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5 Myths About Italian Food That Every American Should Know

A compilation of popular myths about Italian food that every Olive Garden going, red-blooded American should know about. If you are planning on traveling to Italy, don't expect to see any of the items listed below ;)

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1. Spaghetti & Meatballs


Popularized in the 1955 Walt Disney classic "Lady and the Tramp," spaghetti and meatballs have remained in American's minds as the traditional Italian dish. However, if you were to travel to Italy you would soon discover that this dish is very rare on most Italian menus. If you did find it, it would only be to satisfy the image most Americans want to see when their food comes out to the table while eating alongside the famous Colosseum. From an article in the Smithsonian Magazine, "So if not Italy, where does this dish come from? Meatballs in general have multiple creation stories all across the world from köttbullars in Sweden to the various köftes in Turkey. Yes, Italy has its version of meatballs called polpettes, but they differ from their American counterpart in multiple ways. They are primarily eaten as a meal itself (plain) or in soups and made with any meat from turkey to fish. Often, they are no bigger in size than golf balls; in the region of Abruzzo, they can be no bigger in size than marbles and called polpettines."

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2. Caesar Salad Dressing


Ah yes, the famous Caesar Salad dressing is also on this list. Though common at most Italian restaurants, this dressing will not be found in the motherland of Italy. In fact, you will not find anything even close to this in Italy as the Italians prefer to lightly drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar on most their greens. Even though it is not found on tables in Italy, it was made by an Italian in Mexico of all places! From the Huffington Post: "Legend has it that Italian-American restaurateur Caesar Cardini invented the salad in 1924 in Tijuana, Mexico. According to The Telegraph, Cardini owned a restaurant in the tourist destination to “attract Americans frustrated by Prohibition.” The exact story is disputed, but the general consensus is that over Fourth of July weekend, Cardini threw together a bunch of ingredients he had on hand and served his concoction to his friends. Needless to say, the improvised dish caught on."

3. Soft Breadsticks/Garlic Bread


When traveling to Italy don't be expecting to see the usual staple most Americans order at their local Olive Garden or Little Caesars. Though you may find breadsticks in Italy, they will be quite different than you're used to. Breadsticks are usually the size of pencils and are very crisp, much like croutons for Americans. The history of breadsticks in Italy is fascinating! "Grissini, or Traditional Italian Bread Sticks, originated in Torino in Piemonte, a region of northwest Italy. Grissini were actually invented around the end of the 17th century to cure the health problems of young Duke Vittorio Amedeo II of Savoy. The duke had difficulty digesting most foods and Don Baldo di Lanzo, the court doctor, commissioned a baker from Torino, Antonio Brunero, to create something that the young duke could digest. Antonio decided to take a part of the dough used to make ghersa, a typical bread of Torino, and stretch it out into long, thin strips. Once baked, the thin bread sticks were crisp and easy to digest. His creation was a great success and became so popular, it entered the daily life of the Torinesi - and later the whole of Italy. Among the greatest fans of grissini was Napoleon Bonaparte, who at the beginning of the 19th century, founded a stagecoach service between Torino and Paris mostly dedicated to delivering him what he called les petits batons de Turin, “ little sticks of Turin”."

4. Fettuccine Alfredo


Yes, it's true. The famous "Fettuccine Alfredo" loved by so many Americans is not found in Italy. In fact, most pastas in Italy have sauces without cream as the Italians feel that a cream based sauce is too heavy. "According to the legend, it was invented by a Roman chef in 1914, who was desperate to please two American movie stars who didn't like anything to offer on the menu. Fact is, no-one in Italy knows this dish. Only one Roman restaurant, Alfredo La Scrofa, proudly reclaims paternity of the extremely popular (only in America and UK) pasta recipe. It looks like a hybrid between pasta con il burro (with butter and parmesan cheese) and pasta con la panna (with cream and ham). Definitely not Italian, but an American concoction."

5. Pepperoni Pizza


Last but not least, the item most Americans order over the weekend for an easy meal, the pepperoni pizza." Though there is a similar pizza in Italy called "diavola" with a spicy salami topping, it differs from the classic American, cornmeal-dusted version. An author in Business Insider explains, "Pepperoni may be the most popular pizza topping in the U.S., but if you order a “pepperoni pizza” in Italy, the chef will most likely bring you a delicious pizza topped with bell peppers, or peperoni. Pepperoni pizza as we know it is almost never served in Italy, except in touristy areas. Other popular toppings to try in lieu of pepperoni include broccoli rabe, mozzarella, corn, anchovies, and even potato slices.It should also be noted that pizzas in Italy have less cheese and thinner crusts, and vary by region (in Rome, for instance, they have flatbread pizza and not the typical Neopolitan pizzas we usually see)."

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