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11
Oct

A brief history of Italian cuisine

It is no secret that Italian cuisine is beloved around the world. Yet most diners are not aware of the rich

history behind these tasty dishes. The country’s ancient inhabitants, the Etruscans, originally subsisted on

a diet of meat, soups and variations of cereal. They invented olive oil and a long line of other staples in

traditional Italian cuisine. These staples “set the table” (pun intended) for the culinary explosion that soon

followed.

Greeks and Romans

Fast forward to the 8th century and the Greeks had colonized the southern portion of the country. Their

primary foods included bread, vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, corn-based cereal concoctions, lupines, dry

figs and pickled olives. The Greeks consumed also their fair share of walnuts and almonds, both of which

are still commonly used in contemporary Sicilian dishes. The Romans centered their meals on meat, fish,

vegetables, bread, fruit and wine. No matter what, bread was consumed with each meal.

The Invasion

Once the Roman Empire reached the verge of collapse, imperialists from northern Europe traveled down

the Italian peninsula, hoping to gain a larger portion of land. They brought along smoked meats, smoked

fish, salted cod (baccala) and variations of casseroles. Arabs in the southern portion of Italy introduced

coffee, artichokes, a wide range of spices and rice at the same time. Arabic coffee is an excellent

representation of Italian espresso: strong, dark and prepared in a highly nuanced manner.

The French, Spanish and Austrians also had a considerable influence on Italian food. As an example,

Spanish invaders introduced the tomato. This vegetable soon served as the foundation of Italy’s delicious

cuisine. The Austrians introduced locals to Spritz, an aperitif that spread like wildfire throughout Italy. The

Arabs introduced Sicilians to the dish that later evolved into marzipan. This tasty creation quickly became

an uber-popular dessert. It is also thought that the Arabs introduced cassata as well. Cassata is a cake

made with sugar, royal paste, sheep ricotta and candied fruit. The Arabs also introduced Sicilians to

sugar cane, oranges, lemon and an array of other foods.

The Pizza Queen

Ask anyone about Italian food and most will quickly reference pizza. The original version of this

scrumptious food was quite simple compared to today’s elaborate concoctions. Pizza’s origins date all the

way back to 1889 when King Umberto I and Queen Margherita traveled to Naples. The country’s best

pizzaiolo was asked to create pizza for these royal visitors. His best creation was rather basic, consisting

of dough, mozzarella cheese, tomato and basil. He created this style of pizza in honor of Italy’s national

colors. Queen Margherita enjoyed the pizza to the point that she wrote a letter of gratitude to the

pizzaiolo, inspiring him to call the pie “pizza margherita”. This simple but delicious version of pizza is still

consumed across the globe today and will likely continue to be cherished by the masses for years to

come.

Come in today for a taste of Eataly!

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