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Italian Restaurants in America


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#1 menton1

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 03:50 PM

Unfortunately, since I've been to Italy, I've become an Italian restaurant "snob". It's nearly impossible for me to enjoy an Italian-American restaurant on this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps if they used another name for the category I'd feel better about it. But because it has almost NO resemblance to what is served in Italy, I just cannot partake much.

I take particular exception to the MEANINGLESS phrases "Northern Italian" "Southern Italian" and really get turned off when these restos use Italian words in their menu items. Doesn't add anything to their authenticity.

Here's some photos that I get wistful about, just to give you an idea of why I feel this way!

http://epicures.word...dighera-alta-2/

#2 ghostrider

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 05:18 PM

QUOTE(menton1 @ Nov 9 2009, 10:50 AM) View Post
Unfortunately, since I've been to Italy, I've become an Italian restaurant "snob". It's nearly impossible for me to enjoy an Italian-American restaurant on this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps if they used another name for the category I'd feel better about it. But because it has almost NO resemblance to what is served in Italy, I just cannot partake much.

I take particular exception to the MEANINGLESS phrases "Northern Italian" "Southern Italian" and really get turned off when these restos use Italian words in their menu items. Doesn't add anything to their authenticity.

Here's some photos that I get wistful about, just to give you an idea of why I feel this way!

http://epicures.word...dighera-alta-2/

OK I am officially freaked. I looked at your blog (nice) & then at the bottom of page found that my name & email address were already filled in at the comment section.

I guess that this is all cookies & the fact that I visit other wordpress blogs, but it still spooks me.

That Monet painting pops up at odd moments in my life, for the last 40 years. I had a print on my wall in college & in my first NYC apartment, till it fell apart. There it is again.

Anyway, back on topic - I had the same attitude for a while after several trips to Italy. Eventually I decided that I was denying myself some good food here even if it didn't relate much to what they were calling it, so I relented. It's rarely as good as the original, but it is what it is.
It was hard to avoid the feeling that somebody, somewhere, was missing the point. I couldn't even be sure that it wasn't me. - Douglas Adams

Please come visit my rock concert blog: Tantalized.

#3 menton1

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 05:29 PM

Oops! I guess I forgot to mention, that the above-referenced blog is NOT mine! But I HAVE been to that restaurant, and the photos and story were right-on!

#4 E.L.A.

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 06:48 PM

QUOTE(menton1 @ Nov 9 2009, 10:50 AM) View Post
Unfortunately, since I've been to Italy, I've become an Italian restaurant "snob". It's nearly impossible for me to enjoy an Italian-American restaurant on this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps if they used another name for the category I'd feel better about it. But because it has almost NO resemblance to what is served in Italy, I just cannot partake much.

I take particular exception to the MEANINGLESS phrases "Northern Italian" "Southern Italian" and really get turned off when these restos use Italian words in their menu items. Doesn't add anything to their authenticity.

Here's some photos that I get wistful about, just to give you an idea of why I feel this way!

http://epicures.word...dighera-alta-2/



Good point. So, you don't go for "Italian" food, as we know it, at all? Nothing? Zero? Are there any places you don't truly dislike? LOL. Just kidding. Just trying to figure out what you might like, find bearable, etc. Thanks.

Eric

#5 menton1

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 08:41 PM

My category leanings are to "New American" with Pan Asian and French thrown in a bit. Some of my NJ faves are David Drake, Epernay, and Harvest Bistro.(Closter). Antelao in Delaware Water Gap, Pa (Just across the river) is wonderful. My absolute favorite on this side of the Hudson is Velo in Nyack, NY.

BTW, found these photos right here on Mouthfuls from our own Daniel, this is Nirvana!

http://mouthfulsfood...p...8738&st=180

You won't see any of this on Arthur Avenue...

#6 rozrapp

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 09:50 PM

QUOTE(menton1 @ Nov 9 2009, 03:41 PM) View Post
My category leanings are to "New American" with Pan Asian and French thrown in a bit. Some of my NJ faves are David Drake, Epernay, and Harvest Bistro.(Closter). Antelao in Delaware Water Gap, Pa (Just across the river) is wonderful. My absolute favorite on this side of the Hudson is Velo in Nyack, NY.


We used to go to Epernay but have not been there since it was sold several years ago. I haven't read much, if anything, about it since the new owners took over. It sounds as though you feel the food is still very good.

#7 Rail Paul

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 10:11 PM

QUOTE(rozrapp @ Nov 9 2009, 04:50 PM) View Post
angry.gif
QUOTE(menton1 @ Nov 9 2009, 03:41 PM) View Post
My category leanings are to "New American" with Pan Asian and French thrown in a bit. Some of my NJ faves are David Drake, Epernay, and Harvest Bistro.(Closter). Antelao in Delaware Water Gap, Pa (Just across the river) is wonderful. My absolute favorite on this side of the Hudson is Velo in Nyack, NY.


We used to go to Epernay but have not been there since it was sold several years ago. I haven't read much, if anything, about it since the new owners took over. It sounds as though you feel the food is still very good.


I went once after it was sold, and wasn't impressed. Menton's observations are usually pretty good, so perhaps it's time for me to revisit.
Dreams come in all sizes, shapes, and colors.

#8 menton1

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 04:04 PM

I don't get to Epernay that often, it's a bit out of range, but the dishes that stick out in my memory are the Steak with bone marrow (Really great!) the moules, and the Short Ribs (a Special). The French posters and french waitresses helped a lot for me as well. (Sodden Francophile that I am!)

However, the real winner for me is Velo, only open about 2 years, but really worth the trip to Nyack! Terrific in every way! I also wish Antelao was closer to me.

