In many cases, what Americans think of as Italian food isn’t really what actual Italians, in Italy, eat. Plenty of those classic red sauce dishes were created by Italian immigrants after arriving in America in the early years of the twentieth century and adapting their dishes to American tastes. So, if you’re planning on traveling to Italy and seeking out any of these “Italian” dishes, all we can tell you is good luck.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
You’ll find spaghetti in Italy, and you’ll find meatballs (called polpette), but you won’t find them served together on the same plate; in Italy, the pasta course comes before the meat course.
Pizza Sold by the Slice
Pizzas in Italy are smallish and served whole (the exception is Roman-style pizza, which is baked on a long sheet pan and served by the inch). Round pizzas only exploded in size once they were brought to America.
“Scampi” is the Italian word for a small, lobster-like shrimp or langoustine, not a plate of linguine topped with sautéed shrimp.
Italian crostini may be topped with a drizzle of olive oil and a few shards of garlic, but the half-loaves of garlic- and butter-drenched bread you find at your local pizzeria are a purely American invention.
The only Parmigiana you’ll find in Italy is made with eggplant, and it’s a lot more delicate than the cheesy mess you’ll find in the States; it usually contains little to no mozzarella — just a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano.