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11 Italian Foods They Won't Eat In Italy

Mama mia! Does America ruin everything? The Italians would say so. Italy is world-famous for its cuisine. From fresh fish to incredible wine, the country has the perfect recipes for delicious food. Nowadays, you can get Italian food all over the globe, but did you know that what you're eating might not be the real deal? Americans, in particular, are guilty of putting major twists on traditional Italian cuisine—and by twists, we mean completely making up our dishes and labeling them "Italian." The worst part? In traditional American fashion, most of these dishes are way heavier, way saltier, and way larger in portion size than traditional Italian food. Italians would never touch this stuff, so why do we?

You've been warned—we're going to break your heart a little. Read on to find out the 11 Italian foods you won't find in Italy!

1 Garlic bread

If we ranked the best-tasting foods on the planet, garlic bread would make the list. What's not to love about bread that's soaked in butter and topped with garlic and cheese? How about the fact that it's loaded with calories, simple carbs (the kind that spikes your blood pressure), and sodium? And how about the fact that it's not authentic Italian at all?

The closest Italian thing to it is bruschetta, which means thin slices with heaps of fresh tomatoes.

2 Shrimp scampi

Buttery pasta? Fresh shellfish? What more could you ask for? Well, can't ask for this in Italy because it doesn't exist there. This dish most likely came from the traditional Italian dish, which features langoustines (small lobsters) cooked in olive oil and herbs. America did what we do best (i.e. worst) and swapped out olive oil for butter and added pasta to make the heavily-caloric meal we call shrimp scampi.

3 Marinara sauce

You might feel like we just pulled the rug out from under your feet. Marinara sauce isn't Italian? Nope. The red sauce you've been dumping onto your pasta and pizza is very different from any kind of sauce you'll find on your Eurotrip.

Marinara sauce is tomato-heavy and, while tomatoes are on our list of foods you should eat every day, traditional Italian sauces are light on the tomato and heavy on other ingredients like olive oil and herbs. The result is a lighter dish with a more delicate flavor. If you can bear to part with your beloved marinara sauce, try ordering pasta "al Pomodoro" or spaghetti "alla puttanesca" to go authentic Italian

4 Italian wedding soup

This one is a little less traumatizing but enormously humorous because the soup is called Italian wedding soup. Ironically, there's not much that's Italian about it. Yes, it has sausage and pasta, but you won't find this on any menus in Italy. Plus, most Italian wedding soups are high in simple carbs and sodium

5 Italian subs

On the same page as Italian Wedding Soup are "Italian" hoagies or submarines. Whatever you call them, "Italian" sandwiches are easily identifiable as American. These oversized sammies pack piles of meat, cheese, and veggies onto thick-cut bread.

And let's not forget the 450 calories and 1,240 milligrams of sodium found in a six-inch spicy Italian sub at Subway. Whether you're looking for real Italian or not, it's time to say "ciao" to these oversized sandwiches.

6 Italian dressing

Ready for one more Italian food phony? "Italian" dressing. This tangy vinaigrette is made from oil, vinegar, herbs, spices, sugar, and more. However, Italians rarely dress their salads—and if they do, they simply splash some olive oil on their greens and veggies.

7 Pepperoni pizza

Pepperoni pizza cannot be ordered in Italy. Well, let us rephrase. You can order pepperoni pizza in Italy, but you won't be brought a pie covered in salami circles. Instead, you'll be served slices topped with bell peppers. Legend has it that when Italians immigrated to America, the word "pepperoni" got lost in translation and started meaning "meat" instead of "veggies."

First of all, if you want meat on your pizza in Italy, you'll only find pizzas with thinly sliced prosciutto or lean(er) Tuscan sausage. Secondly, Italian pizza has less cheese, less sauce, and a thinner crust, making it a lighter, healthier dish

8 Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parmesan is the hero of all comfort food. But you might not take comfort in the fact that this dish is in no way Italian. The closest thing to chicken Parmesan in Italy is baked eggplant with Parmesan cheese.

9 Spaghetti and meatballs

No! Not spaghetti and meatballs too?! Unfortunately, it's true. Spaghetti and meatballs were completely contrived by Americans. When most of us think of Italian food, we picture heaping piles of spaghetti, baseball-sized meatballs, and a blizzard of Parmesan cheese on top, but this is simply a fantasy you're more likely to find in Lady and the Tramp. In Italy, meatballs are almost always served alone as an appetizer. And meat, in general, is very rarely mixed into pasta.



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1 Comment

Mike Stotts
Mike Stotts
Dec 24, 2023

There are recipes in Italy that employ pasta, tomato sauce and meatballs (such as Spaghetti Con Le Pallottine), but the 'meatballs' are very small so you can get a couple with every bite.

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