What is Italian Food?
We all think we know Italian food. Chicken parmigiana. Fettuccini Alfredo. Pasta primavera. And those dishes can be delicious… they’re just not Italian. To be clear these dishes were invented in America. Italians in Italy do not eat them.
Californians have always been at the forefront of new food trends in America. Our goal at Bello is to share with the people of Orange County some of the traditional foods of Italy. But it is also to share some of the modern ideas that creative Italian chefs have been using in recent years. So what is Italian food?
What Is Traditional Italian Food?
If one had to describe Italian food in two words one would likely choose ingredients and simplicity. First there is a tremendous focus on the best ingredients. For some ingredients this means seasonal. When tomatoes are in season, Italians eat a ton of fresh tomatoes. When chestnuts are in season Italians eat chestnuts. But not all great ingredients are seasonal. Italians have some of the best ham in the world and make some of the world’s best cheeses. These are obviously eaten year round.
What do Italians do with these wonderful ingredients? As little as possible. The idea is to present each ingredient to the diner at the peak of its flavor potential. A carrot should taste like a carrot. A pea should taste like a pea. Italian technique is deceptively “simple.” The small number of ingredients in each dish should complement each other. Not compete for attention like a noisy kindergarten class.
What Is Modern Italian Food?
Some of the classic Italian dishes have existed for thousands of years. But Italians have never stopped creating new dishes. Tiramisu is thought to be only 50 years old. Many people do not know but the top restaurant in the world in the past two years is a modern Italian restaurant.
Modern Italian food takes the classic Italian sensibilities of great ingredients and simplicity and creates new dishes. Sometimes these include non-traditional ingredients like coconut milk or limes. Sometimes this may include an ingredient like coffee in a traditional pasta.
We do not believe that anyone in the United States is doing these modern dishes like they are made in Italy. Americans should be able to eat these delicious dishes without having to get on a plane.
And we can think of no better place to start than Orange County.