Regional Italian

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NYNM
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Regional Italian - Wed, 12/20/06 9:20 AM
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(Dedicated to CuzinVinny:) We're talking about differences in Italian food. Of course North vs. South, but not just that "civil war", how about all over Italy.

A first question: are Sicilian and Neopolitan cuisne pretty much the same?

Tony Bad
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RE: Regional Italian - Wed, 12/20/06 9:34 AM
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quote:
Originally posted by NYNM

(Dedicated to CuzinVinny:) We're talking about differences in Italian food. Of course North vs. South, but not just that "civil war", how about all over Italy.

A first question: are Sicilian and Neopolitan cuisne pretty much the same?


I think you find more seafood and things like eggplant and peppers in Sicilian cooking. What I DO know is that if you implied someone from Naples was Sicilian they may be quite offended.

CuzinVinny
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RE: Regional Italian - Wed, 12/20/06 10:23 AM
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Absolutely right, Tony.. the same goes for a Greek, who if you asked was Turkish they would never speak to you again. But that's all just politics, like with the Scots and the Welsh.
Truth is, Sicily tends to use more of ingredients like eggplant and peppers, but also some typical North African touches like saffron and couscous. A few of their signature dushes include Pasta alla Norma, which is fried eggplant incorporated into tomato sauce and Pasta con Sarde, with sardines. Their cuisine uses many Middle Eastern touches, most evident in their pastries with almond paste, pistachios, rose water and/or orange blossom water. They have even been known to create a sweet "cuscus" made entirely from ground pistachios.
Neapolitan cuisine is equally known for it's rustic fare, though incorporated mainly by Spanish influences for their heavy use of tomatoes and peperoncino. Of course, this influence on their magnificent dolce is also quite profound. Pastry cream is a must anywhere in Naples, and used to fill numerous cakes and desserts. One particular treat is a stiff crema, more like a cheesecake, cut into pieces, floured and fried. A coronary nightmare, but well worth the experience!!! Their famous seasonal favorites are about as favored as Sicily's, and include sfogliatelle, pastiera (Neapolitan Easter Wheat and Ricotta cake), and baba au rhum, brought over by the French who originally adapted it from Poland.

NYNM
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RE: Regional Italian - Wed, 12/20/06 12:32 PM
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Very informative!! My grandmother also used to refer (pejoratively) to Sicily as "Africa". (OK, no one was politcally correct in the 1950's). I was going to ask more about Northern vs. Southern Italian foods and you have begun to comment.

PS Have you read Waverly Root's book "Foods of Italy"? One of the best I know on "terroir"/how the geography, soil, etc. influences cuisine. He has a another good one "Foods of France". These aare not really cookbooks, but rather a discussion of ingredients, cooking styles, etc. Like (in France) how ther eare differences in cooking with olive oil (south) vs. lard (north). The Italy book makes a lot about grass/cows/milk/cheeses.

CuzinVinny
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RE: Regional Italian - Wed, 12/20/06 1:34 PM
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No, I haven't read any of these books. Mostly everybody today is still "politically incorrect".. LOL!!!!

CuzinVinny
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RE: Regional Italian - Wed, 12/20/06 1:47 PM
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Please feel free to post more questions and information. I look forward to discussing these topics with you!!!

Coastal Southern
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RE: Regional Italian - Wed, 12/20/06 2:31 PM
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I got a questions for you Vinny:

I know that Italians are passionate about their food. I love them for it. However, why is it that i run into so many 2nd and 3rd generation Italians that are snobs about Italian food. I have a friend that won't eat anything that has an italian ingredient in it in resuarants or even touch pizza. She even will take the time to bad mouth numerous Italian eaterys. Ironicly, she is not that great of a cook and her menu is very limited.

I just don't get it. I mean as a southern american i don't go around grading people on their Biscuits and Gravy and BBQ. And if have have some bad southern cooking, i don't have to rant about how incompetent the cook was. Not to even touch on how "american" food is prepared out of the country.

I know that sometimes personalities are just that way, but i find that this attitude is ever-present in all removed Italian americans.

Help me understand.

