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Nov 3, 2012 08:17 AM

Authentic Italian

Prompted by recent discussion regarding Erbaluce...

We have any Italian ex-pats here that can comment on the authenticity of other restaurants? Specifically, which dishes and what makes them authentic?

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  1. first i have two problems with this idea: what is meant by authentic? Is the recipe and prep exactly like it would be any place in Italy? I doubt that even any Italian restaurant in Italy would meet that standard. And in Italy, there are regional differences. So the best one can say is that preparation is within the normans of Italian preparation. And so what? How about delicious and inventive rather than exactly like one would eat in Italy.

    that said, I like Trattoria Tuscana, Rialto, Coppa.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cambridgedoctpr

      To me, authentic means the recipe and prep are consistent with what you'd find in Italy. That's why I asked for specifics. For example, I think the sea urchin panino at Coppa is delicious but I have no idea if this is something you'd find in Italy or if it's an invention. So I guess I'm also interested in hearing what makes people judge something to be "authentic". Please, share your opinion- I wanted this to be a discussion to provide some information for those of us who haven't lived overseas.

      To your second point, there's nothing wrong with delicious and inventive but in that same breadth there's nothing wrong with doing classical preparations. I can look at any menu online and decide if the food is appealing, but the draw of an Italian (or French, Indian, Mexican, Chinese, etc) restaurant is, IMO, that you're getting to experience the food commonly eaten in another part of the world without having to travel there, it's a long swim.

    2. I'm married to an Italian expat (he's been living here for one year) and I lived in Italy for four years. We feel most like we're in Italy at Gran Gusto in Cambridge. The food is very close to authentic - meaning the dishes are exactly what you'd get in a trattoria in Italy. Pizza is close to authentic as well. The service is very Italian, it's owned by two Neapolitan brothers, there's a waiter from Calabria, etc.

      Other hits with Italian expats - Pasta Beach (near the Italian consulate, their staff eats there often), Il Posto for pizza (they are certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana and the dough is very much like pizza in Naples, though the toppings on the menu isn't really authentic. You can order toppings a la carte rather than by the menu and do something more Italian).

      We haven't been to Coppa yet but the fact that they have Aperol Spritz by the pitcher is a well known fact by all the Italian expats. It sounds like their salumi are also interesting as well.

      Maybe some other Italian expat Chowhounds like buonapappa will respond as well?

      There are a lot of places that have good food in Boston that have some authentic dishes on their menu but not everything is stuff you would find in Italy. That doesn't mean it's not good but you said you were looking for authentic... I'm thinking of Erbaluce, Il Casale, Il Pescatore, etc.

      Another random place is Bottega Fiorentina on Harvard St. in Coolidge Corner - it's owned by a Florentine and some Italian expats hang out there. He has a few already prepared dishes and a good prosciutto sandwich and caffe.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Bugsey34

        Thanks for the informative post, Bugsey. I love the pizza at both Posto and Gran Gusto. Which toppings would be more authentic Italian at Posto?

        1. re: pollystyrene

          I just meant the things you can add to a margherita pizza yourself, such as: Prosciutto di Parma and Roasted Mushrooms (classic Italian pairing you see in many pizzerias in Italy as prosciutto e funghi) or Fennel Sausage. The sausage got a major thumbs up from my husband. An Italian would have at most two toppings on a pizza at any given time, to let those ingredients shine.

          The pizzas on Posto's menu like "Gorgonzola crema, Applewood bacon, carmelized onions, arugula and vincotto" are freaking DELICIOUS. (I ordered it, I should know.) They just aren't anything you'd see in Italy :).

      2. Depends on the region your friend is from in Italy.

        1. Restaurants like Gran Gusto or Trattoria Toscana are very authentic. I could go to Rome or Bologna and find a Trattoria Toscana that serves the same stuff as in Boston and nice Neapolitan Pizzerias like GG in every Italian town…..
          Other restaurants like il Casale, Sportello, Erbaluce or Rialto have some dishes on their menus that are “really” Italian and then some others that can be wonderful, with an Italian “twist”, but that cannot be considered authentic. In my opinion, what makes an Italian restaurant authentic is the type of ingredients that are being used, the way flavors are combined, the regional traditions that are “behind” a specific dish and of course you have to know the very basic: how to cook pasta!

          Beachowolfe, here is an example of a Primi menu from an Italian restaurant in Boston:

          spaghetti and clams, manila clams, garlic, Sicilian olive oil, zucchini

          hand-crafted potato dumplings, porcini crema, roasted peppers, artichoke chips

          pasta e fagioli cannellini beans "al fiasco", mezzi rigatoni pasta, olive oil, parsley
          (with rock shrimp add ..)

          lasagna "rotta"
          "broken" lasagna (changes daily) / market.

          three cheese ravioli, wild mushroom ragu, tomato, ricotta salata

          spaghetti alla carbonara
          guanciale, soft onions, egg yolk, pecorino romano Fulvi (D.O.P. Lazio)

          San Marzano tomato sugo, basil, Parmigiano Reggiano

          the traditional meat sauce "alla Bolognese"

          The last five items on this menu seem pretty authentic/traditional to me, the first 3 not so much, but this does not mean that they are not delicious.
          By the way in Italy too these days, we have many talented chefs that transform the staples of Italian cuisine in something completely different and new and I think it is great to have the possibility to choose...(unfortunately here in Boston I don't think we have enough of the good authentic ones.....)

          3 Replies
          1. re: Pappabuona

            Thanks, that is helpful and exactly the kind of info I was looking for... Surprised to see the ever present linguine con vongole (north end restaurant staple) as"unauthentic". Is it the particular preparation at Il Casale or is that whole dish just an American concoction, (like chicken parm)?

            BTW- Does it make it more authentic if I say Pasta Fazool?

            1. re: Beachowolfe

              It' s the zucchini together with the vongole that does not make it authentic: I don't recall ever seen this before. Pasta e Fasuli is dialect (from Campania) region not Italian. In Lombardy they call it pasta e fasoi, in Veneto pasta e fasioi and so on....

            2. re: Pappabuona

              I couldn't agree more.

              The 2 places which are the closest to what one would find very typically in Italy are Gran Gusto or Trattoria Toscana. This doesn't mean the others in town aren't good (and I enjoy some things more at some of the other Italian places in town actually) but they would strike most Italians regardless of their specific regional origin as somewhat 'different' and the person recommending them would probably make mention of this fact.

              To be fair, even in a place like Rome where I spent much of my life, you won't find more than a handful of restaurants specifically aiming at some other region of Italy's cuisine and this tends to be the case up and down the bel paese.

              Apart from Gran Gusto and Trattoria Toscana, I think la Campania and il Casale tend towards more "Italian" than most others in the sense intended by the original poster.

              2 other possibilities I have yet to try are Bistro 5 and A Tavola but they look promising.

              if anyone is interested, the pizza by the slice at Iggy's is very reminiscent of Roman pizza by the slice as well and is worth a special stop (only available at lunchtimes at their bakery itself)

            3. I dined at Gran Gusto recently for the first time in quite a while. I'm no judge of what's traditional, but it was really, really good, and felt like a strong value, to boot.