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What is authentic Italian cuisine where you are...

On another post a chowhounder said that he was frustrated that he could not find 'authentic Italian cusine' in a certain part of the N.Y.C. suburbs (Obviously an expert)...o.k. So what do you consider 'authentic Italian cuisine' in your part of the country?

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  1. Almost anything out of my Mama's kitchen.

    1. i think pizza hut bout does it round these parts....sympathy?

      1. Not wanting to come across as arrogant, but -- when I want good / authentic Italian food, I either cook it myself, or save it for NYC or Philadelphia. There is no decent Italian food around here, period. And in the city, it's important for me that it's *not* Italian-American. I've eaten in Italy; there are fantastic Italian restos in Germany...

        I really appreciated the Crispo rec by the Manhattan 'hounds, and take every chance I get for good, authentic Italian food in the U.S. (see my post on the PA board).

        buon appetito.

        1. While your friend might very well be a knowledgable diner, many other dwellers of the NYC suburbs would not know authentic Italian cuisine if it hit them with a 10m torrone. Living in this part of the country doesn't necessarily make one an expert. At times I almost fear it does the opposite.

          2 Replies
          1. re: JungMann

            Exactly my point, JungMann...We often hear this expression used, so with this post I am trying to figure out what 'authentic Italian cuisine' is...(we are not talking about whether an Italian restaurant is good or bad, that's another issue). I am sure if an Italian from Milan were comparing culinary notes with an Italian from Calabria, there would be some differences, yet they are both Italian. We know that there is no 'single' Italian cuisine...right?

            1. re: gutreactions

              You must read ONE OF THE GREATEST THREADS EVER on this exact subject:

              Authentic ethnic food, your opinion for my research paper?
              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/385703

          2. First off we have to determine which type of Italian cuisine you're referring to. There's American-Italian (immigrant style) and then there's Italian cuisine of Italy. While American-Italian cuisine has its roots from Italy, of course, it is very different than Italian cuisine of Italy which is extremely regionalized. There's the Italian cuisine from the North, Central and South regions of the country, with 19 authentic sub-regional styles. So which Italian cuisine are you asking about?

            1. The term "authentic" has been so overused (and misused) in the food world as to be completely meaningless. I grew up in a family of Italian immigrants eating pasta and red sauce. I always thought that was "authentic" Italian until I got older and learned that the whole "red sauce" thing is really more of an Italian-American phenomenon and that "real" authentic Italian food was something else entirely. I guess "authentic" is in the eye of the beholder. I will always associate Italian food with the pasta and homemeade red sauces of my youth and the restaurants whose names end in an vowel and serve the same five chicken, veal and fish dishes.

              1 Reply
              1. re: xnumberoneson

                i must disagree with your terming red sauce an italian-american creation. my folks are italian immigrants and i grew up in a heavy italian immigrant community and red sauce was a staple. folks spent most of the summer months jarring sauce for the winter months. even when i visit my family in italy, red sauce is part of almost every meal. this gets us back to the use of the word Authentic. very hard to define. each region is different and within those regions there are great variations.

              2. I had a friend who got so hung up on the authenticity of food that he couldn't go out to eat without picking everything apart. He became such a boor none of his friends would go out with him. So I'm only interested in whether the food is authentically tasty or not. If it's tasty, it's authentic. I'm much happier that way.

                1. I grew up (and still live) in suburbia and take affront to the notion that there is no authentic Italian to be found outside Manhattan. I find it to be typical Manhattan hubris (but this is neither the time nor the place for that rant).
                  For many people, authentic is what they grew up eating and since most of the folks who live in my part of suburbia grew up eating foods that are tomato based, then the restaurants cater to those tastes, so therefore, those places are "authentic"
                  There is a great Tuscan rest in my town and he food there is very authentic Tuscan as the chef uses his mother's old recipes. However, a southern Italian would not think it authentic for his part of Italy.

                  1. I've found that many readers here define "authentic Italian" as food that is flawlessly duplicated much to the likeness of food they've eaten while visiting in Italy. Any variation in the preparation of such dishes, would trigger sad faces and the response 'inauthentic'.

                    Authentic is really best defined by those who've studied culinary arts. Many of us who have read pages and pages of cookbooks might also consider ourselves very knowledgeable on the subject of culinary correctness. For others, "authentic" is simply what they've seen prepared at home by their families. If the restaurant can duplicate that, they *must* be authentic.
                    My point here is ... that it all can be very subjective.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Cheese Boy

                      any place that is serving chicken parm or parm anything is not authentic. other than that, i would be willing to say that there are a lot of authentic italian places in and out of the city.