CuzinVinny
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RE: Regional Italian - Wed, 12/20/06 4:03 PM
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This is due primarily to what any restaurant-goer thinks is the best place to dine at. Many people, not merely Italians, prefer only one of two places where they would consider themselves a regular customer. It has to do with many factors: service, hospitality, and ultimately the food. If these people appear to be "snobs", it's simply given that their opinion is best, if not the only one. Many restauranteurs act in a similar approach, for which they gain notoriety for being snobs. It is good to be knowledgable and confident, though it creates serious problems such as the belief that others are inferior. Persistance is a virtue.. righteousness is not.

Jimeats
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RE: Regional Italian - Wed, 12/20/06 4:04 PM
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Italy is much like the U.S. where the food is pretty much dictated by region. Italy has been invaded and concored nemorous times in their history and has been left with some of those infulences each time. In the north the cusine is greatly influenced by Austria and Switzerland thus a lot of light white cream sauces not to mention the large dairy heards. Down south a fairly temperate climate Sicily is an island with a lot of citrus groves and Africa very close by, an easy trade route. Italy also has a very large Jewish population in the Romana area and Greeks as well. I guess we are not the only melting pot in this world. Chow Jim

CuzinVinny
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RE: Regional Italian - Wed, 12/20/06 4:12 PM
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Who's to say that we, as an entire people are not to some degree a bit snobbish ourselves?? Everybody has an opinon for every possible subject, since these are the things we personally feel bring out the best qualities in all people, places and things. Those who give an opinion are said to be wise, though even the wisest man or woman is often wrong. Those who lack in honesty lack in any common sense at all.

tiki
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RE: Regional Italian - Wed, 12/20/06 9:13 PM
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You guys read "Ada Boni's Italian Regional Cooking" ?---a masterpeice and chuck full of discriptions,fabulous photos! ----


----BTW---you guys "Paisans" or "Goomba's" ????

Ciaoman
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RE: Regional Italian - Thu, 12/21/06 9:11 AM
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Tiki, I think the "Ada Boni" book is probably my favorite Italian food reference. Great pix and lots of authentic recipies. The narrative is very informative. The book really does illustrate the regional differences in Italy. The folks there are very opinionated...like us. Food is a major topic for conversation there, and everyone thinks they know the best way to prepare a particular dish. In my experience over there, it's ALL good!

What I suggest we shouldn't do is expect the food there to be what we may have gotten used to here. Comparisons like that don't work. That's especially true in the north of Italy...the ancestors of most Italian-Americans came from the south so the Italian dishes we ate were influenced by the foods of that region. The northern dishes are a revelation--I'm drooling just thinking about the wild boar ragu they serve in Tuscany and fresh pasta preparations in Bologna! The fresh pecorino cheese from Pienza!

NYNM
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RE: Regional Italian - Thu, 12/21/06 9:55 AM
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And the Parmagiani cheeses! My grandmother's maiden name was Parmagiani! The Northern foods are more meat, fish and vegetables with pasta dishes (including the gnocchi and polenta already mentioned) as sides. My grandmother also made some very good soups. Since Le Marche area is on the Adriatic and Ancona is a major seaport, there was almost a Greek influence in some of the foods.

CuzinVinny
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RE: Regional Italian - Thu, 12/21/06 5:16 PM
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NYNM, you may wish to check out a message I posted in my blog about Sunday Gravy.. this latest inquiry talks about that other highly debated Neapolitan ragu known as "Genovese". Let me know what you think.
-CuzinVinny-

NYNM
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RE: Regional Italian - Thu, 12/21/06 7:35 PM
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Interesting about the Neopoltan usurping "Genoa" but also that the key recipe is yes, vegetables, no, tomatoes. I guess the Southern Italians almost always use a tomato sauce/gravy base.

Ciaoman
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RE: Regional Italian - Thu, 12/21/06 8:21 PM
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Southern Italian cooking certainly uses more tomatoes in its sauces than the cooking of the North. However, there are many, many preparations, including sauces or condiments for pasta that have no tomato component. For example, the vegetable sauces of Apulia (e.g., sauteed broccoli rabe), the seafood sauces of Campania (vongole bianca) and pasta ala Gricia (a tomato-less Amatriciana very popular in Rome).

The tomatoes widely available in southern Italy are exceptionally sweet and flavorful...if I could get them here, I'd use them a lot too. Many of the pasta sauce preparations in the south are quick cooking, not the "gravy" type sauce that takes hours to make.