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Grana Padano
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This little handbook is dedicated to whoever is travelling around the world and wants to eat Italian while avoiding everything that has no more than an Italian appearance. In order to understand, to become acquainted with and to disentangle oneself from the wild and dangerous jungle of Italian restaurants abounding on the planet, in such a manner that no one is offended, let the following be taken lightly.

  • The name is the first indication for understanding what you are about to encounter. Restaurants with misspelt names, such as ‘the Collosseo’ or ‘the Belavista’ just aren’t worth approaching. Doubtful names, such as Padrino’s, Mafia, Spaghettinis, Viva Italia, Mangia Tutti, Maccaronis and so on hide – or hide poorly – probable bad surprises.
  • The clothes make the King: sometimes a glance is enough to understand that it’s better to forget it. When there are too many wine flasks, chequered tablecloths, rigorously fake braids of garlic and artificial vine leaves sprouting from dusty shaves above the tables, it’s normally better to confide in a wholesome burrito.
  • In U. S. Metropolises it’s generally better to avoid Little Italy, where you will find all sorts of Italian restaurants. Most of these have styles stuck back in the ’80’s, kitchens which reverberate Spanish and owners, unconvincing mixtures of the Godfather, Joe Pesci and Mario Batali, who bring you menus on which ‘scaloppini’ reign supreme.
  • Avoid large chains with Italianised names. Their styles vary from folkloric-trendy to extreme kitsch and the dishes they serve are, in general, bizarre versions of an Italian cuisine that comes from a parallel universe.
  • The presence of an Italian, although reassuring, can’t be a full guarantee; indeed, at times it hides the most treacherous of traps. Most of our co-nationals believe that every Italian is a born restaurateur, by divine right, let’s say. This conviction makes a lot of them, when they find themselves abroad, happily go about opening a restaurant as if they were opening a bag of potato chips. You should pay attention to two precise types:
    • The first consists of one or more couples in their 30’s. With euphoria and by blowing a lot of their parents’ money, they often open cool, trendy places. If you have the luck of eating in one of these within the first three months of opening, you probably won’t eat badly. After six or eight months the couple has normally broken up and you’ll eat like a dog. And usually after a year, a nice Chinese or Mexican restaurant will have taken its place.
    • The second type consists of those Italians of a certain age, with a rather intense, even reckless life behind them; they’ve done everything and anything save being a restaurateur. Usually, it’s been many years that they haven’t been back to Italy, in some cases, they’d like to go but it’s better that they don’t. You find them in tropical paradises, where you’ll often see them sitting in their restaurants at the table nearest to the cash register, looking a little worn and eating a fruit cup of tiramisù made with Philadelphia, because Mascarpone is too expensive, while giving tourists anecdotes, telling them where to get the best deals or to find particular venues. Perhaps you won’t eat particularly badly, but you’ll leave with a trace of sadness and a slightly bitter aftertaste.

To conclude, I wish to clarify that there are restaurants around the world in which there are no Italians but you eat really well and the cuisine is genuinely Italian. The difference is the seriousness the love and the respect given to our cuisine.

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