This post appeared on W27 Newspaper website in February 2013.
After spending a couple of weeks in the States I started to feel homesick. I kept thinking of pizza with real mozzarella on it, or of linguine (yes, the pasta is spelled linguine, not “linguini”) with seafood, or better yet, a piece of tasty lasagna! I visited my dear old friend Google and started looking up Italian restaurants and their menus.
After going through endless Yelp reviews and online menus I was surprised to see a mysterious “Pasta with Alfredo Sauce” on every single one. “What is Alfredo Sauce? Never heard of it back home,” I thought to myself. I started to question my knowledge of Italian cuisine and wondered how I could be so oblivious and live in Italy for so long without ever knowing about the existence of this sauce. My friends too started to question my Italian background and were so surprised that I had no idea whatsoever what this sauce entailed.
Finally, I decided to check out a recipe online and see what was in it. Butter, packaged cream cheese, parsley, Parmesan cheese, milk and pepper? None of it sounded familiar.
I knew the only way to solve this mystery was to try the sauce myself. So off I went to yet another restaurant (this time with no intention whatsoever to ask for a doggy bag!). When I asked the waiter what he knew about this dish, he went on and on about the history of Alfredo and how it was first created by an Italian man named—guess what?—Alfredo!
After trying the sauce myself, it did not take much for me to realize I wasn’t crazy. I hadn’t been oblivious and blind the past eighteen years in Italy. Instead, like many others dishes served in Italian restaurants here, it simply was another example of something that was somehow mistakenly perceived as Italian cuisine. It reminded me of the time I got served garlic breadsticks as an appetizer (?!) or when one of my closest friends suggested we have spaghetti with meatballs. (Weird.)
It might be a newsflash to some of you, but alfredo sauce, garlic breadsticks and spaghetti with meatballs are not dishes that you will typically find in Italy. Regardless, this whole incident made me realize that I managed to feel like a foreigner even in a restaurant that is supposed to make me feel back “home.”
Foreigner in the City is a new web column. Check out Maddalena’s posts every other Thursday and follow her on Twitter @MaddalenaAlecce.
© Maddalena Alecce 2013