Around the world, people are consuming dishes directly descended from Italy. Even those of us with no Italian heritage whatsoever can’t get enough of this cuisine. At any given moment, someone somewhere in America is poring over an Italian restaurant menu. Centuries-old Italian traditions have certainly proven their worth, and our lingering love for the ways of the old country exists for more reasons than one.
The array of Italian edibles represents the good life: The life of kings has always included rich stores of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, grains, cheeses, fish, beans and the finest meats and poultry. You’d be hard pressed to find a modern monarch who doesn’t indulge in such a fashion, and the Italians are no different. We love Italian food because we love to indulge in the good life. Olive oil, a longtime treasure of the Italians, is in a delectable class of its own, and garlic, basil, oregano and balsamic vinegar aren’t too far behind. We love the white linens and tablecloths, the crisp restaurant uniforms in front of house and ambiance an Italian restaurant can provide.
Italian cuisine is as American as apple pie: In fact, it’s likely that Americans consume more pizza pies than apple pies each year. Sure, we have our own take on things, but there’s not a town in the nation where it would be impossible to locate a decent meatball sub or a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. You’d be hard pressed to find to find someone who doesn’t regularly indulge in pasta, pizza, tomato sauce, mozzarella or olive oil, and that’s because these things have become staples of our all-American diet, featured on menus across the country.
You can’t go wrong with tomatoes: The tomato is one of nature’s greatest candies, a fact the Italian people seem to know well. The tomato makes an entrance on many a favorite Italian restaurant menu cover – insalata Caprese, baked ziti, stuffed tomatoes, friselle con pomodori, pizza, eggplant Parmesan, lasagna Bolognese, minestrone soup, pasta primavera, pasta e fagioli, ricotta, spaghetti and meatballs – and with good reason. It may be a fruit, but it pairs well with a large variety of vegetables and transforms a meat dish into its best self.
Pasta is the ultimate comfort food: America’s love for pasta is everywhere apparent. We consume about 26 pounds per capita each year. Italians have us bested, however: Every man, woman and child in the food-loving country of Italy consumes about 60 pounds of pasta each year. We tend to consume pasta a bit differently than they do in Italy, but their traditional dishes have established a special place in the hearts of Americans. No matter life’s troubles, there is nothing quite as comforting as a healthy plate of pasta and sauce.
It’s difficult to resist such high levels of passion: Even if you’ve never met any Italians from the old country, you know about their love of food. Italians don’t just eat food, they dream about it. Their enthusiasm for edibles is palpable, and the culture’s greatest passion can literally be tasted.