                      1. re: cdog

                        You know, I tend to agree with that cdog, but if I were on death row, a good veal parmesan would be pretty damn tempting

                        1. re: cdog

                          whoa- eggplant alla parmigiana is a classic Sicilian dish, eaten in Italian homes clear across the Southern third of the boot (with minor regional variations, of course). as for chicken, veal and (gasp!) shrimp, I have seen these in the US only .

                      2. Not being authentic isn't a bad thing, and it doesn't imply that it taste nasty. It's just that one wants a certain style it's best to be specific.

                        It sounds like the CH is just looking for dishes prepared the same way as in Italy, not Italian-American style.

                        So authentic Italian cuisine will not serve bread with butter, olive oil and balsamic for dipping (ala Macaroni's Grill), nor will they serve pasta that has tons of meat in it (ala spaghetti and meatballs). Authentic Italian pasta dishes should not be drowning in sauce either. The portion size will be smaller, so that you can have a primi and secondi (minimum).

                        Authentic pizza roman style will have the dough so thin that you can read a newspaper through it, and it will not be precut. In Rome most pizzerias are open at night, not lunch (not the case there).

                        Authentic Italian also means the veggies are side dishes that you have to order, rather than accompany any meat dishes. Can't say I care for any veggie dish in Italy except for the artichokes Jewish style (pressed and deep fried).

                        Fortunately recently we went to Terroni (a chain from Canada) in LA and they were very close...

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: notmartha

                          If you want some "authentic" Italian dishes, turn to (believe it or not) Jamie Oliver's Italy cookbook or Lidia's Italy to give you a good idea of what dishes would be considered authentic.

                          1. re: MacArthur Mike

                            I watched one episode of Jamie's show and his Italian hosts looked horrified at his take on Italian food. He put rosemary in absolutely everything.

                            1. re: MacArthur Mike

                              Lidia's Italy is an excellent resource for Italian home cooking, as is Essentials of Italian Cooking by the mighty Marcella Hazan. Mario Batali is actually a wonderful instructor when it comes to Italian food theory and technique, but some of the recipes in his books tend to utilize variations and other fancifying elements that dilute their "authenticity", IMO.

                              1. re: MacArthur Mike

                                Didn't Bourdain made fun of Oliver's 'pseudo-italian' pasta receipe in a No Reservations Tuscany show? I think it was heavy on meat (recall meatballs of some sort), which is no-no.

                              2. re: notmartha

                                Inauthenticity is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think a lot of the backlash you find against Italian-American cuisine in particular stems from the arrogance of some who take ethnic pride in a grossly stereotyped and inaccurate caricature of what it means to be Italian and what constitutes Italian food. If it were a quiet thing, it would go unchallenged, but as in the OP's case, I think many of us have gotten annoyed with folks who claim to be experts in all things Italian and then display utter ignorance of the difference between Italian and Italian-American.

                                1. re: JungMann

                                  THANK YOU, JM. I definitely suffer from "anti-goombah rage". I am very frustrated by those who insist on perpetrating a certain stereotypical (and largely inaccurate) image of Italian food and culture. Often, these are the same people who have only ever eaten calamari that is battered and fried, and would consider "penne alla vodka with grilled chicken" to be an "Italian" restaurant staple. I mean no offense to those who enjoy these dishes (who doesn't like fried calamari??), my anger stems from what I perceive to be a social degradation of the true customs of my heritage. And yes, I too detect a (laughably ironic) arrogance in the way that some take pride in living as caricatures of Italian-Americans, and eating caricaturesque Italian foods.

                                  1. re: JungMann

                                    >> then display utter ignorance of the difference between Italian and Italian-American.

                                    Or, simply are quite happy being Italian-American and all that conveys.

                                2. My family are from the Trentino-Alto Adige region, with some now in Austria and others as far "south" as Pavia. What we would call authentic Italian is not often found in the restaurants here in the US - with a few notable exceptions (dishes, not restaurants). When friends ask which restaurants are authentic italian I always have to ask whether there are particular dishes they would like to see. Although unified in the late nineteenth century, culturally it is not had to see the boundries of the old city states and the distinct culinary traditions in many regions. Due to the diversity of its climates and landscapes, 'traditional' dishes vary from region to region. One common thread, in my experience, is that people still stick with the fresh local ingredients and allow the wonderful local products speak for themselves - in relatively simple and complementary recipes.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: vonwotan

                                    In my visits to that region, I was struck by the Germanic/Austrian inflluences. Did these
                                    show up in your family's cooking?

