"italian food" vs. "American" italian food?

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#1
Near Tampa, Florida
3,437 Posts
Joined Nov 2008
I've been reading references saying that MSC has "real" italian food vs "American italian food"....

Does this mean that the "usual" italian restaurant pasta dishes are not served, i.e., lasagna, ravioli, veal parmigiana, bolognese sauce pasta, etc.

What are some examples of "real" italian food?

I've been to italy about 43 years ago (was pregnant and gained 10 lbs in 12 days.....really!), but it was many years ago....Hope to return some day!

Thank you.

Barbara
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#2
Virginia
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Joined Jun 2008
Originally posted by tbmrt
I've been reading references saying that MSC has "real" italian food vs "American italian food"....

Does this mean that the "usual" italian restaurant pasta dishes are not served, i.e., lasagna, ravioli, veal parmigiana, bolognese sauce pasta, etc.

What are some examples of "real" italian food?

I've been to italy about 43 years ago (was pregnant and gained 10 lbs in 12 days.....really!), but it was many years ago....Hope to return some day!

Thank you.

Barbara
I don't remember seeing any lasagna, but there was ravioli. Most of what I had were pastas with different kinds of sauces. There was rigattoni bolognese and spaghetti with meatballs on the "everyday" menu at dinner, and I saw fettucini alfredo more than once at lunch.

I heard that the pizza was more "Italian" than "American" but I didn't eat any. My fiance had a couple pieces. He liked some of it, but not the other kind he tried.

The food is VERY good. I loved it.
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#3
South Florida
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They had lasagna one night on Poesia 7 night....very delicious

Lots of veal is served which I personally do not eat

they have a lot of good pastas on the buffet too (tho they put the grated cheese in a bowl at the beginning of the line which means people have to double back)
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#4
IN
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Joined Aug 2007
The pizza is not that good. I've eaten my share of "Real Italian food" and I've had much better pizza in Italy. There are plenty of pasta dishes on the ship. The real prize is the variety of cheeses and breads! Oh those are soooo good.
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#5
Ithaca, NY
184 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
Originally posted by RoadTripFanatic
The pizza is not that good. I've eaten my share of "Real Italian food" and I've had much better pizza in Italy. There are plenty of pasta dishes on the ship. The real prize is the variety of cheeses and breads! Oh those are soooo good.
I had quite the opposite experience with the pizza on the Poesia. It was REALLY good. It really reminded me of the fresh pizza on the old Sitmar ships...certainly a far cry better than Princess which inherited the Sitmar pizza tradition...
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#6
Yorkshire, UK and Messenia, Greece
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I can't speak for American Italian cuisine but being from the UK and having lived in Italy I would say that food on MSC has a traditional Italian slant to it. There are plenty of international options available but every menu will have pasta and antipasta courses. Many main courses are traditional Italian dishes, albeit poorly translated into English. As for the pizzas, available only from the buffet, they are again the traditional Italian varieties (margherita, quatro stagioni etc.) with a thin base and simple toppings not the anything goes fodder that passes for pizza in the UK these days.

The breads are stunningly delicious as are the ice creams. This is not modern Italian food but traditional, even cliched, Italian food with a whole load of international alternatives.
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#7
South Carolina
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Joined Dec 2001
Seems there's a difference in Northern Italian food and Southern Italian Food.
At least it seems different to me.

Maybe someone will comment on this.

LuLu
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#8
Lancashire, England, UK
839 Posts
Joined Jun 2007
Originally posted by OCruisers
Seems there's a difference in Northern Italian food and Southern Italian Food.
At least it seems different to me.

Maybe someone will comment on this.