#9 menton1

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 05:56 PM

Rachel and I celebrated our 15th anniversary at DiPalma Brothers in North Bergen last night. We hadn't been there for a while, but the food is still incredibly solid Southern Italian. They are apparently planning to start doing Sunday Gravy dinners shortly, which should be excellent.


Interesting, but I'd be curious to know what you mean by the phrase "Southern Italian". Having been to Italy several times I'm not sure what this means in terms of cuisine...

#10 E.L.A.

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 06:57 PM

I've read a lot about this and apparently it's a "long" answer. In short, LOL, and I am far from an expert, I always thought that Southern Italian cuisine used more dried pasta, while Northern Italian cuisine used more fresher, egg-based, or "wet" style pasta.

Southern Italian cuisine also used more mozzarella and buffalo-type cheeses, and oils, while Northern Italian cuisine used more cream-based ingredients, and butter, along with other types of cheese (I forget which cheeses were commonly used, but it was the more "sweeter" or "softer" style cheeses, with mozzarella being just one exception). Southern Italian cuisine also used more oils and tomatoes.

I am sure there is a cultural and tradition aspect, as well as others. However, there are also differences due to other reasons -- geogrpahy, crop seasons, weather, etc. I am sure there are others who can add a lot more to this discussion that I can and I look forward to others' opinions, input, etc. Thanks in advance.

#11 menton1

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 10:19 PM

I've read a lot about this and apparently it's a "long" answer. In short, LOL, and I am far from an expert, I always thought that Southern Italian cuisine used more dried pasta, while Northern Italian cuisine used more fresher, egg-based, or "wet" style pasta.



Don't think so. Just came back from Liguria in September, definitely pretty northern as far as geography, and the local pasta, trophie, is ALWAYS dried. In Italy, there is no "Northern" or "Southern" cuisine, but there is Regional cuisine, about 15 regions, most of whose dishes are never seen at an Italian-American restaurant.

#12 E.L.A.

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 11:08 PM


I've read a lot about this and apparently it's a "long" answer. In short, LOL, and I am far from an expert, I always thought that Southern Italian cuisine used more dried pasta, while Northern Italian cuisine used more fresher, egg-based, or "wet" style pasta.



Don't think so. Just came back from Liguria in September, definitely pretty northern as far as geography, and the local pasta, trophie, is ALWAYS dried. In Italy, there is no "Northern" or "Southern" cuisine, but there is Regional cuisine, about 15 regions, most of whose dishes are never seen at an Italian-American restaurant.


I am sure you are right, and while there may be exceptions to the norm or what's generally accepted, I would suspect that the stereotypes are just that. I've often asked chefs, others, and so many of the common responses seem to be the stereotypical replies.

I was passing along what I've been told by several people. I've also read a lot about the regional cuisines, and there too appeared to be "stereotypical" information. Thanks for the info.

#13 E.L.A.

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 11:10 PM

Also, regarding the dishes seen here in Italian restaurants -- agreed! It's really amazing how food here differs from the foreign counter-part. I guess that's their "domestic" so to speak, LOL. Thanks again.

#14 OTB

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 02:58 AM


Rachel and I celebrated our 15th anniversary at DiPalma Brothers in North Bergen last night. We hadn't been there for a while, but the food is still incredibly solid Southern Italian. They are apparently planning to start doing Sunday Gravy dinners shortly, which should be excellent.


Interesting, but I'd be curious to know what you mean by the phrase "Southern Italian". Having been to Italy several times I'm not sure what this means in terms of cuisine...


I asked the owner about what dishes are typical from the region that his family comes from and he pointed us to heavy pasta dishes on the menu and ragus, which as I understand ARE typical of Southern Italy. The family comes from the region near Amalfi/Salerno/Naples. As he explained to me, the restaurant doesn't do risottos or polentas with osso bucco or any of those sorts of dishes which are more predominantly Northern. If it isn't from where they come from they don't make it.

http://offthebroiler...palma-brothers/

My Post is circa 2006, but the menu is basically the same, with seasonal specials.

David Corcoran's 2006 review:

http://www.nytimes.c... dipalma&st=cse

One of the things I thought was interesting was that Spaghetti with Meatballs isnt on the menu. You can get meatballs, and you can order spaghetti or get it with your entree, but unless you specifically ask for it (we saw a child eating a plate with pasta) its served the way it is supposed to be, as a side order, the meatballs themselves.
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#15 menton1

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 03:36 PM

Well, of course, the owner of a restaurant would never betray the lack of authenticity in his own restaurant where he's trying to make folks believe that it's just right out of Italy...

"Southern Italy" encompasses about 7 regions, all of which have very different food, none of which is on his restaurant menu. The use of the term alone is a giveaway that this is a meek attempt to have people believe that this is what Italians eat in Italy. Another dead giveaway is having the entrees in Italian on the menu.

Some examples:

Using Rome as the "center", (Lazio) the most populated region south of Rome is Campania, including Naples. Yes, pizza did originate there and the personal pies served at some places are actually the food closest to the authentic cuisine of the area. Soup with herbs, gragnano pasta, and sartu are all typical Campanese dishes. (Never to be seen here!)

Another Southern region is Puglia, on the eastern side bordering the Adriatic. Also "southern", but a completely different cuisine, and also one rarely seen in the US. Fave e cicoria (dried bean puree), Ciceri e tria (pasta that is boiled and then fried in olive oil), or tiella (a concoction of vegetables and salt cod).

These restaurateurs here in the US should stop trying to fool people, and just call it "Italian style" food. Authentic it is not. And the use of the words "Southern" or "Northern" or the commonly seen "Tuscan" is just pure deception.