Italian restaurants are such a part of our dining culture as to almost become cliché. Although we live in a time when many new cuisine options are available to us, there are a few reasons we shouldn’t leave our old friends the Italians behind.
We have the good fortune to live in a time of unprecedented food options. A quick phone call or hop online can bring almost any imaginable cuisine right to our doorsteps. Generally speaking, this variety is a blessing, but one downside of the range of options is that some of our old standbys get lost in the shuffle. Case in point: the Italian Restaurant.
I know what you’re thinking. The second your eyes registered the words, “Italian Restaurant,” your mind began to conjure images of red checked table cloths, candle light, and bottles of wine. Been there, done that, on to the Thai menu!
The trappings of Italian cuisine have become so ingrained in our brains as to seem totally cliché, and in our quest for novelty, we rush right past the option and forget why it became such a staple in the first place. When done well, an Italian meal makes you forget the clichés. A good Italian meal is an invitation to partake in a culture that holds a deep reverence for food.
In Italy, meal time is a time to step out of the rest of the daily routine. It’s a time to come together with family and friends and build community. Put simply, it’s a time to enjoy life. In the interest of enjoying life to the fullest, true Italian cooks insist on using only the best and freshest ingredients available. There is an emphasis on bringing out the natural flavors of the food as opposed to masking or drowning it in spices.
More than just being delicious, Italian cuisine is steeped in meaning. Take for instance the colorful history behind many of our most familiar pastas. The radiatore shape was adapted from mechanical radiator pieces when a chef saw them and thought they would hold sauce well. One of the most evocative pasta origins though, belongs to tortellini, which is said to have been modeled after Venus’ belly button! Keep that in mind and maybe you’ll blush next time you order them at an Italian restaurant.
Another Italian staple that has become trivialized over time is the pizza. Today it’s often thought of as a junk food, something to resort to out of utter laziness. This is a great injustice to this awesome pie. Pizza, in one form or another, can be traced back at least as far as the ancient Greeks, and offers enterprising chefs a simple canvas on which to express their creativity. Try to push the image of the cartoon slice, dripping with yellow grease out of your head, and find an Italian restaurant in your area that offers gourmet pizza.
We are fortunate to live in a time of so many options, but unfortunately, those options arise out of a fast paced culture. Maybe we need to follow the example of the Italians, slow down and enjoy life a little more. Let’s put down the take-out menus, head out to that favorite Italian restaurant we’d almost forgotten, order something delicious, and then enjoy