LuLu
~~~~
Traditionally yes. Due to socio-economic reasons and geography. North is more influenced by the rest of mainland Europe and is considered more cultured and cosmopolitain.

South in more simple and hearty and takes influence from ingredients grown in the south. More abundant use of chilis and spices.

Below from an intalian food page:

The reason for this culinary fragmentation is simple: With the exception of the nobility and the clergy, before WWII most Italians simply didn't travel, and as a result every town and every valley has something unique. Neighboring towns and valleys will also share techniques, or recipes, albeit with individualistic twists, but from one end of a region to the other the picture can change completely. Therefore, when speaking of regional cuisines, it's a good idea to keep in mind that we are really dealing with a series of local cuisines, each of which is related to those around it.

Having said this, one can make some broad distinctions from North to South.

The Use of Fats
Though now extravirgin olive oil is popular throughout Italy, this has not always been true. With the exception of a few areas near lakes that exert a moderating influence, Northern Italy is too cold for olive trees to grow, and as a result much of the population used butter for cooking. In much of Central and Southern Italy, and the Islands, on the other hand, people cooked with olive oil. Much but not all; rendered lard was used in Campania, Basilicata, the Abruzzo, and Calabria until recently.

The Kinds of Pasta Used
In the days before industrialization, dry pasta made from durum wheat, water, and a pinch of salt (spaghetti, rigatoni, and so on), was easier to make, and therefore more popular, in the South, where warmer temperatures and increased sunlight hastened the drying of the pasta. And indeed, though there are now dry pasta factories everywhere, modern Italians generally feel that southerners still make the best dry pasta.
Central and parts of Northern Italy (especially Emilia Romagna and Piemonte) are instead known for fresh pasta made with eggs, flour, and salt, for example tagliatelle, tajarin, or pappardelle, all of which are flat forms. The center and north are also known for stuffed pasta, for example ravioli or tortellini, and one can find these kinds of pasta in areas where they didn't eat much flat or dry pasta until recently, for example Lombardia. What did they eat in the sections of the north where pasta wasn't as popular in the past?
Polenta, or corn meal mush, which was a staple food of the poor, and risotto; most of the world's best short-grained strains of rice, including Arborio, Carnaroli, and Vialone Nano are North Italian.

Popular Vegetables
The South is much warmer and has a much longer growing season than the North. As a result vegetables that thrive under hotter conditions, especially tomatoes, are more popular in the South, which thus also has many more dishes with red sauces than the North. Among the other more Southern vegetables are eggplant and broccoli raab. In the North, on the other hand, one finds plants better adapted to cooler temperatures and less sunlight, for example head cabbages, black leaf kale, cardoons, and radicchio.

Foreign Influences
Given its position in the middle of the Mediterranean, Italy is a crossroads, and many foreign powers have left their mark. As you might expect, you'll find quite a bit of French influence (regional French, not haute cuisine) in the areas of Liguria, Piemonte, and the Valle D'Aosta bordering France, and Austro-Hungarian influences in the Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, and Friuli Venezia Giulia. There is also Spanish influence, especially in Milano, which was under the Spaniards for a time; this Spanish influence surfaces again in the South, which was ruled by the Bourbons until the unification of Italy in mid 1850s, and in Sardinia, which was ruled directly by Spain for a time. You'll find English influence in Tuscany, where the classic bistecca alla Fiorentina and zuppa Inglese, English steak and English trifle, respectively, were initially prepared for the enjoyment of the sizeable English colony that settled Tuscany in the 1800s. And you'll find Jewish influences in Rome, dating to the 1500s, when Jews fleeing the Inquisition settled in the Eternal City. Finally, in Sicily you'll find a fascinating mixture of Roman influence, Arab influences dating both to the time that Sicily was an Arab province, and to more recent trade with North Africa (cuscus, for example), Norman French influence, and Spanish influence.

Hope that helps!
#9
Edinburgh UK
8,132 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
Originally posted by OCruisers
Seems there's a difference in Northern Italian food and Southern Italian Food.
At least it seems different to me.

Maybe someone will comment on this.

LuLu
~~~~
There absolutely is. I'm studying Italian and we also get cultural stuff too and the last part of last term was all about cuisine. Each region actually has different types of food but there is a distinct variation in food from North bs South. South tends to use olive oil whilst North uses butter. North more meat orientated, South more fish. The variations come about partly by tradition of that area and partly by what fresh ingredients are available locally.

On a typical 7 night Med sailing, they will feature a different region each night at dinner.
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#10
South Carolina
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Joined Dec 2001
Thanks Moomoocow & AmoMondo for your detailed replies.
Feel sure many others will also find them interesting and informative.

LuLu
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#11
Bedminster, NJ USA
3,425 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
I felt that the Italian food on the Armonia was different from typical American Italian food.
Yes, there is pasta with tomato sauce on the everyday menu and one day they had pasta with Carbonara sauce on the regular menu, but most of the pasta sauces on the regular menu tended to be different than those served in the US.

I also felt that the food in general, although good quality, was blander than I am used to in US Italian and Continental restaurants. However the bread especially the foccasia (sp?) was excellent and the pizza was the best I have had on any ship.
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Dale
#12
Cape Town, South Africa
75 Posts
Joined Aug 2009
Originally posted by DEL67
I felt that the Italian food on the Armonia was different from typical American Italian food.
Yes, there is pasta with tomato sauce on the everyday menu and one day they had pasta with Carbonara sauce on the regular menu, but most of the pasta sauces on the regular menu tended to be different than those served in the US.

