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Authentic Southern Italian Cuisine
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Five Things You Didn’t Know About Italian Food

December 3, 2011 Carlino's Restaurant one comment

Classic Italian food conjures up images of pizza, spaghetti with meatballs or meaty tomato-infused Bolognese sauces, but these beloved dishes are only part of the country’s culinary history. Carlino’s goes beyond the traditional favorites and common perceptions of what it means to eat Italian to give you a taste of the true Italy.

“French” food originally came from Italy. France has a deserved reputation for turning out some of the world’s finest chefs, but before Italian consort Caterina de’ Medici joined the French court in the 1500s, the rustic fare of the French countryside held sway. It was her longing for the elegant dishes of her homeland that led her to import Italian cooks to the French court. When the French nobility got a taste of the vibrant flavors and fresh ingredients that were the hallmark of Florentine cooking, they adopted it to local produce, forming the basis of classic French cuisine. Although southern Italian food is Carlino’s specialty, you’ll also find Florentine dishes on the menu in homage to the region’s culinary tradition.

Pasta has a Roman history. When you think of a Roman feast, you might not imagine pasta or polenta on the table, but chances are it was. The words “pasta” and “polenta” derive from the Latin word “puls,” a word for ground grains. Etruscan mosaics show cooks grinding meal and water and cutting the resulting thick dough into strips — the precursor to modern pasta. Marco Polo wrote about the Chinese use of pasta, but it wasn’t an unfamiliar dish to him, nor to his Roman forefathers. When you eat pasta, you’re enjoying a taste of real Roman history.

The Romans wrote the book on cooking. Famous Roman gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius lived in Rome during the rule of the emperor Tiberius. He may or may not have written the cookbook that bore his name, but the collection of ancient Roman recipes has survived into modern times. While some of the food looks decidedly unusual to modern tastes — the Roman love of fermented fish sauce is no longer on a modern Italian menu — other recipes look remarkably modern. The original Apicius cookbook features a version of pesto and a “vitellina fricta” that looks similar to modern veal scallopini.

Italian food is good for your health. Low-carb aficionados might want to order something other than a platter of pasta, but ingredients like olive oil, antioxidant-rich tomatoes and the freshest greens for Italian salads fit well into any dining plan. The Mediterranean diet takes its inspiration from the fresh, robust meals served at Italian villas. Lean chicken, pasta primavera and vegetable-laden panini are as satisfying as they are healthful.

Tomatoes were once thought to be poisonous.When you think of a hearty plate of spaghetti with meatballs, a piquant pasta puttanesca or a saucy pizza, tomatoes come instantly to mind. No other cuisine uses tomatoes as inventively as southern Italian cooking, yet the plant was strictly ornamental in Italian gardens until the mid-1700s. A few exploratory tastes eventually proved that tomatoes were not only safe, but delicious. Italy’s love for the tomato has grown ever since.

 

We at Carlino’s Restaurant offer our best wishes to you for a wonderful holiday season filled with family and friends, laughter, love, peace and happiness



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