American Italian cuisine is commonly found in chain restaurants, online recipes, and around nearly every corner you can possibly look. While the food and traditions associated with this American Italian cuisine is extremely popular, it isn’t the same experience as enjoying authentic Italian cuisine. There are a few key signs you can look out for to know if you’re being served authentic Italian cuisine or an American Italian meal that aims to convince you it’s authentic.

What’s on The Menu

Spaghetti and meatballs, fettuccine alfredo, and chicken parmesan may be popular features on American Italian menus, but it isn’t authentic Italian cuisine. Authentic Italian cuisine will feature much more than just pasta smothered in sauces and cheese. Look for variety filled antipasto boards and diversity of fresh ingredients.

Authentic Italian aims to show each ingredient for what it is, rather than covering it up under heavy cheeses and sauces. The portioning, placement, and addition of each ingredient should be deliberate and serve a purpose towards to overall experience of the meal. Authentic Italian food stays true to the roots found in Italy and simple dishes often hold the most flavor. While proteins and pasta play an important role in authentic Italian cuisine, so do fresh vegetables.

Seasonal Ingredient Choices

Authentic Italian cuisine is focused around seasonal and local ingredients. Fresh ingredients are vital to achieving the desired flavor of an Italian dish. This means that authentic Italian restaurants in different regions will likely have slightly different menus to accommodate what’s available to them locally. Menus may change as the seasons change as well. An authentic Italian restaurant would rather change the menu accordingly than serve ingredients that aren’t local and fresh.

Seasoning is Intentional

American Italian restaurants may feature salt and pepper shakers on the table, but don’t expect the same sight in an authentic Italian restaurant. The cooking and preparation of each dish is done deliberately, and the addition of salt or pepper may change the dish entirely. Instead, you should enjoy the meal for what it is and taste each layer of flavors as the chef intended. The same can be said for the butter and garlic often found in ample amounts in American Italian food. While those are both important ingredients in authentic Italian cuisine, they’re used much more sparingly than Americans tend to believe.

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