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Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead


Italian chef Barbara Pollastrini told Insider about dishes she would never order at an Italian restaurant, including chicken fettuccine Alfredo. Ravsky / Getty Images

  • Chef Barbara Pollastrini wants to help Americans understand “real Italian cuisine”.

  • So she gave Insider the scoop on eight dishes you should never order at an Italian restaurant.

  • Shrimp scampi, Chicken Alfredo fettuccine, and Caesar salad were all on his list.

Chef Barbara Pollastrini wants to help Americans understand “real Italian cuisine”.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

A display of fresh Italian dishes at a restaurant in Rome. Christine Wehrmeier / Getty Images

“For Italians, food is more sacred than the Gospel and the Bible,” Pollastrini told Insider.

“Having said that, I would give the Oscar to Americans for their reinterpretation of Italian cuisine,” she said. “It’s always fascinating – and at the same time horrible – how common it is to try to mix or reinvent our recipes. It can be a crime.”

So Pollatrini gave Insider the scoop on eight dishes you should never eat at an Italian restaurant – and what to try instead.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

The menu of a restaurant in Rome. Piola666 / Getty Images

“Although I have lived in America for many years, I never get used to seeing so-called ‘Italian’ restaurants presenting certain dishes, calling them true Italian cuisine,” she said.

So here is Pollastrini’s guide on how to order when you want an authentic Italian dinner.

Pollastrini said she would never order prawn scampi because it contains too much garlic.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

Langoustines with prawns are a classic Italian-American recipe. Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock

Prawn scampi is a classic Italian-American recipe that usually includes shrimp and pasta.

But Pollastrini’s main problem with the dish is that it usually contains “enough garlic to kill all the vampires in the universe.”

Pollastrini believes you can keep it simple and still have delicious shrimp for dinner.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

Pollastrini loves its prawns with extra virgin olive oil, parsley and good white wine. LauriPatterson / Getty Images

“Why not make the shrimp simply poached with extra virgin olive oil, parsley, good white wine, salt and pepper?” she said. “I would be more than happy with it just like that.”

Authentic Italian cuisine does not drown in sauce, even breadsticks.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

Chef Pollastrini does not dip his breadsticks in marinara sauce. Blur / Getty Images

This means that marinara dipped breadsticks are a major no-no.

If the bread is done right, Pollastrini said he only needs “excellent olive oil for a tenderloin”.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

Pollastrini associates its breadsticks with olive oil. Porosolka / Getty Images

Don’t hesitate to add a pinch of salt as well.

Pollastrini said Italians don’t serve pasta on the same plate as meat.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

Chef Pollastrini said Chicken Alfredo Fettuccine was a crime. Ravsky / Getty Images

“Pasta with meat or chicken together on the plate is considered a crime,” she said. “Take the Chicken Alfredo Fettuccine, for example. It’s so wrong to say it.”

Instead, let your pasta shine on its own.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

Pollastrini combines its Fettuccine with butter and cheese. Eugène Mymrin / Getty Images

Pollastrini recommends pairing your fettuccine with butter and Parmigiano cheese, “which, by the way, is real Alfredo sauce,” she added.

A pasta with cream carbonara is “the crime of crimes”.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

Martha Stewart’s version of heavy cream carbonara pasta. Martha Stewart / Instagram

Pollastrini didn’t hesitate when she saw Martha Stewart add heavy cream to her version of carbonara pasta.

“In real carbonara, we only use egg yolk and absolutely no heavy cream,” Pollastrini told Insider at the time. “You don’t make an omelet.

Instead, try a traditional carbonara – which contains eggs, guanciale, and pecorino Romano – instead.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

A traditional carbonara will never have heavy cream. Kieran E. Scott / The recipe

“If they don’t offer the real version without the butter and cream, don’t order it,” Pollastrini said. “I would rather suffer with McDonald’s as a punishment for all eternity.”

Pollastrini also cannot stand chicken parmigiana.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

Chicken Parmesan includes a breaded chicken cutlet and tomato sauce. LauriPatterson / Getty Images

Chicken parmigiana – also known as chicken parmesan – is an Italian-American dish that includes breaded chicken cutlets, tomato sauce, and melted cheese on top. But Pollastrini is not a fan.

“It’s just a version of eggplant parmigiana made with a chicken cutlet,” she said.

Instead, just pair your breaded chicken with a squeeze of lemon.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

Pollastrini likes to keep his breaded chicken simple. sanjagrujic / Getty Images

“Make sure you say ‘no sauce, no mozzarella and definitely no pasta,’” Pollastrini added.

And the Caesar salad? Pollastrini said it had become an Italian-American cliché.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

Chef Pollastrini said you would never find a Caesar salad in an authentic Italian restaurant. Fudio / Getty Images

“The Caesar salad has nothing to do with Julius Caesar or Rome,” Pollastrini added. “We would never serve mayonnaise on lettuce in Italy. Caesar salad was originally made in Mexico by an Italian immigrant who lived in Tijuana.”

Instead, try a good arugula salad.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

Pollastrini combines its arugula salad with lemon and olive oil. Burcu Atalay Tankut / Getty Images

Pollastrini would keep it simple with just a little lemon and olive oil.

True Italian cuisine, she said, relies on “lightness and flavor”.

Italians traditionally enjoy a cappuccino for breakfast. Pollastrini said it should never be sipped “at the end of lunch or, worse yet, dinner”.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

Cappuccinos are an integral part of a traditional Italian breakfast. Alexandre Spatari / Getty Images

“What, for us, is the most classic Italian breakfast ritual – a croissant and a cappuccino – for Americans is an after-lunch drink like coffee,” Pollastrini said. “Absolutely no. It would be like ordering a cup of cold milk and cornflakes after a meal.”

Order an Italian afternoon pick-me-up with just a single dose of espresso.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

An espresso after lunch is more authentic in Italian cuisine than a cappuccino. Burak Karademir / Getty Images

“Or, if you have to make it American style, black coffee,” Pollastrini added.

And whatever you do, don’t cover your pizza with a lot of Parmesan.

Italian Chef Shares 8 Dishes You Should Never Order In An Italian Restaurant, And What To Try Instead

Chef Pollastrini said Italians don’t use a ton of Parmesan to season their pizzas. Simple Images / Getty Images

“We don’t throw a ton of Parmesan cheese on the pizza as a seasoning,” Pollastrini said.

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