The Italian cuisine certainly did not come to North America through the front door. Its first footsteps in this country were neither accompanied by directors of luxury hotels who hired Italian chefs in hopes of increasing the quality of their banquets, nor by businessmen who thought about making money by opening an Italian restaurant.

To be perfectly honest, the first people to make the Italian cuisine were most likely not even chefs or professionals.



In the midst of the great mass of emigrants that crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of a fortune, there were people less fortunate.

These ill-fated people, not able to find work, were forced to create their own jobs.

So, here we have two separate groups of Italians: those who found works in factories and construction sites, and those who catered to the needs of the first group - shoemakers, barbers, tailors

There were those who arrived without their family and, therefore needed a place to eat.


This was the beginning of the Italian "trattoria" or restaurant, considered Italian for two reasons.

The first was psychological. In that it was more than just an eating place. It was a place to gather together in a "family" setting for those whose families weren't there.

For this reason, the decor, language, and cooking had to somewhat substitute the home and family.

The second reason was that those doing the cooking were Italians, although most of them were not professionals.

As we can imagine, it was just a miracle if they were able to serve food that, in some way, resembled the cooking of their homes in Italy.

Obviously, as business began to increase, they called for reinforcement from Italy. Mothers, aunts and sisters (that is to say, the real cooks) began arriving.

As a result, some of these restaurants became known beyond the Italian community. Americans were now interested and fascinated by these new and extraordinary flavors.

Then problems started forming. Not economic, but rather gastronomic.

You see, commercial success produces breakdowns, especially when lots of money come into the hands of those who aren't used to managing it.


This, together with the fact that the client is always right, brought on the beginning stages of the changes or distortions in the Italian cuisine in North America.

Still today, we are fighting with these distortions. In fact, many times critics blame these first restaurants for misconceptions in the Italian cuisine, while even the restaurateurs were victims of a cross between two worlds, experienced for the first time.

These distortions, in fact, are the results of an encounter between two life styles: the Italian, based on quality, and the American, based on quantity.

For centuries, Italians have lived together with the splendors of art, architecture, music and literature

As a result, they have developed a noteworthy capacity of appreciating quality, in every field. In the gastronomic field, as well.

For this reason, in each region and in each era, the Italian meal consists of a sequence of small courses.

Each course is of the highest quality, having its own particular characteristics.

There is no such thing as one large course in which it is possible to meet the quantitative requirements of proteins, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.


But. unfortunately, in order to sell the Italian cuisine to Americans, the first Italian restaurateurs had to add quantity to quality.

They where forced to re-evaluate their objectives in accordance with the American standards. Recipes were not changed, but rather modified.

The result was an increase in the amount of a particular ingredient, as well as a difference in the appearance of the dish.

The portions became gigantic and the menu was reduced to two courses, according to the American style of eating: an appetizer and a main course.

And even the pasta became considered a "main course".


The bulkiest Italian railway worker or miner of the past century - those who had the biggest appetites - couldn't have dreamed of eating such a huge plate of pasta like those that was served (and sometimes are still served) in America.

The origins of many dishes in the Italian cuisine in North America can be explained in the same way.

They are dishes based on traditional Italian cuisine, but distorted in regards to the demand of their clients who wanted to satisfy their desire to try new and diverse foods, as well as their already-established bad eating habits.

To this element of distortion, I would add yet another that, oddly enough, is even more problematic but has two simultaneous positive effects.

The first of these positive factors is that, - beginning in the 1960s, - Italy underwent an economic expansion that drastically slowed down, almost bring to a half, the immigration of Italians abroad. 

The second is that, during the same time frame, Italian restaurants abroad started to become incredibly successful businesses capable of attracting considerable investments, even from investors with no connection to Italy.

The growing number of restaurants created more and more job opportunities for Italians who might want, but no longer needed, to emigrate.

The end result is that the language spoken in the kitchens of Italian restaurants in Germany and England is primarily Arabic, while in North America it is usually Spanish.

It's obvious that cuisine produced in these conditions, prepared daily by people without any formal training, is often compromised and betrayed, due to ignorance, necessity and poor business decisions.

Since the old solution of bringing Italian chefs over is no longer plausible, except for the richest and most celebrated restaurateurs, the only way to be sure of Italian cuisine's future in the world is to properly teach foreign chefs - American, Germans, and Japanese culinary students - how to prepare it.

But how can Italian cuisine be taught abroad?

To simplify things, we could say that there are three basic methods:

      1) The Kamasutra” method

      2) The "It's the same all the world over" method

      3) The "Tell me who you are and I will tell you how you eat" method



The "Kamasutra method", by far the most instinctive, is the one that everyone, - from professional chefs and mothers to teachers and culinary writers - begins with: it puts recipes at the heart of gastronomy.

