30 Things That Are Not Actually Italian

Updated: Jun 5, 2019

I feel like I’m going to make a lot of people angry with this post. So before I begin, I would like to start and say that I am an Italian-American. I am a second generation Italian-American born of two American parents whose relatives and grandparents originated from Italy. This means that I am entitled to Italian citizenship since my grandparents never became American citizens, however, I don’t think I would have felt comfortable receiving that citizenship before I had ever arrived in Italy to live. And sometimes, I still don’t feel entitled to my Italian citizenship because I don’t feel completely comfortable yet with the language. I do not come to Italy and tell people I’m Italian, I tell them I am American and if the opportunity presents itself to me I tell them that I have relatives who live in Italy. I don’t think we as “Italian-Americans” can call ourselves Italian. Not unless you have lived here and studied the language and the culture. Now I am going to make a really long list of things that are not actually Italian

  1. Olive Garden - Breadsticks - Garlic bread

  2. Chicken or Veal Parmigiana The debate is over: It’s neither sauce nor gravy because those are English words! If we translate the Italian word sugo, it translates to sauce.

  3. Brahzoot, pasta fazul, muzzadel – These are not Italian words and if you say this in Italy the people will think you are crazy. Italians pronounce every letter of a word, unless your dialect has changed it to cut the ends off of some words such as in Napoli or if your family’s region has its own words for things like in Sicily.

  4. Pizza with “pepperoni…” that word is what Italians call peppers and you won’t find the equivalent to an American pepperoni pizza here in Italy. - And with that, any sort of American pizza ever

  5.  Fangul is not a curse word. I think the word you’re searching for is vaf*****o along with the many colorful words and phrases in the Italian language that are blasphemies and profanities.

  6.  Spaghetti and meatballs, sorry they do not eat them together in Italy.

  7.  Marinara sauce – this goes on pizza NOT spaghetti!

  8. And for the love of god, FETTUCCINE ALFREDO IS NOT ITALIAN

  9. Italian dressing or salad dressing in general

  10. Penne alla vodka…debatable

  11. Neopolitan ice cream is not something you will find in Italy

  12. Rita’s “Italian Ice” although it is said it was a store opened by a Sicilian family who wanted to recreate granita.

  13. Cappuccino after you eat a meal – BIG NO…Cappuccino with any meal other than breakfast HUGE NO.

  14. The “feast of the seven fishes”

  15. Any sort of pasta with chicken che schifo…

  16. Caesar salad

  17. Spaghetti bolognese come on guys its traditional with tagliatelle and it’s a ragù sauce (and NOT what come in those jars of “spaghetti sauce” such as “Prego” or “Ragù”).  It’s typically called Ragù alla Bolognese

  18. Espresso – Here, everyone just says caffè for a normal shot of espresso because there are so many different types of espresso drinks that you could order.

  19. People don’t look like the jersey shore here ...And with that, not all Italians are tan with dark hair and dark features There are pale Italians, red haired Italians, light eyed Italians etc! Typically depends on if you’re from the north or south.

  20. Cigars? The only people i’ve seen in Italy smoking a cigar is the American who thinks he’s Italian and maybe really old Italian men.

  21. Those one pot pasta dishes on tasty videos….tasty videos in general. WHO PUT AVOCADO EGG AND CHEESE TOGETHER AND CALLED IT A CARBONARA. SACRILEGE.

  22. CARBONARA WITH CREAM GET OUT OF HERE WITH THAT. As you can see I am really passionate about Carbonara It’s not just food, it is an art.

  23.  Biscotti is not a special type of cookie you bake for christmas it literally means 'cookies' in general.

  24. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin - I believe their ancestors are Italian

  25. Bruschetta and by this I mean when you pronounce it bruSHETta some Italian nonna is going to come after you with a ciabatte and no not a roll of bread, but with a sandal. WHAm.

  26. Garlic…Italians rarely use it in cooking and when they do its crushed and cooked whole and then taken out – it’s only for the aroma/subtle flavor

  27. All of that really old italian music is really not what it is like over here. They listen to pop music, they have trap and rock and indie music and it’s all really good!

  28. Pastrami, stromboli, tomato pie, and your italian hoagie from wawa

  29. To continue with food they don’t eat mozzarella and tomato with bread and oil and all of that. Mozzarella and Tomato is known as a caprese salad and it is not something eaten all the time, it’s traditional to Capri (pronounced CAH-PREE)

  30. And finally, Italian wedding soup. Yeah that’s right, it’s not Italian. I told my host sister about Italian wedding soup and she said “Metti le polpette nella zuppa?” “you put meatballs in soup?” (This could be a regional thing)

So what is Italy and why do we think these things are Italian? To start, it’s amazing food. This is something that we already know. All of the different types of pasta that you could imagine, various types of pizza which is  usually thin crust – eaten with a knife and fork, the amazing wine, and of course the espresso drinks that come from here as well! Italy is history,  culture,  language and so much more…So why is it that Italian-American’s have a different view of what Italy is? It really stems from Italian immigration to America. Where families came from small villages and brought to america their regional food and their cultural things from the past as well as various dialects spoken. The other day one of my students asked “why do American’s think that all Italians play the mandolin?” This was something I had never heard before but I told him that there was probably some Italian guy from a small town in the south of italy, like in Puglia, who immigrated to America in the early 1900s who could play the mandolin! So he passed the story down to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren who assumed mandolin playing was Italian. This is just how it works.

For some of these other things, perhaps they happened out of creating something convenient because that’s what Americans do best. Even by naming a creation after someone who is Italian (Alfredo) or a place that is famous (Stromboli). People in America hold on to those old Italian artists who they heard when they were growing up as kids because we are proud of our ancestors who struggled and made a life here in America. If you grew up not learning Italian of course you’re going to fall in love with artists who sing about Italy and use the words that we already know in a language of our relatives. A lot of the Italian Americans who have never been to Italy base their opinions of Italy on what they see in TV and movies and they compile that with the stories their families have passed down. It’s much like the view of America from an Italian perspective. They think we are all crazy about guns, sex, McDonalds, and junk food. I could make another blog just about Italian’s stereotypes of Americans, but that’s for another time. So the next time you go out to eat you’ll know which things are Italian and which are American creations. I recommend a trip to Italy to learn more, it will truly change your life.

The Localist Abroad
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© Ashley Nicole Weimar.