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Turning the tables: When Italians come to America...

I must be bored today because I got to thinking about how so much of the culinary focus for Americans is based on Italian food.It made me wonder about the opposite,
what Italians think about American food (warning, Denny's is involved!

Posted by
606 posts

I suspect that not everyone in Italy would be so charitable.

It would have been interesting to see what they think about Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill!

A local resident could have taken them to a lot better restaurants than the chain places, but I'll have to admit that I like Denny's just fine.

Wonder how the Italians would like our Arkansas catfish and barbecue. No doubt all our fried food would wreck their digestive systems!

Posted by
7186 posts

After being in Italy on several different occasions it's rather difficult to go to an Italian Restaurant in the USA without saying things like "that's not the way it looked in Italy" or "if they just made it simple with fresh ingredients like the Italians"

The Olive Garden makes my gag reflexes kick in just by watching their commercials. Macaroni Grill is not quite so bad - but they "could" make it so much better if they would just send their cooks to Italy for a week or so.

Fresh ingredients and simple recipes seem to factor greatly into authentic Italian.

Posted by
252 posts

You guys don't have any independent Italian restaurants where you live? Not very fair to compare our nationwide chain eateries to a family restaurant in Italy. And, I certainly hope Italians who visit the US don't just eat at chain and fast food joints!

I think it's easy to find comparable Italian restaurants here in the US. The problem is, they are usually expensive

Posted by
319 posts

When my Italian friend came back from her first trip to America, she raved about Denny's. She had a hard time ordering at other restraunts, but at Denny's she pointed at a picture of what she wanted and she was so excited that her meal actually looked like the picture.

Posted by
7284 posts

I live a few miles north of San Francisco and we have tons of great, authentic Italian restaurants that aren't expensive. I was sad to read the list of fast food places listed on the travel blog, I would never eat at any of the places listed. We have really good "American" food here as well as lots of great ethnic food restaurants, all at very low to reasonably priced. Hopefully, most Europeans will find the good places. It also depends on where you are in the US as to what choices there are.

Posted by
606 posts

"...at Denny's she pointed at a picture of what she wanted..."

You know what Rick Steves says about places with pictures of the food on the menu (microwaved food with ice crystals in the middle). Maybe that only applies to Europe ;-)

It's sounding like Denny's is missing a big opportunity to open American restaurants all over Italy.

Posted by
401 posts

Once driving cross country with my (Italian) husband we stopped at a Perkin's outside Lincoln, Nebraska for dinner. You should have seen the looks my husband gave me as we tried to eat our breaded chicken strips! Not the greatest cuisine, but believe me, we could do worse. That is the worst thing about travelling with Italians outside of Italy, they complain constantly about the food, though I was once on a business trip with my boss in Germany where he insisted on having McDonald's...who knew?

Posted by
606 posts

"That is the worst thing about travelling with Italians outside of Italy, they complain constantly about the food..."

Ah ha! Just as I suspected. I've read that when Italians travel abroad, they are known as people who don't look to try new cuisines, but instead look for Italian restaurants!

That's fine. They have every right to do that, since they have some of the finest food on earth!

Posted by
668 posts

When In Rome, I need to ask after reading your blog, how did you get citizenship in Italy? Were you born there? My wife and I have been trying to figure out a way in.

Did you marry into it with an Italian husband ?

Posted by
8715 posts

Italians are not the only ones who want to eat their own cuisines. Many Asians feel western cuisine is beneath theirs. (Those were the exact words used by some of my Asian passengers.)

Try to find Asian cuisine in a U.S. National Park!!!!

But then, I've led many an American/Britsh/Australian into Tijuana and pointed out safe, good Mexican restaurants. Most wound up either at Burger King, KFC or the Hard Rock Cafe.

And in reference to Denny's, the same British/Australians loved them. After a Grand Slam breakfast, they would call it the American version of a "full English." To each his own.....but then, for a year, 32 years ago, I spent a year as a Denny's assistant manager in South Florida. Lots of foreigners during the winter season. And lots of repeats.

Posted by
2347 posts

Frank II-Denny's assistant mgr 32 years ago? Lemme guess-brown polyester sansabelt pants, print polyester shirt, knit tie, mustache. Come on, let's see a pic!

Posted by
606 posts

"Many Asians feel western cuisine is beneath theirs."

It's OK for them to say that since, on the whole, they're right. But I remember when I visited China how our guide said, regarding the KFC we passed in Beijing, "Why would I eat that? My mother can cook chicken 102 different ways," to which I replied, "Yes, but it's best fried. Why not just eat the best?" He changed the subject.

"I've led many an American/Britsh/Australian into Tijuana and pointed out safe, good Mexican restaurants. Most wound up either at Burger King, KFC or the Hard Rock Cafe."

??? You lead only crazy people?

But I'll have to admit, for my own taste, I'll take TexMex anytime over what I've had in Mexico. It just tastes better. Same with the Chinese food I had in China. It was OK, and similar to what I've had in America, but not as tasty. I can't explain why. I guess it's Americanized to meet our American tongues, but I like the Chinese restaurants in America better than anything I tasted in 3 weeks in China (except for the Peking Duck in Beijing...in a class all its own).

"And in reference to Denny's, the same British/Australians loved them."

This is interesting. In the 90's we hosted a Swedish exchange student for a year. In 2003 the Swede and his family flew to Los Angeles and my family met them there for a vacation together. One night we drove 30 minutes looking for a place to have dinner and couldn't agree on a place. I finally told them, "Just pull into that Denny's". The Swedes went wild over the place and we had to eat at Denny's 2 more times that week!! In their 3 weeks in America, the only place they liked better than Denny's was the Bonanza "food bar" here in our little town in Arkansas!

Of course, Sweden isn't really known for its fine cuisine!

