Did you know famous Italian-American chef Lidia Bastianich uses diced celery in her pasta sauce? How about the fact that real Italians do not use butter on their fresh Italian bread?
These are a couple of interesting Italian culinary tidbits only the true cultural insiders are aware of.
Though the nuances of Italian cooking and eating might seem a bit odd to outsiders, these traditions developed for good reason.
Here’s the inside scoop on five of the most intriguing Italian culinary traditions.
Real Italians Serve Courses as Opposed to one Large Entrée
American restaurants often center service on a gigantic entrée followed by a cup of coffee and dessert. Things are done a little differently in Italy and America’s true Italian restaurants. Real Italian meals commence with a starter, typically in the form of antipasto. The next course is a primo such as risotto, pasta or polenta.
A secondo in the form of fish or meat follows. A contorno is served next in the form of cooked vegetables or even a small salad. The final course is dolce, meaning dessert. The purpose of staggering courses in such a manner is to keep portions under control while providing a carefully measured meal pace, allowing diners to truly savor the flavor of each dish.
Vegetables are Best When Hammered
No, we are not suggesting you get hammered before devouring a side of our tasty vegetables! Rather, “hammering” is a term some Italians such as Mario Batali use in reference to well-cooked vegetables. Though Italians are famous for their al dente pasta, we cook veggies longer than most others. Such slight overcooking elicits those intense textures and flavors necessary to bring out the best in a side of veggies.
Butter Does not Belong on Bread
Though many of our diners desire butter for their bread, those who abide by Italian tradition prefer olive oil. Some Italians even put vinegar on their bread. Take a trip to Italy and you will undoubtedly find some diners saving their bread for the end of the meal, using it to soak up leftover pasta sauce. Whether you would like butter, olive oil or vinegar for your bread, we’ve got you covered.
Fruit is a Perfectly Acceptable Dessert
There is a common misconception that tiramisu, cannoli, and gelato are the only Italian desserts served in Italian restaurants. However, as real Italians know, fruit is a common Italian dessert.
Enjoy a small bowl of cherries or strawberries after your meal and you will feel quite satiated. Additional Italian fruit desserts include figs, melons, peaches, persimmons, and plums.