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Pesto at Restaurants-- Just about all add Cream!!!

l
lemarais May 15, 2013 02:29 PM

This is a wonderful dish from North Western Italy, Pesto. Basil, olive oil, and Pine nuts. Blended together for a coarse blend, not too pureed.

It's not that common an item in Ital-American restos here, but the ones that do have it invariably add cream! Why??!! This makes for a rather disgusting and gloppy mess, IMO. I would rather not have to go to Italy to get this prepared the correct way.

Anyhbody finding the same problem with Pesto?

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  1. MGZ May 15, 2013 02:33 PM

    I've never had a pesto with cream. It's a common special in many NJ Italian restaurants. They do usually add garlic to your ingredient list, but never cream.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MGZ
      MGZ May 15, 2013 02:34 PM

      I just realized you're in NJ too. Where are you finding cream in pesto?

      1. re: MGZ
        l
        lemarais May 29, 2013 07:54 PM

        You've had cream, believe me. You've had cream in your restaurant pesto. They even do it is a majority of restos in NYC!

        1. re: lemarais
          c oliver May 30, 2013 04:53 PM

          Again, you get this information where?

        2. re: MGZ
          Ruth Lafler May 30, 2013 04:30 PM

          Also, usually has parmesan cheese.

        3. e
          eamcd May 15, 2013 02:45 PM

          I've never had cream in pesto anywhere. (I also agree with MGZ that it usually has garlic.)

          However, I have seen restaurants offer a "pesto cream sauce" -- which is adding pesto TO cream. But that's intended to be different than the pesto itself.

          1 Reply
          1. re: eamcd
            fldhkybnva May 15, 2013 02:55 PM

            Yea, I've seen a lot of dishes labeled "pesto cream sauce" and even jars of it in the store but have never ordered pesto which seemed to have cream in it.

          2. f
            ferret May 15, 2013 03:04 PM

            Where is "here"? Because I've not seen it that way anywhere (even Panera serves a passable traditional pesto).

            1. l
              lemarais May 15, 2013 03:10 PM

              Well, it's not that common to find Pesto in NJ Ital Americans, but these places proudly advertise it WITH cream!

              Banchetto Feast-- Westwood
              Arturo's-- Midland Park
              Francesca's-- Glen Rock
              I even was on the UWS last week, and found a place that has it-- Bellini-- menu says "with cream" AAargh.

              So of the one in 10 Ital-Amer restos that serve the dish, I would dare to say that 90% add cream. But make me wrong. Tell me where I can get great Pesto!

              12 Replies
              1. re: lemarais
                c oliver May 29, 2013 08:07 PM

                Maybe go to Italian restaurants rather than Italian-American ones. Kinda like the difference between Chinese and Chinese-American.

                1. re: c oliver
                  l
                  lemarais May 30, 2013 09:01 AM

                  There are NO Italian restaurants on this side of the Atlantic.

                  1. re: lemarais
                    c oliver May 30, 2013 09:16 AM

                    What on earth does that mean? Of course, there are. Can a country or regional food not have GREAT representation in a country other than their home country? Of course, they can and do. Are you saying that there are no French, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Ethiopian, etc. outside of their particular countries? Poppycock :)

                    1. re: lemarais
                      MGZ May 30, 2013 09:30 AM

                      Wow.

                      If what you are sayin' is that there are "NO Italian restaurants on this side of the Atlantic" because this is not Italy, I admit that I respect the play on words. Otherwise, can you please explain what you mean to us? Are you asserting that there is no place in, let's say, Manhattan, that doesn't serve "authentic" Italian food?

                      Now, I know that what is "authentic" is impossible to define. Moreover, if we're gonna talk indigenous, then I s'pose any Italian food that involves a tomato or a chile is definitely not "authentic", right?

                      1. re: MGZ
                        l
                        lemarais May 30, 2013 02:39 PM

                        Out of thousands of Italian Americans, less than half a dozen serve anything resembling "authentic" cuisine actually served in Italy. Authentic is easy to define. It's a dish actually served in a restaurant on the other side of the "pond". Example:

                        Please tell me where I can get some of these menu items here:

                        http://www.ristoranteceraunavolta.it/carta.html

                        or,

                        http://www.anticaosteriavicopalla.com...

