The Italian Almanac

spaghetti with meatballs

Italian Food reinvented

Italian cuisine classics are being "liberally reinvented" by restaurants outside of Italy, often to the detriment of the original dish, the Italian Cooking Academy (AIC) reports.

The academy sent 74 delegates of tasters to eating establishments around the globe claiming to be "Italian". The examiners tasted and photographed dishes like lasagna, pizza, ragu and tiramisu' (a soft cake soaked in coffee and liqueur) on five continents for authenticity.

According to their surveys, the majority of the preparations were "substandard". Part of the problem lies in the fact that almost half of the cooks reviewed (47%) were not Italian and only a small number (9%) had attended cooking courses or studied culinary arts in Italy.

This form of "barbarism" is widely diffused, said AIC. However, the fusion between traditional Italian foods and local flavors often gives rise to a form of "hybrid cuisine" and the creation of dishes that, paradoxically, are successful despite being "a far cry from Italian tradition," the academy said.

One example is the inclusion of baked fish with pesto widespread throughout restaurants in the Netherlands. On the United States, a hybrid dish par excellence is "spaghetti with meatballs", the survey said.

In all five continents examined, Italian food is the favorite for 68% of diners, followed by Chinese food (40%) and French (38%). Melbourne is the queen city of Italian restaurants with more than 1,000, followed by Sydney, New York and Montreal with 500. Paris, with 400 Italian restaurants, is the cradle of top Italian gastronomy in Europe.