't necessarily think of the term as being derogatory.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Deenso
                                          KevinB Oct 21, 2008 08:52 PM

                                          Totally agree - it's a homey, rustic style of cooking as opposed to the more "refined" cuisine of the north. Heavy on tomatoes and seafood, it's comfort food when done well. But I do agree with other posters that the term is often used in a derogatory sense.

                                        2. Brian S Apr 28, 2007 10:55 AM

                                          I always used the term to refer to the little restaurants in Brooklyn neighborhoods patronized by people whose ancestors came from little villages in the region around Naples (e.g. Teggiano) and serving dishes which represent the fruit of seeds (recipes) brought from Italy and then grown for a hundred years on American soil. Many dishes are served with red sauces, but there are many many different red sauces. Whenever I come here, I told one restaurant-owner, I wear a red shirt so the spots are less noticeable.

                                          1. e
                                            ESNY Apr 28, 2007 07:30 AM

                                            "Red sauce" Italian doesn't really distinguish a good vs. bad restaurant but describes a type of food that is considered Italian-American food. I've been to plenty of "red sauce" italian restaurants that executes their classics very well. They typically have dishes like baked ziti, chicken/veal/eggplant parmesan, linguini with white or red clam sauce, spaghetti with meatballs, etc.

                                            If you are looking for regional italian food (or even "authentic" Italian) then you should most definitely avoid places categorized as red sauce.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: ESNY
                                              Brit on a Trip Apr 28, 2007 10:23 AM

                                              Thanks, folks. I think I begin to understand now. Not always bad - but not great. And I'm certainly familiar with neighbourhood restaurants with at least some of fooddude37's markers

                                              I adore baked ziti, though . It's not a dish that regularly appears on restaurant menus in the UK - and I'd never heard of it until I watched an episode of the Sopranos. Have now discovered a nearby place that serves it - I'd describe it as "red sauce - with pretensions" (?)


                                              1. re: Brit on a Trip
                                                thew Jul 12, 2011 08:04 AM

                                                it can be great - but for people who have a fetish for "authentic" italian food it is a deragatory term - as they don;t recognize italian-american cuisine as its own entity with a history of over a century

                                                1. re: thew
                                                  Harters Jul 15, 2011 02:29 PM

                                                  Fascinating how threads can resurrect themselves after several years gap.

                                                  I barely remember my original alter ego of "Brit on a Trip" - a name I coined prior ot our last visit to America.

                                                  1. re: Harters
                                                    huiray Jul 17, 2011 06:33 AM

                                                    That was you? Heh.

                                                    Sooo......do you enjoy distinctly 'full-throated' Eye-talian-'Murcan stuff nowadays on your visits? :-)

                                            2. silverbear Apr 27, 2007 10:10 PM

                                              "Red Sauce" can have good or bad connotations:

                                              Good -- familiar, comforting foods that perhaps arose more in Italian-American communities than in Italy itself. Obviously, this category would include a lot of tomato sauces, but would also feature baked and/or stuffed pasta dishes and dishes such as eggplant parmigiana. Done right, "red sauce" Italian can be wonderful, hearty, comforting food.

                                              Bad -- All of the issues identified by fooddude37. I recently endured a dreadful meal at a popular restaurant in Baltimore's Little Italy. My main course was a huge plate of mush that may have originated as pasta but had been transmogrified into something scary.

                                              One clue: If you ask for your pasta al dente, and the server doesn't know what you're talking about, it's not a good sign. Sadly, in many of the neighborhoods in major American cities known for Italian food, restaurants tend to veer toward the bad type of red sauce in an effort to pander to touristy tastes. I've found this to be true during recent visits to Little Italy in Baltimore and the Hill in St. Louis. On the other hand, I've often found the best red sauce Italian to be located in small neighborhood restaurants in suburban strip malls. Not all of these places are good, but there's an occasional gem out there.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: silverbear
                                                fooddude37 Apr 27, 2007 10:13 PM

                                                "Transmogrified"...isn't that word coined by Calvin?? Excellent etymological reference...

                                                1. re: silverbear
                                                  Mawrter May 4, 2007 09:44 AM

                                                  Silverbear says, "One clue: If you ask for your pasta al dente, and the server doesn't know what you're talking about, it's not a good sign"

                                                  Huh. I have to say, most of the servers I've encountered would be not so much uncomprehending of the term "al dente," as stunned at what that request *implies*.

                                                2. f
                                                  fooddude37 Apr 27, 2007 07:20 PM

                                                  In the town where I grew up in California, all the Italian restaurants are "red sauce" places, meaning:

                                                  The pasta is uniformly overcooked
                                                  The quality of ingredients is sub-par
                                                  There are often plastic grapes hanging from the ceiling, or a chianti bottle in a basket used as a candle for decorations
                                                  The tablecloth is red and white checkered
                                                  The "red sauce" is incredibly reduced and usually sweet. It is often poured over the pasta which wasn't drained properly, so the edges of the sauce become watery.
                                                  The selections generally consist of spagetti, or penne, or linguine with a choice of red sauce, meat sauce, white sauce, or with meatballs or sausage
                                                  Serves garlic bread that isn't rubbed with butter, but rather spread with a rather insipid mixture of butter and old pureed garlic
                                                  Are generally "Famous for their lasagna"
                                                  Generally serve meat or cheese ravioli that are commercially bought, not homemade
                                                  Generally have a horrible wine selection
                                                  Serve the salad with a selection of Ranch, Bleu Cheese, Thousand Island, or Vinaigrette

                                                  In other words, in this day and age there is still remarkably some absolutely awful Italian food to be had. I'm not saying Italian needs to be fancy, but it's almost impossible to find a decent pasta pomodoro or pasta aglio olio, with 99% of "red sauce" restaurants browning the garlic.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: fooddude37
                                                    Big Bad Voodoo Lou Jul 11, 2011 04:08 PM

                                                    Why is being famous for lasagna a bad thing? It's probably my favorite dish (as well as my own specialty), and I've never heard of lasagna being dismissed as something low-end like tuna noodle casserole.

                                                  2. Den Apr 27, 2007 03:33 PM

                                                    IMO, It's meant to describe the style of Italian cuisine and in my area, that would be more Italian-American with a variety of simple pasta or meat dishes involving a tomato based, usually long cooked, aka "gravy".

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Den
                                                      ccbweb Apr 27, 2007 03:40 PM

                                                      I think that's accurate. You're likely to see mostly pasta dishes with various versions of tomato based sauces (marinara, meat sauces, mushroom sauces, etc but all with tomato) and most likely the occasional linguini with clam sauce and appetizers like fried mushrooms or cheese bread. As opposed to "high end" Italian where you'd see more seafood preparations and other regional dishes.

                                                      Personally, I like both and just because something is a "red sauce" restaurant doesn't mean I won't happily eat there. Most do mean it as a derogatory term.

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