When I meet fellow writers, bloggers, foodies, chefs and anyone with a fine tuned palate for real food and wine, we inevitably end up talking about Italian Food. I completed my B.A. in Italian Studies and traveled extensively throughout Italy with priceless and precious gastronomic memories, which I detailed heavily in this blog. I didn’t just travel as a tourist, I lived there playing the role of a transient local. So when I get to discussing my blog and how I am heavily critical of Italian restaurants in Seattle, the next question folks ask me is: “So what is your favorite spot to grab Italian food?”
I usually splutter and go “geh, duh, uh…Da Pino’s in Ravenna? But even that place I’m not the craziest about and only recommend it because it’s what a real Italian trattoria is like. It’s not by means a gourmet fru-fru trendy spot, it’s just authentic! Authentic because the salami and meats are prepared in-house, there is limoncello generously gifted by the owner/chef at the end of meals and you will leave on a 1st name basis with a wickedly happy grin from having devoured the best tiramisu’ ever. But honestly, I’ve only been to a handful of Italian restaurants in Seattle (La Spiga, Perche’ No?, Cafe’ Mondello, Bar del Corso, Via Tribulali, Mamma Melina’s, Gaspare’s, PaneVino, Pizzeria Pulcinella, Tutta Bella, etc).
Therefore, I really cannot answer that question in an honestly calculated fashion. A reason being mostly that I prefer to make it myself or with other like-minded ‘foodie’ pals based on the memories that taught me how to cook Italian. Also, I prefer not to pay the premium eating it out, as I have in the past and regretted spending it on something I consider sub-par. Why do people love Italy and Italian food, even more than I think they love French food? Honestly, I do feel that in Seattle, French food is more consistent and crafted with more care and technical authenticity. But there is something missing. Italians have a truly special and warming nature that factors into a dining experience when travelling in Italy, and people remember that. The heart has a memory that Alzheimer’s would never be able to touch, and that is where I believe memories of Italy and its cuisine are formed, nel cuore. The element that I find to the cornerstone in the Italian experience is what I like to call “The human factor, or il fattore umano.” No matter how consistent and well-achieved the dishes were; unless a restaurant is staffed/operated by Italians or by people who embody this “fattore“, rather than the American obligatory and forced : “how can I help you, today?” approach towards hospitality, I am usually left unimpressed. And I haven’t met many Italian restaurants with this crucial aspect that I became so accustomed to throughout my travels.
However, I realize that if I am going to continue to be so critical of Italian restaurants through my blog, that I should really go out and try more of them. So stay tuned, readers. I will be making the rounds of pasta, pizza and ravioli, you know for “research.”