Somewhere in Italy

californians figuring out life in italy one day at a time

italian american foods you won’t find in italy

Jul 10, 2020

You’re planning your trip to Italy, you love Italian-American food, and you’ve heard amazing things about food in Italy, but you might be surprised to learn there are actually quite a few dishes that aren’t authentically Italian. If you find any of these dishes on a menu in Italy, RUN THE OTHER WAY!

spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs
In America, having spaghetti usually means having pasta with a tomato-based meat sauce. In Italy, most pasta dishes are named by the type of pasta and the sauce (tagliatelle al ragù, bucatini all’amatriciana, spaghetti alle vongole, etc.). Italian meatballs are delicious, but they’re never served with pasta. We once overheard American tourists repeatedly requesting their pasta to be served with meatballs after the waiter kept refusing. He was seriously offended – Italians take their food very seriously!

Fettuccine Alfredo
You will find fettuccine alfredo in Italy, but it won’t be the rich, heavy, creamy pasta you might be expecting. Traditional fettuccine alfredo is made with butter, parmesan cheese, salt, and some pepper. In Rome, it’s not a common dish you see on menus.

Peperoni (with only two p’s) pizza in Italy is a pizza with bell peppers. There’s no such thing as pepperoni as we know it in America in Italy.

Garlic Bread
Bread is almost always served plain and sometimes with olive oil, but never butter and never a garlic butter spread.

Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar with Bread
Only in touristy restaurants have we been served bread that was accompanied by olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Most restaurants don’t have any condiments on their tables (salt, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar).

Italian Salad Dressing
Salad dressing in Italy is olive oil, vinegar, and a touch of salt. Salads aren’t a big part of the Italian diet and grocery stores have an extremely limited selection of salad dressing if any.

Pasta with Chicken
Any pasta dish served with chicken is basically an abomination to all Italian cooking. Pasta and chicken are served as two different entrees in Italy.

Carbonara with Cream
Carbonara should be made up of very few ingredients: eggs, parmesan cheese, guanciale (pork jowl), and pepper. A good carbonara will be plenty creamy with those ingredients.

Chicken Parmesan
So, so tasty, but you’ll only find eggplant parmesan in Italy.

When Italians immigrated to America, they had to recreate recipes with the ingredients that were available and sometimes created something completely new. We enjoy Italian-American and Italian food, but they are indeed very different. Come to Italy with an open mind and open palate to try new things and experience authentic Italian food. We promise it’ll be an experience you won’t forget.


  1. Betty

    I loved reading your blog post. I would honestly be that naive tourist and ask for pepperoni with double p. 🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️ Keep us updated and please keep posting your meals. I drool through my screen.

  2. Brad Shirakawa

    Great info for us who plan to someday visit!


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