Chefs Never Order These Foods From Italian Restaurants, and Neither Should You
When you think of Italian food, what comes to mind first? Is it the freshly made pasta or the hand-tossed pizza? Maybe it's the gooey mozzarella cheese or refreshing gelato. There's a lot to love (and might be currently making your mouth water), which is why it's no surprise this cuisine ranks the most popular in the world. And while you can find an Italian restaurant almost anywhere, the authenticity of its food might be a rare find.
Italian restaurants load their menu with seemingly delicious items that will make you want to order everything down the list. But while they may read well in print, what you don't see is the chef's side of the story. From how a dish is made to how it should be priced, professional chefs know the ins and outs of what is worth trying off the menu. That's why we asked the experts about foods they would never order from Italian restaurants and why so we can know what to look out for next time we visit. Read on, and for more, don't miss 11 'Italian' Foods No One Eats in Italy.
Who doesn't love a golden-crusted chicken smothered in sauce on top of a bed of pasta? The answer is not many people, which is why this beloved dish is so hard to come to terms with when hearing it's a dish chefs never order at Italian restaurants.
"The truth is, that despite many people looking for chicken parmesan at my restaurant, there are way more authentic, creative, and fundamentally Italian dishes I want to prepare," says Chef Michael DeLone, Executive Chef and Owner of Nunzio's by Chef Michael DeLone.
For example, Chef DeLone enjoys making more conventional dishes at his restaurant, such as Cotoletta Bolognese and Chicken Milanese. These chicken meals use thinly pounded and fried cutlets, which DeLone says are equally delicious, but they are "way more authentic and interesting" for him to cook and for his diners to eat.
"Any restaurant just offering chicken parm falls in a certain category for me (and not in a good way) so I know where to set my expectations."
Spaghetti and meatballs
This one might sting a little…spaghetti and meatballs not being authentic and not worth ordering? This is why we have trust issues. But Chef DeLone says there's a reason for this established dish not making the cut.
"Spaghetti and meatballs are another item I would never order, and not because of my ability to make it, or that I grew up eating it, or that it is Italian-American and not 'Italian-Italian,'" he starts. "For me, most Italian-American restaurants drown their food in whatever sauces they are dousing the pasta with – tomato, carbonara, alfredo, etc. This is not the best representation of Italian cuisine—cover it with sauce and call it a day."
According to Chef DeLone, any restaurant that drenches its spaghetti and meatballs is not following the traditional ways of how to eat pasta in any region of Italy.
"Spaghetti and meatballs fall directly into this category, and I don't trust that I won't be picking through a plate of tomato sauce to get to the meatballs and spaghetti," he says, "so it's just best to avoid ordering it altogether."
The moral of the story? Don't make pasta sauce the star of the show, but instead harmonize it with a balance of pasta and meatballs. Teamwork makes the dream work with this dish!
Carbonara with peas
If you've ever seen carbonara listed on the menu, beware! Award-winning Chef David Kirschner, the creator of dineDK, a luxury private dining company, has a trick for making sure you're getting a good-quality pasta dish.
"Anytime a carbonara is served with peas, it is usually a red flag that you aren't getting the classic Roman carbonara cooked the way it is supposed to be," he explains. "No cream or peas should be anywhere near the dish at all. Just egg yolks and grated cheese make this dish the perfect creamy pasta that it is supposed to be."
And while Chef Kirschner says he's all for creative takes on classic dishes, he believes that a chef needs to pay respect to the technique that makes the dish a "classic."
As much as the combination of cheese, heavy cream, and pasta sounds like the perfect comfort food on a plate, Alfredo is something that chefs skip because the quality isn't worth the price.
"Alfredo is also something I typically avoid," says Chef Kirschner. "The price that is usually charged for this is obscene knowing that it is simply reduced cream with grated cheese and butter. Then most places throw some grilled chicken on it that is usually sliced so thin it has no moisture left in it when cooked. Nine out of 10 times it's a disappointing dish that congeals into a ball by the time you get through eating half of it."