Thursday, September 1, 2011


I have been thinking about authenticity recently. In a No Reservations episode I caught on the tele the other night, Tony went to Naples in search of the real McCoy, i.e. Neapolitan pizza. He ate at one of the two restaurants claiming to have made the first pizza and ordered the margherita, which is a purist pizza. Perhaps the purist. By outlining the virtues of this pizza, he also underscored the sins of many an American pizza pie: thick crust, tons of toppings, bland sauce, rubbery cheese. The real pizza should only have mozzarella di buffalo - fresh - for goodness sake.
Then Tony came back to New York and talked to two restaurants owners/chefs about their Neopolitan (Italian?) restaurant. They discussed authenticity and how that translates in the US. I was a Yelper once, and there is a lot of talk out there about whether this Thai place or that Sichuan place is authentic - and everyone disagrees. The point made by these two guys talking to Tony was that authentic Italian cuisine is local. Part of its very nature is that you serve what is in the region; you see the cuisine change from north to south, from mountain to sea. Okay, so for the US, we extrapolate that if you have Italian dishes and they are authentic, then they are actually inspired by Italy and sourced locally. As opposed to flying in the real ingredients from Sicily, say, and saying that you are an authentic Sicilian restaurant.

I'm just spitballing here. I think that I am a "spirit of the law" type of gal when it comes to this idea.
That you adapt to your locality makes you authentic. Perhaps everything in this country should be hyphenated. Italian-American.
Good Food did a celebration last year that was apparently Mexican-Italian. Blending is very American ... I'm thinking Spam sushi.

So we either cannot ever use the word authentic, or we can agree that it is fungible, in a sense. Perhaps you are a strict constructionist who thinks that authenticity is found in the method and the ingredients. You would therefore fly your ingredients in from whichever far-off lands were required. If you are a spirit-of-the-law adherent as I am, however, you go local and get inspired by those far-off locales.

Josh and I just ate at a local joint, Staple and Fancy, that calls itself Italian-inspired. Hm. I think there are others like me.

The above are all recent dishes chez moi: pizza margherita, pizza di zucca, spaghetti with roasted tomatoes and arugula and ricotta, tomato-mozzarella-basil (with tomatoes and basil from my yard!).

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