I realize I take Italian food culture for granted living in Italy and all. Recently I was reminded of such when someone actually told me they were looking for a cooking class in Venice and wanted to learn how to make…not ciccheti. Not a wondrous Venetian fish dish. But pepperoni pizza. That obviously Venice is famous for and my whole pizza eating life has been a lie.
I wanted to cry, judge and barf all at the same time. But I realized, for the unassuming American tourist or from any culture where the disgusting pepperoni pizza exists, that this is what they actually think is an Italian food- and we can’t judge but just hope to debunk bad myths out there.
It is not. Pepperoni pizza, the pizza with some garbage dough (with 60 ingredients: dough conditioners, glycerides, preservatives, etc) and sliced “Slim Jim” over-nitrated mechanically separated donkey meat is something the industrial food revolution has fooled us into liking. It does not exist in Italy apart from dinky, smelly tourist traps and the frozen section of the supermarket (which are called American pizza funny enough). Ya ya, I’m sure a tasty pepperoni pizza pie exists- but it’s not like a traditional Italian food to learn how to make in Venice! By the way pepperoni pizza can mean pizza with bell peppers as peperoni means bell peppers.
So when you are in Italy- do not ask for pepperoni pizza. Unless you do want peppers- but that’s just boring.
If you must have spicy salami on your pizza, DO ask for pizza con salami piccante or ‘nduja (a very spicy salami that is soft and paste-like from Calabria)
The other myth that belongs in the garbage is in the wine department and that is….PINOT GRIGIO!
Yes, of course Pinot Grigio is an Italian product so that is not the myth part. However, most of the white Italian wine in the American mainstream arrives in the form of Pinot Grigio from some crap mass producer and it’s usually hangover-inducing tart lemon acid juice. Virtually every time I am in a wine bar in Florence where the management has the slightest suspicious that tourists will be part of their dining demographic, sad boring commercial Pinot Grigio is on the menu. NOOO!!! Just stop pandering to international tastes! Italy has countless indigenous wine varieties and it’s a shame for wine menus around town to be so homogenous and standard.
So Pinot Grigio is boring UNLESS it comes from a really good producer from the Alto Aldige, the Veneto or even Friuli regions. Or even from a wine region that is not particularly known for it like recently I came across a Pinot Grigio that came from biodynamic vineyards in Montalcino where Brunello grapes are cultivated. <— THAT is justification for trying an interesting pinot grigio. But mainly, seek out a good producer who isn’t mass producing millions of cases for the thirsty unassuming (and unknowing) wine world. Again, what’s the point of having Pinot Grigio everywhere when therein lies much more wine diversity?
So if you are in Italy, don’t let Pinot Grigio be your go-to: branch out! Personally, I prefer mineral-rich wines from Campania (Southern Italy) such as Fiano di Avellino and whites from the Amalfi Coast. You can rarely go wrong with whites from volcanic soiled Etna (Sicily). Perhaps a nutty Tuscan Vernaccia di San Gimignano from Montenidoli. I also love Franciacorta (a sparkling white wine from Lombardy made in the Champagne-style bottle fermentation) and high acidity, food friendly bubbles like Pignoletto and Durello. So you may not agree with me, but I repeat, Pinot Grigio is not all bad! Recently I even gave it a chance with a bottle from the Veneto that was slightly aromatic, pretty juicy with a bright yet dry finish. I paired it with some speck cotto crostini (a type of dried and smoked ham)
Want a pinot grigio? Fine- just make sure you’re at a good wine bar that procures quality producers and not industrial juice. My message is simple- Pinot Grigio is not the end all, be all of Italian white wines.
In opinionated humurous arrogance,