What is Italian food?

Hello, and welcome to my blog,

For nearly 50 years my passion continues to grow for my most favorite cuisine on this planet . . . Italian food! I have passionately embraced the recipes of my two grandmothers and mother along with their style of cooking. Even though all three women have different ways of preparing their dishes, the one thing we all have in common is the use of simple and few ingredients of the highest quality. Along with this simple approach comes much care and preparation which contributes to the less is more beauty of Italian food.

I have never been to Italy, (presently planning a trip to Abruzzo) so my perspective comes from what I have studied about each region and my Italian-American upbringing. I was born into an enclave of Italian-Americans in Belleville, NJ. It was a small section that bordered Newark called “Silver Lake.” Even though I only spent my early childhood actually living there, we were there every Sunday visiting the grandparents for the Sunday gravy dinner (a topic of its own). It is here where I was fortunate enough to experience the last bastion of living among traditional Italian-Americans. It was like something out of a movie we would see today. I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject. This is simply a blog I plan to grow with my passionate recipes and love for the Italian way of life and cooking. Which for me, both are synonymous.

To speak of Italian food as one category is pretty general. There are 20 regions in Italy, each of them with its own culinary style. And then you have Italian-American. This is a loaded term. When I think of Italian-American fare, I think of it when it first began and the beautiful peasant dishes from the great depression. Aside from some of our great authentic Italian eateries in the U.S. today, what is being passed off as “Italian” is not something I’m particularly interested in or fascinated with.

For me, the Italian approach to food preparation simply starts with the food; not the cook. I mean, you have fresh ingredients in front of you, they are begging you to do something with them, not the other way around. It’s also about keeping food as close to its natural state as possible considering the context of the dish. I love the concept of a country-style lamb chop in Italy roasted on some coals and hardly seasoned at all except with some salt and pepper, a little bit of olive oil, and a gentle rub with a sprig of rosemary. That’s it! And it’s to die for.

But don’t let the simplicity fool you into thinking it’s a snap. The classic Italian dishes of years gone by may have been working with few ingredients but to this day there is a great focus on preparation. For example, some think fried eggplant is fried eggplant is fried eggplant. Well….do you salt your sliced eggplant and let it dehydrate on towels overnight under a cutting board that has the weight of cast iron on it? (With the skin on by the way). Until they feel like little pieces of supple leather? It’s not like the techniques are fancy or complicated chef wizardry. It’s just a bunch of quirky little unexpected techniques to get simple food to taste extraordinary. Knowing them and when to apply them is key.

At the moment, that’s the best way I can describe what Italian food is. If my thoughts change, I’ll let you know.



Published by mruglio

I'm a third-generation Italian American cook that is passionate about Italian food and all that surrounds it.

2 thoughts on “What is Italian food?

  1. Enjoyed your commentary “What Is Italian Food”, as your father I can agree with all that you said in your commentary. We were both raised in the same way, surrounded by good Italian cooks with age old recipes that our ancestors brought with them from Italy. Good Italian food is not complicated, but requires care, freshness of ingredients, and timing. I’ve tried on occasion to duplicate my mother’s and grandmother’s dishes, but was unable to get it it just right. It takes more than a recipe to cook good Italian dish.


  2. Mike- This is magnificent. Learned at lot and took a trip down memory lane. Now I’m hungry! Keep up the good work, broski.


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