                        But that's OK. I'll take my flight to get "authentic". All I want is pesto and Carbonara made without cream!!

                        1. re: lemarais
                          c oliver May 30, 2013 03:58 PM

                          Fewer than half a dozen? Where do you get that number? Citation please. Try this on for size:

                          http://www.laciccia.com/index.php?opt...

                          Sorry they don't have anything as pedestrian as pesto Genovese (pesto alone just means anything that is pounded) or pasta carbonara. It's Sardinian. Does that count as Italian?

                          1. re: lemarais
                            ttoommyy May 30, 2013 05:56 PM

                            We've been to Italy five times and know well the difference between Italian American food and food as prepared in Italy. We have found quite a few restaurants in NYC, San Francisco and other cities throughout the US that cook many items similar to those on the menus you cite. We have had many stateside carbonaras made without cream.

                            In fact, you started a post on the Manhattan boards @lemarais asking where to find carbonara without cream and many of us gave you good suggestions. Seems like you are more interested in carping about the subject than actually eating the dish.

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/885536

                            1. re: ttoommyy
                              c oliver May 30, 2013 06:04 PM

                              Upon perusing OPs history, he had this complaint on the Manhattan board some months ago. Despite CHs recs of various places, he pretty much stuck to his claim.

                              I think Ruth Lafler's explanation below is a good one.

                              1. re: c oliver
                                ttoommyy May 30, 2013 06:07 PM

                                I've edited my post after remembering this @c oliver. Our posts must have crossed. ;)

                        2. re: lemarais
                          ttoommyy May 30, 2013 01:34 PM

                          And no French, Chinese, Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, etc. etc. etc.

                          That's just silly.

                      2. re: lemarais
                        j
                        Just Visiting May 31, 2013 04:30 AM

                        Banchetto Feast seems to be a chain restaurant. I am looking at the menu and I do NOT see pesto with cream. Here is their description of their pesto:

                        PESTO 11.95/15.95
                        LOTS OF FRESH BASIL, PINE NUTS, GARLIC, ONION AND GRATED CHEESE BLENDED TOGETHER MAKE UP THIS DELICIOUS SAUCE

                        I looked at the Arturo's menu. There is a "house made fresh pasta with creamy basil pesto sauce" though perhaps that means consistency rather than ingredients.

                        The Bellini menu says: Fusili al Pesto:
                        Fresh Pesto of Basil, Garlic, Cheese, Olive Oil & touch of Cream

                        And indeed, Francesca's says: Penne pasta in a fresh basil, parmesan pesto cream sauce

                        I never heard of pesto with cream so I googled it and apparently, it is a common variant. Who knew?

                        My question to you is why don't you order something else if you don't like pesto that is made with cream?

                        1. re: Just Visiting
                          c oliver May 31, 2013 07:43 AM

                          Where are those restaurants? If in NJ, perhaps as was mentioned it got bastardized along the way.

                          I was also thinking about high end restaurants which seem not to routinely have either dish. Perhaps cause they're looking for something more cutting edge or higher priced. In the case of carbonara, I bet many would be willing to fix it as they like have the ingredients on hand. They might not want to mess with making a single serving of pesto. Just a thought or two.

                      3. C. Hamster May 15, 2013 03:12 PM

                        I've never ever had pesto with cream at a restaurant

                        1. l
                          lemarais May 15, 2013 03:18 PM

                          Add this one to the list:

                          Osso Buco-- Hillsdale-- Pesto WITH cream!
                          Casa Giuseppe-- Lyndhurst-- With cream!

                          Please, don't treat me like I'm nuts-- (maybe I am) but I've come up with 6 places already with cream. Not many places even make the dish. Please give me places that make this wighout cream!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: lemarais
                            c
                            cresyd May 16, 2013 01:35 AM

                            For a start - you're not crazy. It's definitely something I've seen pretty frequently. My quick guess would be that it's because it's cheaper for the restaurant - combined with a generic American affection for alfredo and other cream sauces.

