Eating genuine, authentic Italian food can be a struggle when you are not in Italy. Italian cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines in the world, but also, alas, one of the most imitated. Mind, the quality of food and ingredients in restaurants, as well as the respect of the country’s culinary tradition, is an issue also in Italy: we, too, have bad restaurants!
It comes as no surprise, then, that guaranteeing the authenticity of recipes and cooking methods, along with the freshness and quality of ingredients has become paramount for all those associations, in Italy and in the US, protecting the fame and history of the “made in Italy.”
Recently, the IACC, the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce, has awarded 25 restaurants in New York City with their Marchio Ospitalità Italiana (Italian Hospitality Seal), in association with Italy’s own Unioncamere – Camere di Commercio d’Italia (the Italian association for Chambers of Commerce), ISNART – Istituto Nazionale Ricerche Turistiche (Italy’s National Institute for Tourism Research) and NECStouR, the Network of European Regions for a Sustainable and Competitive Tourism.
All restaurants awarded have met specific criteria, including the quality of their ingredients and their faithfulness to the Italian culinary tradition, making of them the best place to get real Italian food.
For those among you not living in the Big Apple, fear not: IACC has awarded more than 300 restaurants with the Marchio Ospitalità Italiana all over the US, making it relatively easy for most to try, at least once, authentic Italian cuisine without leaving the country.
The criteria to obtain the Marchio Ospitalità Italiana
As mentioned, both the quality of ingredients and the authenticity of recipes and cooking methods are among the essential criteria to obtain the Marchio Ospitalità Italiana. However, they are not the only ones: only restaurants delivering also excellence, choice and following a system of values that can be fully shared by customers are considered for admission. In other words, the seal wants to be synonym of quality, tradition, authenticity and a full commitment to make each and every customer’s experience outstandingly unique.
Where to go
The selection is large: more than 300 Italian restaurants in the US have proved to be good enough for the Italian Hospitality Seal. In case you are curious to know whether any of them is near enough to pay it a visit next weekend, you should check out the official Ospitalità Italiana website (www.10q.it), where a handy search widget will help you locate restaurants in your area.
If, on the other hand, you want to get an idea of what to expect in Italian Hospitality approved eateries, before committing to a dinner there, you can take a look at this very short – yet representative – overview.
The West Coast
On the West Coast, you could choose the traditional Sardinian cuisine of La Ciccia, in San Francisco. Italian owned, La Ciccia (www.laciccia.com) offers a variety of dishes, mostly based on fresh fish and seafood, as typical of Sardinia. Their wine list is also impressive, counting more than 180 varieties, all rigorously Italian. In Los Angeles, try out Canaletto (www.ilfornaio.com) one of the restaurants directed by executive chef Maurizio Mazzon under the brand name Il Fornaio, with branches in other parts of the US. Canaletto focuses on the Northeastern cuisine of Veneto and even produces its own olive oil.
The East Coast
If you live in or around Boston, try Trattoria Gran Gusto (www.grangustocambridge.com) in Cambridge. The mantra here is “fresh and seasonal,” with the menu changing each season. 80% of the products and produce used in Trattoria Gran Gusto comes from Italy, from the olive oil to the buffalo mozzarella and the truffles.
In New York city, Sistina (www.sistina.com) has been offering excellent Italian food for more than 30 years. Located in Manhattan, the restaurant offers a glorious variety of dishes from all over Italy, with an extensive selection of seafood starters.
Head to Miami to sample the offers at Ristorante Fratelli Milano (www.ristorantefratellimilano.com): at lunch enjoy, along with traditional Italian pizzas, pastas and meat dishes, also grilled sandwiches and lighter options. Dinner is a more serious affair, with the addition of risottos and more elaborated meat dishes. In Atlanta head to Baraonda (www.baraondaatlanta.com) a wine bar and restaurant offering hand made pastas and a beautiful selection of local ingredients cooked Italian style.
The Mid-West and Centre
In Chicago, La Spiaggia (www.spiaggiarestaurant.com) is a high end Italian restaurant known also for the quality of its wine list. The Tuscan sun shines on Valter’s Osteria (www.valtersosteria. com) in Salt Lake City, which proposes classic Tuscan dishes like pasta e fagioli, earthy soups and fantastic roasted beef with porcini.
Eating out is real pleasure: in the end, there is nothing quite as pleasant as sitting at the table knowing there will not be any washing up to do later. Jokes apart, knowing that what you get in your plate is made with top notch ingredients, and the way it is supposed to by tradition makes it all the more enjoyable, especially for all those Italian food lovers who, for lack of time or any other reason, do not have the opportunity to travel across the ocean and try Italian food in its own home.