Special Report

10 Italian Dishes That Aren’t Really Italian

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Mozzarella sticks

Mozzarella is one of Italy’s most popular cheeses, but the earliest recipe for breaded and fried “sticks” of cheese dates back to a cookbook published in France (!) in 1393 (!!). The earliest reference anyone has been able to find to mozzarella sticks, however, comes from America in the late 1970s.

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Pasta primavera

What could be more Italian than pasta tossed with an assortment of fresh vegetables? Except that the dish seems to have been developed in the mid-1970s by a French chef at Italian-born restaurateur Sirio Maccioni’s Le Cirque in Manhattan around 1975.

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Shrimp scampi

Shrimp are shrimp; scampi are saltwater crayfish, in effect miniature lobsters. Shrimp scampi are shrimp cooked with garlic and olive oil, one way scampi might be prepared in Italy — but the dish first appeared in Italian-American communities in the early 20th century.

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Spaghetti bolognese

Bolognese sauce (from Bologna) is a real Italian sauce, made with ground veal or beef, tomatoes (usually), garlic, and other ingredients, but no Italian would ever eat it with spaghetti. It needs flat noodles, like tagliatelli or fettuccine, they’d tell you, to properly hold the sauce — not skinny little spaghetti, which anyway isn’t a Bolognese form of pasta.

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Steak Sinatra

Steak in general doesn’t figure largely on menus in most parts of Italy (Tuscany is an exception), but this dish of pan-seared beef in a wine sauce with mushrooms and bell peppers became an Italian-American staple. It was invented for Frank Sinatra at one of his favorite restaurants, Patsy D’Amore’s Villa Capri in Hollywood, in the 1950s.

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