I use to love Italian food. Mom’s homemade lasagna, Tony’s pizzeria in Neptune, Adriatico’s on OSU’s campus, the Olive Garden and Macaroni Grill. It use to be that if you suggested “let’s get Italian tonight,” I’d be out the door faster than Super Mario warping through a drainage pipe. When I finally had my own place, I devoured Italian cookbooks like ‘The Spoon’ and ‘Cucina Sicilian,’ to learn how to make my own Italian dishes using imported Italian ingredients.
But now… now you can hardly get me to go to an Italian restaurant. I’ll go, but I’ll complain. The food won’t taste good enough. Yes, it might taste good but it doesn’t taste good enough. Even ordering a pizza is a chore with me. I want a margherita pizza but I know it’s not really going to be a margherita pizza. “Do they cook with a wood-fired oven?” I will ask. If the answer is no, then I know I won’t like it.
Why am I such an arse now when it comes to Italian food? How come I don’t like it like I use to? The answer is simple.
I’ve been to Italy.
People told me that going there and eating the authentic of authentic would ruin me. “You’ll never like Italian food again,” a friend told me. That friend was right.
In Italy, you aren’t eating Italian food. You’re eating Lingurian, Milanese, Bolognese, Tuscan, and Venetian. You aren’t just eating pasta with pesto. You’re eating pesto in the region that invented pesto! Sprinkling parmesan cheese on pasta with Parma ham… in Parma! And the pizza. Oh the pizza. Wood-fired, thin-crust with burnt edges, fresh buffalo mozzerella and a sauce that taste like someone’s Italian grandmother has been simmering it for an entire day.
So, yes, Italy ruined Italian food for me. I’ll need to go back. But better get there before the ‘Jersey Shore’ kids make the government there ban Americans from ever setting foot in there again after the herpes pandemic.
Have you ever visited a country and found that you couldn’t enjoy it’s food anymore unless you were back in that country?