My Italian father-in-law rarely eats away from home. It’s not that Joe is particularly anti-social (although, now that I think of it…), but rather that in his eyes the food at home is far superior to anything available elsewhere.
It’s not unusual for an Italian to insist that Italian cuisine is better than every other food from any other country in the history of the world, ever. Italians are justifiably proud of their food heritage and, if the proliferation of Italian restaurants around the world is anything to go by, the rest of us agree they’re doing it right. From pizza to pasta to salsa verde, Italian cuisine is undeniably superb.
In Joe’s eyes, however, it’s the abomination of Italian food in Italian restaurants that needs to be stopped. That’s right, he’d almost rather eat out at a Mexican, Korean, Japanese or, gasp, even a French restaurant than subject himself to the inferior food most Italian restaurants in Sydney dish up.
“Mi fa cagare,” he insists (best not translated) when the Cannelloni ricotta e spinaci hits the table.
“Mi fa cagare,” he insists (best not translated) when the Cannelloni ricotta e spinaci hits the table. The Parmigiana di melanzane won’t have enough flavour, and, please, don’t mention the béchamel sauce in the lasagne. Where Joe comes from in Lipari, Sicilia, lasagne is not French. Don’t try to tell him that besciamella is indeed a thing in Northern Italy. He has no patience for regional variations beyond his own or his wife’s – if it doesn’t happen in Sicilia or Campania, for Joe it’s simply not Italian.
Italians Mad at Food
It seems Joe is not alone in his overt disgust of what people insist on calling Italian food. There’s a very funny twitter feed that collects tweets from Italians going crazy over the abomination of their national cuisine.
Italians Mad at Food as a stream of food conscientiousness is an hilarious reminder that Italians take their food very seriously, but fortunately themselves somewhat less so.
No one is safe
Italians are mad at pretty much everyone. The cute Tasty videos we’re all obsessed with on social media cop a regular serve:
Apparently, Gordon Ramsay isn’t doing Italian food right either:
And, proving that they will turn on their own in a heartbeat, don’t get the Italians started on Carlo Cracco. His restaurant Cracco in Milano lost a Michelin star this year, allegedly because he dared to add a ‘healthy’ wholegrain angle to the restaurant’s Neapolitan pizza.
"After making his own 'pizza,' they took away not only his other Michelin stars but also his Italian citizenship and his driving licence," a commentator told UK’s The Telegraph.
"After making his own 'pizza,' they took away not only his other Michelin stars but also his Italian citizenship and his driving licence."
Don’t mess with the recipe is certainly a theme coming through loud and clear across the Italians Mad at Food Twitter stream. Other constants include: don’t use heavy creams (I can practically feel my father-in-law Joe nodding along as he reads); don’t add extra ingredients – are you listening Cracco?; peperoni is a vegetable; parmigiana is only for eggplants; marinara sauce has nothing to do with seafood; and, for the love of God, don’t overcook the pasta.
Stop murdering the pasta
In fact, more than any other gripe on Italians Mad at Food, watching the world boil pasta causes the most angst for sensitive Italians.
It would appear that in Italy al dente is the only way – a little bite when you bite. There is no leniency for ‘personal preferences’ here – it’s not steak, it’s pasta, capisci?.
Apparently, as well as cooking pasta perfectly al dente, you can’t cook it in anything other than boiling water. People have dared cook it in sauce, in stock, in milk and, heaven help the nonnas, in water that started cold.
Don't flout the pizza rules
Of course, for every argument about how to cook pasta, there are at least ten about what you can do with a pizza. Turns out, not much. As Carlo Cracco discovered, pizza has rules and you don’t want to mess with the rules.
It would appear that in Italy al dente is the only way – a little bite when you bite. There is no leniency for ‘personal preferences’ here.
Don’t, under any circumstances, put pineapple on a pizza. This is not an ‘I like pineapple/I don’t like pineapple’ discussion. You can like the pineapple all you want, but according to Italians Mad at Food, it simply has no business being anywhere near a pizza.
Hmm, we're wondering what the Italians Mad at Food will make of tandoori chicken pizza? Apparently Indian pizza is big in San Francisco, as Frank Pinello discovers in The Pizza Show (airing this Saturday at 6.40pm on SBS Viceland or catch-up via On Demand after it airs).
Italians are known to enjoy cementing the stereotype that they are a passionate, emotional, occasionally vengeful lot. So it will come as no surprise to learn that they are at their most spiteful when defending the good name of pizza. For instance, what the Chinese are doing to this beloved Neapolitan invention doesn’t really bear thinking about:
America is doing it wrong
Italians are known to enjoy cementing the stereotype that they are a passionate, emotional, occasionally vengeful lot.
However, while the Chinese are merrily adding blueberry jam, tuna and yoghurt to pizza, the Italians still reserve their most bitter outrage for the Americans. The entire country is frequently lambasted over its pizza and pasta making skills.
From their propensity to break the pasta before cooking, to calling lasagne "lasagna", Americans are far too cavalier for these sensitive Italians. At times, insults can veer a little off the food track…
… but generally the Italians feel they have an important point to make and attempt to be gentle in their persuasion:
They love us all, no really
While most Italians may be super-mad at food (and, it would appear, Americans), fortunately as a rule they are loving and caring types. See, they just want us all to eat better, do better, be better:
Italians Mad at Food is almost like a public service announcement. These guys love their food and they just want the rest of us to wake up and smell the arancini balls (but only if they are not made using “insulting” shredded pretend-mozzarella).
We’ll leave the last plea for the world to stop ruining Italian food with our original Italian mad at food: my father-in-law, Joe. His biggest gripe with local Italian restaurants is that they don't cook the ragu for long enough. In Joe's opinion, slow and steady over the best part of a day is the only way to bring out maximum flavour. When asked why it matters so much, Joe simply says, "Se hai intenzione di mangiare, fallo bene. Qual è il punto altrimenti?"
“If you’re going to eat, do it right. What’s the point otherwise?”
Filled with luscious peanut butter mousse and sweet strawberry conserve, this is the ultimate New York-Italian mash-up.
You can watch The Pizza Show via SBS On Demand: