FABIO GIRELLI CARASI
ITALIAN MENUS FOR AMERICANS
|Drinks had been generously poured, the company was charming and
the anticipation of a delightful Italian meal stirred the taste
buds. A waiter appeared, bearing rounds of crusty bread topped with
an aromatic blend of tomatoes and basil in olive oil. I was all
smiles—until he opened his mouth.
My appetite vanished. How good a restaurant could this be if the waiter can’t even pronounce the food he’s serving?
Everyone seems to know the proper way to say and spell the French foie gras, the Spanish paella, the Cuban mojito or the Cajun étouffée.
But in restaurants plain and fancy, Italian gets mangled
all the time. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen cappuccino
spelled wrong or espresso expressed as expresso, I could easily
afford the Maserati of all coffee machines. And speaking of coffee,
in Italian it’s caffè. Not what the French and Spanish quaff, which
“It’s offensive,” says
Giovanna Bellia LaMarca of Cliffside Park, a cookbook author and
native of Italy who introduced the study of Italian to the Bronx
High School of Science and now teaches at the Institute of Culinary
Education in Manhattan. “I wonder why these people don’t know that
they don’t know the language and seek a professional to help them
Linguine (meaning “little tongues,” which the pasta resembles) comes from lingue, Italian for—that’s right—“tongues.”
There is no such word as linguini in Italian. With fettuccine and scaloppine, Merriam and Webster go even more loosey-goosey, allowing fettuccini, fettucine and fettucini, as well as scalopini.
spelling bouillabaisse without either of those “i”s or quesadilla
without one of those “l”s, and the spelling police will be all over
you faster than you can say prosciutto, which is pronounced
not pro-skew-toh or pruh-zhoot.
A salad of arugula, endive and radicchio (and that’s rah-dee-kyoh, not ruh-dick-ee-o) is described as tricolore (tree-coh-loh-reh), its three colors representing the Italian flag.
The deli meat cut from the top, or head (capo), of the pig’s neck (collo) is spelled capocollo or capicollo, never capacollo, cappacolla, capacolla, capicola or anything else.
Parma’s incomparable hard cheese is Parmigiano-Reggiano. Anything prepared Parma-style is
parmigiana. Deriving its name from oregano—origano in Italian—oreganata
is not an Italian word, but one cooked up to appear so.
A tart is a crostata, not a crostada. Tubular
pastry shells filled with ricotta cream are cannoli (cannolo, if you
want just one), not canolli or canollis or—mamma mia!—ganoles.