Italian Foods You Won’t Find in Italy

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Photo by Max Griss on Unsplash

There’s plenty about Italy that makes it a popular destination for travelers of all types, not the least of which being the country’s cuisine. Even outside of Italy, Italian food’s high reputation has led to it becoming a staple in kitchens around the world. The truth is, however, that many of the dishes enjoyed in other countries are about as Italian as Pizza Hut, which is to say, not at all. If you’re planning a visit to Italy and looking forward to enjoying authentic Italian cuisine, here are some dishes you shouldn’t expect to find. 

Chicken Alfredo

Chicken Alfredo is a classic dish featuring fettuccine noodles and pan-fried chicken in a creamy sauce, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find it in il bel paese. Fettuccine Alfredo is quite rare outside of Rome, where it’s traditionally made with only butter and parmesan. Genuine Alfredo sauce should never contain cream, and Italians wouldn’t dream of serving it alongside any kind of chicken. If you find yourself with a hankering for an indulgent pasta dish, you’re better off going with a nice carbonara.

Pepperoni Pizza

The phrase is “American as apple pie,” but perhaps “American as pepperoni pizza,” would actually be more accurate. If you ask for pepperoni pizza in Italy, prepare to receive your pie peppered with pieces of bell pepper. Italian pizza is generally much less heavy on toppings than American pizza, though pepperoni-loving travelers may enjoy their pizza alla diavola, a type of spicy salami, as a similar alternative.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

While spaghetti is undoubtedly Italian, the concept of pairing it with meatballs isn’t. In most of Italy, meatballs, or, polpette, are traditionally enjoyed as a standalone dish. You may come across the two together in certain southern regions, but even then, it will typically be in family-style restaurants as a communal dish rather than an individual portion. The meatballs also tend to be smaller than most American versions.