The Illustrated History of Italian-American Food

Feb 16, 2017 1253

BY: Gemma Horowitz

Saghetti and meatballs. Marinara sauce. Chicken parm. Baked ziti. Garlic bread. Pizza (as we conceive of it). What these foods have in common, beside being universally beloved, is that they are wholly American inventions. Yes, these titans of red-sauce cuisine bear little resemblance to any dish you’d find in Italy.

How did this come to be? We’re familiar with the basics. The late 19th-, early-20th century saw a wave of Italian immigration to North America. In large cities, these people had to adapt to an urban lifestyle, purchasing food instead of growing it, and wrangling with unfamiliar American ingredients. Which set the stage for a dramatic shift in eating habits. What was originally a veggie-heavy, protein-low diet became meatier, saucier, and, as it only could in America, bigger.

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