I also felt that the food in general, although good quality, was blander than I am used to in US Italian and Continental restaurants. However the bread especially the foccasia (sp?) was excellent and the pizza was the best I have had on any ship.
Dale,
The one thing you didn't say was whether or not you enjoyed the "different" food.
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record (or should it be a stuck CD nowadays) on this forum, when I travel I want to eat food different to the food I can eat at home whenever I want to.
We cruise for MSC for the first time on 1st June and I am so looking forward to everything about the trip. We are food lovers and love Italian food - and cannot imagine that we will not enjoy it.
Hopefully your comments about "bland" meant "not over salted" - which should mean that you can taste the flavours - you can always add more salt at the table.
I will probably try at least one course per meal that I have no idea what it is - and from experience guess that I will enjoy most - and if I don't, then I least I can say that I tried it and have been there.
#13
Franklin, MA USA
8,323 Posts
Joined Apr 2003
We enjoyed food on Poesia. I don't think it was truly Italian... we ate different pizza in Rome, but it was good. Loved foccacia.
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#14
Bedminster, NJ USA
3,425 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
Originally posted by happytravellers2
Dale,
The one thing you didn't say was whether or not you enjoyed the "different" food.
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record (or should it be a stuck CD nowadays) on this forum, when I travel I want to eat food different to the food I can eat at home whenever I want to.
We cruise for MSC for the first time on 1st June and I am so looking forward to everything about the trip. We are food lovers and love Italian food - and cannot imagine that we will not enjoy it.
Hopefully your comments about "bland" meant "not over salted" - which should mean that you can taste the flavours - you can always add more salt at the table.
I will probably try at least one course per meal that I have no idea what it is - and from experience guess that I will enjoy most - and if I don't, then I least I can say that I tried it and have been there.
I too look to eat something different when I am on a cruise. And they did serve some things like a meat ball with pomegranite sauce appetizer that I found interesting even though the meatball was very dry.

However for me, a little garlic and/or more of spices/herbs (basil, rosemary, etc. depending on the dish) would have improved the flavor of many dishes. In addition I found that the meat and most vegetables overcooked. But, of course, it is a matter of taste. Our tablemates from Latvia seemed to enjoy many of the things that I did not like.

In general, even though I found it bland, I did enjoy the risotto and the pasta so I did not care if I did not eat the main course. I also thought that the few deserts I tried were good and enjoyed the foccacia at dinner and breakfast breads in the buffet. In addition, although it took us a few days to find them, I liked that they were serving fresh pancakes and waffles and cooking eggs at the outdoor grills at breakfast
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Dale
#15
593 Posts
Joined Dec 2012
Originally posted by AmoMondo
On a typical 7 night Med sailing, they will feature a different region each night at dinner.
I was really looking forward to it. But it seems like MSC has eliminated this piece of information. Other than reading the menu and sometimes there're description of the region names in some dishes, the menu itself no longer prominently displayed the region name.

No more formal night, we had two Gala nights and on five nights we were to order desserts after the main courses. Kids menu also mainly made up of fried or grilled stuff.

Not all changes are nice. But I do agree that breads and pastas were lovely.
#16
Edinburgh UK
8,132 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
Originally posted by sthelder
I was really looking forward to it. But it seems like MSC has eliminated this piece of information. Other than reading the menu and sometimes there're description of the region names in some dishes, the menu itself no longer prominently displayed the region name.

No more formal night, we had two Gala nights and on five nights we were to order desserts after the main courses. Kids menu also mainly made up of fried or grilled stuff.

Not all changes are nice. But I do agree that breads and pastas were lovely.
That's a shame, quite enjoyed the difference each evening. Ah well I'm sure I'll still find something I like next month on the Sinfonia.
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#17
593 Posts
Joined Dec 2012
For the record, we still enjoyed our dinner in the MDR, and never thought of having dinner at the buffet restaurant.

We were a little surprise that the Rome dinner time was still 7pm (same as the all aboard time, I thought they would have changed the dinner time to 7:30pm). We purposedly made our way back to the ship earlier from Rome so as to have time to prepare ourselves for dinner in the MDR.
#18
Kissimmee, Florida
171 Posts
Joined Jan 2002
I just returned from a 7 day on the Poesia. I was disappointed with the food. I was looking forward to a 'more Italian' flare and did not find it. Doesn't matter whether you cook Northern or Southern style, the food should have a taste. I know they cook for thousands, but that is no excuse for not knowing how to use herbs and spices.

Desserts were good, but nothing exceptional and had just as good if not better on other ships.

Pizza was more 'american'. I did not see the thin crust with fresh tomatoes or basil as I would expect. The Margarita pizza had tomato sauce, everyday mozzarella and a few showings of basil.

I had the fettuccine alfredo in the dining room and it had no taste. It was like they used regular milk and thickened it with flour. Adding grated cheese did not help. I also had Fish and Chips. Mostly beer batter breading with a small piece of dried fish. The fries are the same no matter where you get them; think potato sticks.

Steaks were a hit or miss along with the lobster.

I tried the children's chicken nuggets and breaded chicken breast at the buffet. Both dry and tasteless.

Two of my table mates ordered pasta fagioli and it had no beans. I waited for mine and we joked about the missing beans and said maybe they weren't cooked yet..Well, guess who got the beans?

Soups were also bland with vegetables still being on the crunchy side.

There were two veal dishes, neither being parmigiana.

Though we are just talking food, I would like to interject that though our server was good, there was much lacking in service. Only the first night you are brought to your table. No greeting from the matre'd (sp) and the rest of the nights it was like a herd of cattle getting to the tables. If you took the elevators from the back of the ship (where my cabin was), you had to walk through the work stations of the servers. Not once were our seats pushed in or a napkin placed on my lap. Only once did they come around with bread and coffee was a second thought. You ask for coffee with dessert and don't get it until you are done! Forget refills unless you ask.
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