The philosophy behind it is simple: write down every recipe carefully, taking accurate notes of the ingredients and their quantities, the necessary cooking utensils, cooking times and methods, and, if possible, show pictures of the dish at different stages of preparation - and as a finished product.

It is an effective method that gives good results immediately while instilling in the student the illusion of having mastered a new set of skills.

But when applied to Italian cuisine, this method doesn't always work, because our cuisine, unlike the two other great world cuisines, French and Chinese, is not based on recipes, but on ingredients. A quick look through Italian cookbooks will show that many recipes with the same name, - from galantina di pollo to ragù to tortellini - are prepared using different ingredients and methods according to the chef who is making them.

Our recipes are full of expressions like, "add as much as you please", "eventually add", "cook until the desired thickness is achieved" and "add enough" of this or that, which just goes to say that the rules are not hard and fast and that a lot of space is left open to individual tastes.

Despite all of this, from Piedmont to Sicily and Sardinia to Friuli, the final result that is put on the table is always authentic Italian food.

The Kamasutra method therefore runs the risk of creating a frozen, immutable form of cuisine, that can only be perfected if the chef has all the necessary tools and ingredients.

But if even one element is missing, and everyone who has worked in restaurants knows how many emergencies happen in even the most organized of kitchens, the final result will be off and the dish will no longer be Italian.



The "It's the same all the world over" method - often used by great chefs and international culinary experts - is a somewhat presumptuous shortcut that deals with problems with a minimum of effort and a maximum of focus on the dish's appearance.

It basically consists of finding similarities and relationships between Italian dishes and those of the "great international cuisine": the cultural baggage of any respected professional.

Using this approach every time that you want to make an Italian dish, you look for the recipe that most resembles it and introduce some small variations that will allow you to pass it off as Italian.

It could be a brandade that becomes baccalà alla vicentina or a coulis offered as a tomato sauce for pasta, or even a bouillabaisse that becomes a brodetto marchigiano or a caciucco alla livornese, and perhaps crépes that turn into lasagne al forno.


The "Tell me who you are and I'll tell you how you eat" method is perhaps the most difficult and the only method that can produce good results when applied to Italian food.

"Tell me who you are," seeks to understand what is behind every dish, recipe and culinary preparation.

Italian dishes never come from individual acts of genius, or the creativity of just one chef: they are always the fruit of a series of combinations involving local ingredients, cultural traditions and the prevailing economic and business conditions.

When all of this is part of the cuisine, the best way to learn about it is to study its history, understand how its ingredients were developed, and understand the dietary habits of its people and how they developed. This is the only way that a chef born in another culture and raised with different flavors will be able to professionally produce Italian food.

This is the philosophy which perhaps will surprise you because focuses on very few and basic recipes, while dedicating ample space to Italian cuisine's traditional ingredients.


Thoroughly learning how these ingredients came to be, are used, have evolved and been combined with each other through time, means coming to a true understanding of Italian cuisine.

Then come the cooking methods, which are by far more important than the recipes.

Without going too far, we can say that a chef who has learned to handle our foods could soon invent his own Italian recipes.

This would sound like a provocation, but if we seat at the table of today's greatest Italian chefs, we rarely sample dishes that are prepared according to classic Italian recipes.  Nowhere in our memory will we find dishes that remotely resemble what we are offered, yet we will leave the table satisfied with the assurance that we have eaten genuine Italian food.

In a continuously evolving world, where transportation and storage methods allow us to have the ingredients that we want, in the best condition, constantly at our disposal, we can't have an immobile approach to cuisine: it would represent a world outdated the minute that you finished describing it.

Cuisine - of every kind - is in a constant state of flux, and whoever teaches it must keep this in mind.

You can't teach yesterday's Italian cuisine when today's Italians have changed: they live, dress and speak differently but they are still as Italian as they were 50 or 100 years ago. 

They are Italian because their new way of being and expressing themselves is fruit of their culture and traditions which haven't been erased or thrown away but - in and of themselves - brought about these changes.

On the same note, today's Italian cuisine is different that it was 50 or 100 years ago, even though it is still Italian. It has deepened its roots in our culture and traditions, based more on substance (that is ingredients and methods), than form (the recipes).

This is the chosen path on which the Italian culinary courses for foreigners must begin, and the only one that will have positive results for the participating chefs. Even if they run a great risk: once they learn about our cuisine, they will fall madly in love with it.

This will change their lives, and not only from a professional point of view.