Abroad (but in many cases also in Italy), many restaurants denominated “Italian” are fake as a three euro coin, id est they have a cook who is not Italian and, when he is Italian, comes from a completely different profession.
It is estimated that in about 60% of the cases in these fake Italian restaurants, the staff of low manpower depicted as “Chef” is not able to transform Italian raw materials into traditional dishes to which they should be inspired.
All this creates a certain confusion in the customers who, convinced of spending an evening in the name of Italianness, receives dishes that have nothing to do with Italian cuisine.
One of the master characteristics of this type of restaurant is the falsely nostalgic appearance, usually the one that includes checkered tablecloths, classic (and uncomfortable) wooden chairs, in short, a way to give the impression of entering a postcard of the past as in a dream.
You will wake up from this “nightmare” the moment you go to the tasting: too often the dishes are cooked too long, dry, little seasoned and with absolutely alien ingredients of the Italian cuisine.
It is also true that, on some occasions, we let ourselves be guided by prices, but if a very high price of a dish does not guarantee its goodness, certainly a price too low is synonymous with rip-off: below determined prices, you can have a good product neither a good Chef nor a good service because from the compendium of these three items you obtain the price of the dish ordered.
Very high quality beef tenderloin tartare can not cost 3 euros even if can get a discount from the friendly host, unless you do not accept to eat a cut of meat of inferior quality, hard and nervous, in short disgusting.
The same judgment is good for any dish you order, you need to learn to distinguish the term “expensive” from the term “value”: we are in an era in which we know the price of everything but not its value.
For example, the weigh of meat multiplied the cost per kilo give back what everyone pays from the butcher, but for eating the mentioned tartare in the restaurant must be added the work of the Chef and the Kitchen staff who transform in tartare a piece of meat, the products to seasoning, dish setup, decorations, service, tax ecc… in short, a long chain of costs that can not and must not be left to the restaurateur but charged from the customer.
One of the most popular cuisines in the world risk to be questioned by these pseudo-restaurateurs who take advantage of the fame that derives from the Italian food and open fake Italian restaurants offering dishes that make you shudder.
For example, on the beautiful Langkawi island in Malaysia, and I speak for cuisine experience and knowledge of the place, spread everywhere around you can find countless fake Italian restaurants.
In fact not one and I repeat no one is Italian, all are managed by Indians who open these places with the names of popular Italian restaurants.
But starting from the manager to the scullion, passing for the kitchen staff, all are Indians.
Would be nothing wrong if they cook real Italian dishes instead of disgusting concoctions that have nothing to share with the Italian dishes.
It is commonplace that when during the travel it is a must to eat local food and I would personally agree with this thesis, provided that who agree to have to taste everything and not just the three dishes “eatable”, this is anything but not an immersion in the local culture, it is enough to see in Thailand the disgusted faces of foreigners who see the sale of insects and more.
In any case, we feign to believe the story of the cultural immersion, sometimes can be difficult to conciliate the food products offered abroad with our eating habits (especially those of Italians who are very demanding and with all the reasons for it) too different, too “audacious”, too spicy, but also far from the idea of hygiene in western countries restaurants.
However, after a few days of “full immersion” (believe me, I have a lot of customers who testify what I write), foreigners and especially Italians, enter into the phase that I define: “I want to eat something good!”
With all the respect to the local cuisine (which has delicious dishes), it’s time to smile in front of a plate of pasta or a pizza, something that is cooked without too much garlic, without soya sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, coriander, curry ecc…, in short, something that has a natural flavour and if it happens in the right restaurant the good mood appear.
But what happens if we go to the fake Italian restaurant?
I think that would be not necessary even to mention them, unworthy places to define Italians, traditional dishes emptied of anything original and revisited in the worst ways, prepared with products that in Italy are not only unused but even unknown, crap that gives body to the “false Italian recipes” for which, when those who come for the first time in a “real Italian restaurant” are amazed at the difference, sometimes they can not even understand what there is in the plate.
