Around the world, people are consuming dishes directly descended from Italy. Even those of us with no Italian heritage whatsoever can’t get enough of the Italian cuisine. At any given moment, someone somewhere in America is poring over an Italian restaurant menu. Centuries-old Italian traditions have certainly proven their worth, and our lingering love for the ways of the old country exists for more reasons than one.
Food of Kings
The array of Italian edibles represents the good life: The life of kings has always included rich stores of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, grains, cheeses, fish, beans and the finest meats and poultry. You’d be hard pressed to find a modern monarch who doesn’t indulge in such a fashion, and the Italians are no different.
We love Italian food because we love to indulge in the good life.
Olive oil, a longtime treasure of the Italians, is in a delectable class of its own, and garlic, basil, oregano and balsamic vinegar aren’t too far behind.
Dining & Gathering
We love the white linens and tablecloths, the crisp restaurant uniforms in front of house and ambiance an Italian restaurant can provide.
Italian Food is an American Favorite
Italian cuisine is as American as apple pie: In fact, it’s likely that Americans consume more pizza pies than apple pies each year. Sure, we have our own take on things, but there’s not a town in the nation where it would be impossible to locate a decent meatball sub or a plate of spaghetti and meatballs.
You’d be hard pressed to find to find someone who doesn’t regularly indulge in pasta, pizza, tomato sauce, mozzarella or olive oil, and that’s because these things have become staples of our all-American diet, featured on menus across the country.
You can’t go wrong with tomatoes: The tomato is one of nature’s greatest candies, a fact the Italian people seem to know well. The tomato makes an entrance on many a favorite Italian restaurant menu cover – insalata Caprese, baked ziti, stuffed tomatoes, friselle con pomodori, pizza, eggplant Parmesan, lasagna Bolognese, minestrone soup, pasta primavera, pasta e fagioli, ricotta, spaghetti and meatballs – and with good reason. It may be a fruit, but it pairs well with a large variety of vegetables and transforms a meat dish into its best self.
Who Doesn’t Love Garlic?
Really, that is what Italian food and drink is all about, using the bounty that surrounds each of us. All those goodies we mentioned, the olive oil and herbs that we associate with Italian cuisine, got that way because they were right there, flavorful, pungent and ready to be used. And garlic, not much else can compete on the ‘good and good for you’ scale. The Chinese and Egyptians, and almost every ancient culture in temperate climates, knew the value of garlic. They may not have known the science of anti-oxidants, immune support, heart health, or cholesterol benefits, but they knew it was good for a body.
Fresh and healthy is a huge part of the popularity of Italian foods. Don’t misunderstand, we love our creamy cheesy Italian dishes, from alfredo to manicotti, but the vegetable-oriented dishes are great too. But the artichokes, peppers, lettuces, squash and tomato varieties are seemingly endless. Using the staple of olive oil, their old school techniques of preserving foods in oil, often dried beforehand, create another palette of flavors to enjoy and build into meals.
Meats + Cheeses
We can’t ignore pickling foods, cured meats or cheeses. Think about an antipasto plate, starting with the pepperoncini, cured olives and marinated artichoke hearts. Then we get to the prosciutto, capicola, salamis and more. With cheeses that range form soft creamy mascarpone and ricotta, to fresh mozzarella and fontina, harder cheeses like asiago, conestrato and of course parmesan-reggiano, there is absolutely something for everyone.
Just in cheese alone there estimated to over 2,500 varieties in Italy. Of those 500 are commercially recognized and more than 300 have EU designations of protected origin. That is a lot of cheese. You could almost answer the question of ‘why most people like Italian food’ with that one-word answer; cheese.
And what goes with cheese? Wine! Italian vinting has been world class for millennia, and certainly still is. Some of the finest red wines in the world come from the vineyards of Italy. We in America owe much of our domestic wine production to Italian roots. The immigrants form that area brough with them the love of wine with their food, the root stock to get growing, and the knowledge to make it taste great. When it comes to Italy, you might think great wine and exceptional cheese really says it all.
Until you say sausage, certainly not just the version of Italian sausage we are familiar with in America. All the way down both sides of the boot, the islands to the south and the mountains to the north, they are all making sausage in their own fashion. That doesn’t include the world class cured meats, and of course salamis, of which there is another multitude. We modern era inhabitants have to give a lot of praise to the eons of pre-refrigeration preservation techniques. If not for that we would lose out on linguica, capicola and coppa of all kinds.
Pasta is the ultimate comfort food: America’s love for pasta is everywhere apparent. We consume about 26 pounds per capita each year. Italians have us bested, however: Every man, woman and child in the food-loving country of Italy consumes about 60 pounds of pasta each year. We tend to consume pasta a bit differently than they do in Italy, but their traditional dishes have established a special place in the hearts of Americans. No matter life’s troubles, there is nothing quite as comforting as a healthy plate of pasta and sauce.
It’s difficult to resist such high levels of passion. Even if you’ve never met any Italians from the old country, you know about their love of food. Italians don’t just eat food, they dream about it. Their enthusiasm for edibles is palpable, and the culture’s greatest passion can literally be tasted. With a few thousand years of development, it is absolutely amazing to see the book of great food choices that has been written all across the landscape of Italy, from the smallest maritime village to the biggest metropolis, each has donated a thread to the tapestry of food that we love. Food that is Italian.