                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                      Absolutely. The region is still semi-autonomous and my cousins all attended the german speaking schools in the region and speak german at home. Spaetzle, speck, local beef and pork sausages with sauerkraut are still favorites and the influence comes through in many ways throughout the Sudtirol - my family's and many of the german speaking locals preferred name for the region. Of course beans, barley, buckwheat, polenta and potatoes are regulars as are brothy soups with dumplings and savory pies.

                                      I nearly forgot to mention - one of my favourites are the large meaty ( sometimes offal) dumplings (canederli) that are served with goulash. There are as many variations of the large dumplings as there are towns and families. Now that you've got me reminiscing I may just need to make this my next kitchen adventure!

                                  2. What I consider "authentic" is something that is like what I've had in Italy. Now, the exact dishes could vary widely because, of course, cooking in Sicily is very different than it is in Emilia-Romagna. So there is no single authentic cuisine, but authentic regional Italian is VERY different than the stuff that most people in the US consider "Italian" food (most of which is really Italian-American).

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: dolores

                                      i still think that there are a lot of places that are spot on for authentic food in this country especially NYC. the Batali empire is getting it right. Franny's in Brooklyn is doing justice to the pizza. i am certain that not every item on those menus fits the bill, but it is pretty darn close. perhaps my family experience in italy is just way different than folks who write on this board, but i've been to places in NYC that get it right. one of my favorite meals in italy was a simply octopus salad on the beach in ischia. it was nothing more than poached fish with herbs, white beans and olive oil. that sounds pretty darn authentic and it is something you can get at any good italian restaurant in nyc. good cooks are trying to be true to the food of italy. sometimes they get it right and when they don't, it is just because they are pushing the boundary. i have relatives that come to the area often and they are never offended by what is offered.

                                      one more true authentic place in NYC. INO'. simple and true.

                                    2. This thread brings us to another interesting conversation. It seems to me that much of the discussion is between what I would define as “traditional” as opposed to what is “authentic” Italian food. To illustrate I will continue to speak only of the Trentino-Alto Adige. To me “traditional” can describe a dish or a recipe as described in a particular period and is a snapshot frozen in time. “Authentic” being a more dynamic term describing the evolving regional cuisine.

                                      If we look at the canederli of our region, it was already difficult to say which are traditional or authentic due to the tremendous variety of recipes for these dumplings. I would say that canederli are a traditional dish, a bread dumpling made with certain base ingredients – stale bread, egg and milk. The many variations on these dumplings, using the local products and produce, would all be authentic. Canderli with speck, with liver (or other offal), with local produce or cheese, etc. are all authentic.

                                      Recently a number of our local chefs and wines were recognized. The dishes produced by these chefs make use of the wonderful local produce, fish, meats and cheeses from the small local farms of the region. Many serve dishes informed by the “traditional” foods of the sudtirol but, each has put their own stamp on these dishes. Their cuisine may no longer be “traditional” but it is, IMHO, still “authentic.

                                      There are certainly chefs and restaurants all of the US who can capture the tastes and traditions of the various regions of Italy and turn our “authentic” Italian dishes. Where we seem to get trapped in the conversation is when we blur the lines between “authentic” and what might be viewed as “stereotypical” foods and recipes – I don’t believe I have seen much of this here on the Chowhound fora.

                                      3 Replies
                                        1. re: dolores

                                          I hope you did not read my last post as a criticism or anyone's comments in this thread. It was not meant that way and was not a direct response to any one comment or poster. Just my musings about similar conversations that take place almost every day here, at home and at work.

                                          I must admit to being a bit unclear about etiquette on the types of bulletin boards so please do accept my apologies if I was misunderstood.

                                          1. re: vonwotan

                                            No, vonwotan, sorry, this wasn't directed at you. Not at all.

                                      1. A few I love to visit. I am in Quebec, Montreal and surrounding area.

                                        Fresco on Boulevard des Grandes Prairies.

                                        Dante's on Dante Street in Little Italy.

                                        Chez Lucca in Little Italy.

                                        Primo and Secondo in Little Italy

                                        There are many many more..Just two I go to myself. I want to mention that all use fresh market product and use them in simple wonderful recipes that max on taste without overdoing it.