Think about this: Have you ever met anyone who really doesn’t like Italian food? We bet you haven’t. But why is it that Italian food has such a universal appeal? We think we know why.
There’s No One ‘Italian Cuisine’
Every region, every town, every household in Italy has its own distinctive style of cuisine. In Tuscany, you’ll encounter simple and rustic peasant fare. Emilia-Romagna is famous for its hard cheeses and stuffed pastas. In northern Italy you’ll encounter rice, polenta, and butter; in southern Italy you’ll never see butter, only olive oil. Some regions are seafood-centric, some use tomatoes more than others. There’s a whole world of food on the boot, which means that there’s something for everybody.
It Tends to Emphasize Fresh, Simple Ingredients
While Italian food is incredibly diverse, there are a few characteristics that tie it all together, including an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients, and letting them speak for themselves without too much fuss. This is clearly a respectable priority, one Americans have come to appreciate more and more over the years.
Italian-American Food Was Tailored to the American Palate
You’ll never find spaghetti and meatballs in Italy. There’s spaghetti marinara, and then there’s meatballs (or polpette), which are completely different dishes, usually eaten as completely separate courses (pastas are served before meat). Italian restaurateurs in the early 1900s noticed that Americans tend to eat meat with everything, so they combined the two. While some Italian-American dishes are similar to what you’ll find in Italy, for the most part your standard red-sauce fare is a completely American invention.
The most famous Italian import of all is pizza, which happens to be one of the most delicious foods on Earth. While you won’t find anything quite like your standard New York slice in Italy, the flavor profile is the same, so if you like pizza, you like Italian food.
It’s Easy to Cook
While nearly every culture has noodles of some sort, no Western culture incorporates it into their cuisine quite as much as the Italians. Pasta is incredibly easy to cook, and a quick sauce is incredibly easy to throw together. And the end result is generally impressive!
The Ingredients Are Readily Available
Pasta, tomato sauce, Parmigiano-Reggiano, mozzarella, basil, parsley, shallots, garlic, olive oil… Traditional Italian ingredients have become traditional American ingredients as well, and they’re available at just about every supermarket.