                            As to why it's common, I have two guesses. The first is how the style of Italian-American restaurants is to heavily sauce pasta dishes. Classic pesto does not work as well in a heavily dresses pasta dish - however an alfredo/cream sauce is more accomdiating to that style. My other guess is related to the first - but that from a price standpoint. If people expect a heavily dressed pasta dish, the price of basil/pinenuts could make for a fairly pricey vegetarian dish if you go for the heavily dressed pasta dish.

                            Pesto has become a dish I truly prefer to eat at home - because in restaurants I go to, I agree that it's usually in a cream sauce or is so heavily sauced and so oily that it's equally unappealing.

                          2. t
                            tastesgoodwhatisit May 15, 2013 09:30 PM

                            Yeah, pesto with cream is standard where I am.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                              c oliver May 30, 2013 06:06 PM

                              Where do you live please?

                            2. tcamp May 16, 2013 06:11 AM

                              Wow, I have personally never seen that but truthfully, I rarely order pesto in restaurants. In season, I make my pesto with the ingredients you mention, plus garlic and parmesan cheese.

                              Upon googling, this is the first thing that comes up. Looks like the main purpose of the cream is to make the pesto more liquidy?

                              http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/20...

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: tcamp
                                v
                                Vinnie Vidimangi May 27, 2013 02:42 AM

                                I'm from Toronto Approx. 500,000 Italians, most of them post War. Although I would say most from the south Have never seen cream in pesto, but so many with parmesan that had I thought that this is how it is.

                                1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi
                                  ttoommyy May 28, 2013 08:34 AM

                                  "Have never seen cream in pesto, but so many with parmesan that had I thought that this is how it is."

                                  Most pestos I know of include parmigiano.

                              2. NonnieMuss May 16, 2013 07:39 AM

                                Well pesto comes in many varieties. But to adequately "sauce" a dish of pasta, it would either take too much traditional pesto genovese, or it would be too strong, IMHO. (The traditional calls for raw garlic as well as Parmesan.) Sicilian, Calabrese, and Trappani all have their variations as well - and there are countless others that might be unrecognizable from what we consider "pesto" here. I had a friend who insisted - just insisted - that pesto is ALWAYS made with yogurt. I couldn't talk him out of it and had to manfully choke down his pride and joy.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: NonnieMuss
                                  coll May 16, 2013 07:40 AM

                                  When I want to make it creamy, I find a bit of good ricotta is just right.

                                  1. re: NonnieMuss
                                    e
                                    escondido123 May 17, 2013 09:42 PM

                                    I sauce it with pesto and some pasta water--comes out perfect.

                                  2. v
                                    valerie May 16, 2013 07:45 AM

                                    I have seen many places in NY/NJ area that have "pesto cream sauce". I don't order it because I don't like cream sauce at all. My husband, on the other hand, likes it. But he also likes "regular" pesto without cream.

                                    Like tcamp, I rarely order it in restaurants. I make boatloads of pesto in the summer and freeze in small batches and we enjoy it all year long.

                                    1. PotatoHouse May 16, 2013 07:51 AM

                                      well that sounds strange to me, I guess it's because I never order pesto sauce when I go out to eat. I find pesto to be a simple sauce to make it very easy sauce to mess up and I have had some bad pesto experiences. I can't imagine adding cream to it though, to me that would be as odd as adding it to a piccata sauce.

                                      1. t
                                        treb May 16, 2013 07:55 AM

                                        Cream??? really... find a new restaurant.

                                        1. c
                                          comestible May 17, 2013 08:34 PM

                                          I'm in the NY/NJ area too, and am used to making pesto at home. I haven't found pesto cream sauce at the local restaurants, but what I HAVE seen is that they sometimes cheat by making a very dilute concentration of pesto, just a faint echo of the real thing. It's sad, and very obvious when they do it.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: comestible
                                            l
                                            lemarais May 18, 2013 09:54 AM

                                            PLEASE tell me where you get served pesto without cream in NJ! Thanks.!

