Let's say you were born in Italy and you became a chef and somehow you decided to come to work in the USA. Obviously you’ll have all the good intentions in the world of bringing a taste of your culture, tradition and experience to a new huge audience hungry for real authentic Italian food, the kind you grew up with, the one Grandma used to make, yes that one. Super easy. A piece of cake for someone like you who has eaten and prepared these delicious plates every day of his life.
No so fast buddy. You are about to meet the real sheriff of your new ‘authentic Italian town”. Yep, it’s him..ALFREDO!
And here is the question every Italian chef asks. Who the hell is Alfredo and why is he the superstar here?
Well, dear unaware friend. Let me explain to you as gently as I can what we are talking about here. First of all, it’s not WHO it is, but is WHAT it is.
Apparently Alfredo is a what we really eat in Italy, It’s a sauce that is mandatory to have with fettuccine or you’ll go straight to hell without passing purgatory.
This sauce (that we Italians born in Italy have never seen) is what Italians eat in Italy. Understood? Capisce? Comprende?
No No No don’t talk, just listen carefully and say yes. Fettuccine Alfredo is what you eat in Italy, period, do not dare to argue.
I know the first time you see this it will be traumatic and you probably won’t be able to process the information clearly for a while. You’ll experience nausea, dizziness and vertigo. You think it is a mistake, a misunderstanding, it’s called ‘denial’ (I know the feeling). But try to keep your cool and watch carefully because this is one you’ve got to learn well and learn it fast if you want to keep your job and keep your ‘real Italian restaurant’ open. Do not vomit, you’ll get used to it I promise. I’ve seen tougher chefs breaking down like crumbs in front of this scene.
This sauce thing with something they call ‘cream’ (an attempt to be the Italian ‘Panna da Cucina’), Parmesan (An attempt to be ‘Parmigiano Reggiano”), butter, salt and pepper tossed with fettuccine is what will pay your bills, take your family on vacation every year, send your kids to college and pay your mortgage, so shut up!
You wish I was done but I’m not, because chances are you’ll have to top this ‘thing’ with grilled chicken or grilled prawns or broccoli or mushrooms, and yes there will be times when you’ll be asked by some genius to top it with all of the above. I know the expression on your face. I’ll never forget my dad’s face the first time he saw this, I still can’t forgive myself for putting my dad thru this. Our relationship has not been the same since then, we barely talk and when we do there is always the elephant named Alfredo in the room.
Do not even try to fight this one, it has been done already and you can’t win, Alfredo is in charge around here. So embrace it and just freaking make the Alfredo as if you did it your whole life and your family did it for generations. Don’t comment and don't hesitate, just do it and smile or they will know you are lying.
Some piece of history may help too. Apparently the Alfredo restaurant in Rome in 1922 invented this extremely complicated sauce made of Parmigiano tossed with butter. Something that in Italy only a 5 year old or someone with health or serious personal issues would ever order in a restaurant. But somewhere on the way between Rome and New York something happened to this innovative recipe, and the groundbreaking butter and Parmigiano sauce became the Frankestein of Italian cuisine. Who knows what really happened, but something pretty bad definitely happened.
All in all it could be worse, at least it’s easy to make.
Next time I’ll teach you about the famous Italian dressing that no Italians recognize and the spaghetti and meatballs that...OK, maybe I should wait for this one, you already went thru a lot today and you’re not ready for this level of truth.
Now I probably pushed too much here, but in case you are not part of the Alfredo fan club and you are interested in learning what the unaware Italian people eat in Italy, I offer cooking classes for small and large groups, private dinners and other culinary services.