Posted by
8715 posts

Karen...dark pants, solid shirts, tie (but not too loud)--all cheap because they got dirty easily. But, yes, I had a mustache but it had to be neatly trimmed. (It was a very conservative company.) I actually lied about my age to get the job. I was 20. I worked from 6 PM to 4 AM. I hated it and realized I needed to go back to school to get my degree.

Francis....you're not going to find anything close to that at Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Glacier...and many others on the mainland. However, my goal on each tour with our Asian friends was to get them to try Buffalo--if we were in Wyoming or Montana. (I usually succeeded.)

Patrick--??? You lead only crazy people? Not really...they just heard "stories." Just like we hear stories about Europe.

It's interesting how we want to eat like the locals when we visit Europe, and the Europeans want to eat like the "locals" when they visit us.

Go figure.

Posted by
212 posts

Francis,

Lucky for me, I was born into Italian citizenship. Which is the hands down easiest way to go. I think if I had to deal with applying for permesso di soggiorno, renewing it every year through the grueling process, I would have been out of here a long time ago!

Frank II,
It's interesting how we want to eat like the locals when we visit Europe, and the Europeans want to eat like the "locals" when they visit us.

Not true....some Italians like to "adventure" with local cuisine, but MANY refuse to. In fact, lots of the travel agencies here advertise right in their windows, All inclusive trips to Egypt/Malaysia/Thailand/etc in four star hotel with swimming pool, beach access, all meals included at restaurant WITH ITALIAN CHEF.

I know Romans who would pack their own lunch just to venture beyond Rome's main ring road...absurd if you ask me!

Posted by
2347 posts

So we only know the first part of the phrase "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." It must continue, "When outside of Rome, still eat like a Roman."

My friend's cousin from Scotland visited for a summer once. She LOVED KFC the best, and pizza, and potato chips that she called crisps. The rest of it, eh, not so much.

Posted by
8715 posts

When in Rome, I'll rephrase my statement since I've never worked with Italian groups:

It's interesting how we want to eat like the locals when we visit Europe, and the Europeans, except Italians, want to eat like the "locals" when they visit us.

In fact, the only groups who complained about U.S. food were Asians and French. But then the French just liked to complain--about everything.

Posted by
212 posts

Frank,
Now that's more like it :)
French are big complainers huh? Spanish are pretty bad as well. A recent study conducted on hotel industry professionals concluded that Spanish were the most annoying tourists. Followed by Italians and French.

When in Rome, SWEAT as the Romans do. It's 96 degrees for the umpteenth day in a row...

Posted by
204 posts

Please send some of that warm weather this way. We have had a lousy summer. Thanks for the fun reading.
Heading to Italy again next may am looking for good old fashoined Italian cooking. We experienced it Fumane last time with Grandma and daughter cooking in a non discript kitchen- best ever. Any suggestions in Rome.

Posted by
7284 posts

When In Rome, I'm so glad that Americans weren't at the top of that list!

Posted by
1170 posts

My neighbor here in Dallas lives full time with her husband in Modena, Italy. She has studied gastronomy in Italy. There are several "high end" Italian restaurants in our neighborhood, and she laughs at me when I say that I like the food at these places. Nothing here is truly like authentic Italian food I must say. It's all about the freshness of the ingredients.

I had the idea of opening a restaurant in Rome that is squarely aimed at American tourists who miss their big "American style" breakfasts with "American style" service. Call it "American Breakfast" and watch them pile in. It might catch on with the locals as a curiosity. Afterall, McDonalds is always packed no matter where I go in Italy.

Posted by
212 posts

John,

Modena is where the REALLY good food is....the pasta dishes, the prosciutto, the parmigiano, all come from that region. Not to mention the balsamico...I was there in June and am dying to go back...

I will gladly send this heat anywhere in the world where it is welcome :) Happy Saturday evening everyone!

Posted by
14014 posts

Patrick, you reminded me of my own experiences with Chinese. I loved it until I got to San Francisco and tasted the "authentic" cuisine. Ugh (personal opinion). So when I went to Beijing for 4 days, I packed lots of pb and crackers - only to find that the food there was really tasty. And thank goodness for pictures on the menus - which all the restaurants had - or I wouldn't have known what to order even with the help of my excellent Chinese guide.

Posted by
8715 posts

Sorry, John, but someone beat you to it...at least in Paris:

Breakfast in America (Paris)

To find some of the best restaurants, find a local. Chinatown in San Francisco has some great restaurants but the best ones are not found by the tourists.

I was once taken to a place in SF's Chinatown that had to be the best Chinese meal I have ever had in the U.S. (And I grew up going to Chinatown in NY.)

The place had no sign, you walked in through the kitchen and went upstairs to dine. Two levels, four tables on each level. One of the staff comes over and asks what you want. No menu. Just tell them what you want and they make it. In those days the average meal in Chinatown was about $10-15/person. Two of us ate at that restaurant for $12. For the life of me, I can't remember where it was. (BTW, we were the only non-Chinese in the place.)

When I'm looking for a place to eat, I'll ask at my hotel. What I usually say is I'm looking for a good restaurant, but not too expensive and non-touristy. I'll be given a couple of choices. Then I ask..which of these would you go to. The one they pick is the one I usually go to.

Posted by
212 posts

Absolutely, He was MASSIVE in the years before he died. What a voice. Too bad he left a bit of a sour reputation in his home town for leaving his wife for that 20 year old woman. I recently heard that she too has cancer or some other illness and flies to New York every month for treatment. He must have left her an ok package I suppose.

Posted by
466 posts

I worked about 15 years ago with a girl from Italy at Maccaroni Grill and I asked her how the food compared to the food in Italy. She said well, it's good but to much butter and way to much sauce on the pasta!!!!!