                                          2. pdxgastro May 18, 2013 09:17 PM

                                            Sounds like something Olive Garden would do. ;o)

                                            1. Gastronomos May 19, 2013 06:49 AM

                                              Is it because Americans like "creamy"? Just like I can't find a single Ceasar Salad without a creamy dressing? Not one. Anywhere. People must like or think Ceasar dressing creamy? And the restos must carry that to the pesto. I've seen creamy Greek dressing as well. I guess anyone can do anything they want, like making pesto creamy...

                                              BTW, I make "cream of broccoli" soup with no cream or dairy at all, and it's very "creamy".

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Gastronomos
                                                NonnieMuss May 19, 2013 07:05 AM

                                                Americans like creamy? There's another thread that suggests Americans like everything chunky. I find restaurant Caesar salads divided about equally between a creamy and a more oily dressing.

                                                1. re: Gastronomos
                                                  linguafood May 27, 2013 12:53 PM

                                                  I make Caesar salad dressing that's creamy. No cream either.

                                                2. l
                                                  lemarais May 27, 2013 10:29 AM

                                                  WEll we were in an Italian American Saturday in Westchester NY, and they had Pesto on the menu. I asked the waiter, and he went back and asked the chef if they use cream in the Pesto. Yes, said the chef, but he would make it for me from scratch without cream.

                                                  I'm convinced that all these nay sayers saying they never had cream in a Pesto are actually having the cream, they just don't know that it's in there! They've never been to Italy, so they don't know what a restaurant Pesto is really like without cream!!

                                                  It's all but certain that 98% of the restaurants on this side of the Atlantic use cream in Pesto. Same reason they all put cream in Carbonara.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: lemarais
                                                    tracylee May 27, 2013 03:50 PM

                                                    Ummm, out here on the West Coast - at least where I've eaten, a pesto sauce does not come with cream. Believe me, most of us would know if it was there, even if we've never been to Italy. I love pesto, so depending on what else is in the dish, I like to order it. The menu says pesto - and that's what comes - no cream.

                                                    1. re: lemarais
                                                      g
                                                      gfr1111 May 27, 2013 04:05 PM

                                                      Lemarais, Well, I wouldn't say the percentage is 98% (see the comments below), but some restaurants certainly do use cream in their pesto. Americans like things sweet, creamy, or cheesy, so it's no surprise. (Yuck.) My guess is that some people are eating cream who think that the creamy part of the pesto sauce is a combination of pureed cheese and olive oil, part of the traditional recipe.

                                                      1. re: gfr1111
                                                        NonnieMuss May 28, 2013 06:53 AM

                                                        These are some strange generalizations of Americans.

                                                    2. BiscuitBoy May 28, 2013 08:04 AM

                                                      They're all getting it out of a jar?

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: BiscuitBoy
                                                        1sweetpea May 28, 2013 08:49 AM

                                                        I live in a small city with many Italians in the population. Most restaurants offer at least a pasta dish or two, no matter what the origin of the restaurant is. Most often, when pesto is a sauce for a pasta, it is described as being a pesto-cream sauce. I avoid it because I know it will be a standard cream sauce to which a small spoonful of jarred (commercial) pesto is added. The Italian restaurants in town may make their own pesto, but they are definitely keeping prices down and profits high by only using a little pesto mixed with a lot of cream sauce or pure cream to thin out and extend the pricey pesto. The final result tastes nothing like the pesto Genovese I make in the summer when basil is cheap and abundant. I'd rather it not be on menus at all, rather than bastardized as it is, but if I make that case, I'd have to avoid most other pasta and sauce attempts at these restaurants. None is particularly authentic to the regional recipes from which the names are borrowed. Bolognese in a local restaurant is just a tomato sauce with meat. Even a simple marinara can look and taste different from restaurant to restaurant. I think mine tastes Italian, but I admit that I use way more garlic than most Italians would. Everything gets adapted for local preferences. If it so happens that in your neck of the woods people are big on creamy, saucy pastas, chances are good that cream will creep into dishes where it has no business being an ingredient (pesto being a prime example).