Certainly having eaten a “carbonara” with bacon, egg, parmesan, mushrooms, onions and parsley as well as heavy cream that goes to season a poor quality of overcooked pasta will be unprepared when he will receive a plate of pasta cooked “al dente” seasoned with eggnog made with pecorino cheese and crispy guanciale.
No Bacon, no mushrooms, no onions, no parsley, no heavy cream!
TripAdvisor and various social media are useful as long as you do not accept reviews of travellers for two reasons: the first is that, unfortunately, not all reviews are authentic travel experiences but packages purchased in order to increase rank, cheating customers and compete unfairly; the second is given by the fact that in Italy we still rely on the dear “tam-tam” that usually works while the use of social networks has not had the same fortune that abroad, its why the reviews are often made by foreigners who in reality do not know authentic Italian cuisine.
The reviews on social networks should be interpreted: a restaurant with 1000 positive reviews without any complaint is not credible; if the reviews are all made by foreigners, the opportunity to enter a restaurant should be attentively considered: I am Italian and I tend to trust the opinions of others Italians.
Here are some tips, a sort of manual to try to avoid the restaurant’s scammers.
Obvious that there is not a perfect formula, it is clues, but as Agatha Christie taught “a clue is a clue, two clues are a coincidence, but three clues are an evidence!”
And exactly as Agatha Christie would have done, we start from outside of the restaurant ad if stands too much Italian colours, it could be a deceptive way to attract customers.
Nobody speaks Italian in the restaurant.
If it is an Italian restaurant, an Italian must be there, as long as it is not temporarily absent for various reasons.
To avoid risks, just ask if there is an Italian, could be it the owner, the Chef, the manager, don’t exist Italian restaurant without Italian management.
If the answer is positive well, otherwise the only acceptable answer is that the Italian will arrive within a certain time: go back to the restaurant at the hour that the staff said, you will have to find him, another way is scam risk.
We browse the menu but there is something strange: in Italy, no one dreams of proposing spaghetti with meatball (absolutely not an Italian dish, where meat and pasta are served with different courses except for Neapolitan and Genoese ragù).
But the mistakes don’t stop, we begin to read that they serve pasta marinara sauce, which actually exists in Italy but it is different from that proposed by the fake Italian restaurant, it is just tomato sauce, a wrong way as foreigners call pepperoni the salami.
The courses are listed or described in a different order from the standard Italian cuisine and among the appetizers is included garlic bread: in Italy, the slices of bread grilled and rubbed with garlic (eventually added of tomato sauce or pesto sauce) is called bruschetta, just the foreigner call “garlic bread” but not the Italians in their menu.
If you are in an Italian restaurant it is obvious that all the ingredients are local.
When the adjective “Italian” is used next to the name of a dish and an ingredient as corroborating, an attempt to condition the customer’s perception is often underway.
Italian pasta, Italian dressing, for example, are very precise signals to pay attention.
Carbonara with cream: I mentioned it before, no thank you, this is a huge scam.
Those who followed Chef Jamie Oliver to make the same mistake.
In his website describes carbonara as a classic delicious condiment made with cream, bacon and parmesan.
Sorry Jamie, but the carbonara is completely different!
The dressing set is another important clue.
The vinaigrette obtained by mixing an unknown oil and vinegar is not typically Italian.
But even the mania of dusting any dish with fresh pepper, including salads, is not a typical Italian culinary habit.
Fortunately abroad, there is not a lack of Italian restaurants and pizzerias where is possible to eat well.
Sometimes it may be difficult to find them, as mentioned there are too many restaurants that have only the Italian name in a special way where it is more widespread trade in Italian food imitations, products similar by shape and very close by name to authentic Italian products.
To help you avoid rip-offs in Italian restaurants abroad you can download the Authentico app, enter the city where you are and discover the list of real Italian restaurants and authentic pizzerias. Just one click!
And now a bit of joy with Italian grandma who tastes strange dishes abroad.