                                                        That said, I have certainly been to Italian restaurants in other cities with high Italian populations that offer excellent pesto that is cream-free. To suggest that 98% of pesto pasta dishes include cream is a silly supposition, unless you can claim to have done the research to back the statement. However, it is quite likely that restaurants trying to keep prices low in a tough economy cut corners by extending sauces with pricey ingredients with cream and other economical fillers.

                                                        1. re: 1sweetpea
                                                          l
                                                          laliz May 30, 2013 09:51 AM

                                                          "To suggest that 98% of pesto pasta dishes include cream is a silly supposition"

                                                          all I can say is Wow.

                                                      2. v
                                                        virtualguthrie May 28, 2013 11:17 PM

                                                        It's pretty easy to make. It's really easy if you have a food processor but you can do it in a blender too. If you've really got the craving it's hard to beat home-made pesto. Also, pesto definitely includes garlic.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: virtualguthrie
                                                          fldhkybnva May 29, 2013 06:54 AM

                                                          It's so easy and the best part is you can use different veggies. I love to make homemade pesto, and recently made asparagus pesto which was also easy and good. It freezes well, as well.

                                                          1. re: fldhkybnva
                                                            l
                                                            lemarais May 29, 2013 06:10 PM

                                                            It's not the pesto, it's getting the pasta right that's the tricky part.

                                                            For whatever reason, I can't do the pasta as well as the better restaurants can. There's also a method to adding the sauce, you can't just dump it on top of the pasta, either.

                                                            And I'm still convinced that pesto with cream is fairly standard in Ital American restos. I heard that it's also an easier bet for a chef to make, less to go wrong. I've heard this about Carbonara as well, where in restos cream is ubiquitously added.

                                                            (Cream in Carbonara is even more disgusting than in Pesto!!)

                                                        2. Karl S May 30, 2013 09:57 AM

                                                          It's not typical in the Boston area, though sometimes one finds something accurately described as a pesto cream sauce (not as pesto).

                                                          I do think that it's because American middle- to low-brow restaurants use dairy products (chiefly cheese, but also cream) as a cheap culinary trick, as Americans have become habituated by advertising to the visuals of lusciousness it creates.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Karl S
                                                            ttoommyy May 30, 2013 01:38 PM

                                                            I agree @Karl S. I also think that many "middle- to low-brow restaurants" would also assume that pesto in its most basic form may not appeal to their typical customer as it is really so simple. Unfortunately, in the US many have come to equate Italian food with heavy, over-sauced, creamy, gloppy food and this is so far from the truth.

                                                          2. Ruth Lafler May 30, 2013 04:38 PM

                                                            It's not that common an item in Ital-American restos here,
                                                            ******
                                                            I guess not in NJ, with the predominantly Southern Italian influence.

                                                            Pesto is from Genoa. In Northern California -- where the Italian influence is mostly from that part of Italy (Genoa, Lucca) it is ubiquitous. I've seen it with cream, but I would say that was the exception rather than the rule. I think that since pesto is not "authentic" to southern Italian cuisine, the southern Italian-American restaurant culture in New Jersey may have imported the Americanized version into their menus.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                              c oliver May 30, 2013 04:55 PM

                                                              Quite good logic, Ruth.

                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                hill food May 30, 2013 10:05 PM

                                                                I've never made pesto with cream, doesn't sound half bad... (see what happens when ya post things on the web? monsters are born)

                                                                1. re: hill food
                                                                  ttoommyy May 31, 2013 03:42 AM

                                                                  I agree that it does not sound bad and if I were to be served such a dish by another name, I would probably enjoy it. I think the problem lies in when a restaurant lists a dish with "pesto" and one with cream is served. I would be put off as I expect a pesto to not contain any cream.

                                                                  1. re: ttoommyy
                                                                    hill food May 31, 2013 11:13 AM

                                                                    well yes, it does come down to nomenclature and I would want to know upon ordering. still...

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